UN: Reductions in fertility have led to 'demographic divide'
Indians, wearing face masks as a precaution against COVID-19, crowd a market in Mumbai, India, on January 7, 2022. The United Nations has estimated that India will replace China as the world's most populous nation next year. (Photo: AP)

GENEVA, Switzerland (CMC) — Recent reductions in fertility have led to a "demographic divide" in Latin America and the Caribbean as the latest United Nations projections suggest that the world's population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, before reaching a peak of around 10.4 billion people during the 2080s.

It said that the population is expected to remain at that level until 2100.

The annual study, released recently to coincide with World Population Day, also noted that the global population is growing at its slowest rate since 1950, having fallen to less than one per cent in 2020.

Fertility, the report declared, has fallen markedly in recent decades for many countries: today, two-thirds of the global population lives in a country or area where lifetime fertility is below 2.1 births per woman, roughly the level required for zero growth in the long run, for a population with low mortality.

In 61 countries or areas, the population is expected to decrease by at least one per cent over the next three decades, as a result of sustained low levels of fertility and, in some cases, elevated rates of emigration.

The UN notes that in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in parts of Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, recent reductions in fertility have led to a "demographic dividend", with a rise in the share of the working age population (25 to 64 years), providing an opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita.

The report argued that to make the most of this opportunity, countries should invest in the further development of their human capital by ensuring access to health care and quality education at all ages, and by promoting opportunities for productive employment and decent work.

It said achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to health, education and gender equality, will contribute to reducing fertility levels and slowing global population growth.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has had an effect on population change: global life expectancy at birth fell to 71 years in 2021, down from 72.9 in 2019 and, in some countries, successive waves of the pandemic may have produced short-term reductions in numbers of pregnancies and births.

"Further actions by governments aimed at reducing fertility would have little impact on the pace of population growth between now and mid-century because of the youthful age structure of today's global population," said John Wilmoth, director of the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

"Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of lower fertility, if maintained over several decades, could be a more substantial deceleration of global population growth in the second half of the century."

More than half of the projected increase in the global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the United Republic of Tanzania.

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