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Chapter VI: Population growth and structure - A. Fertility, mortality and population growth rates

Basis for action

6.1. The growth of the world population is at an all-time high in absolute numbers, with current increments approaching 90 million persons annually. According to United Nations projections, annual population increments are likely to remain close to 90 millionuntil the year 2015. While it had taken 123 years for world population to increase from 1 billion to 2 billion, succeeding increments of 1 billion took 33 years, 14 years and 13 years. The transition from the fifth to the sixth billion, currently underway, is expected to take only 11 years and to be completed by 1998.

World population grew at the rate of 1.7 per cent per annum during the period 1985-1990, but is expected to decrease during the following decades and reach 1.0 per cent per annum by the period 2020-2025. Nevertheless, the attainment of population stabilization during the twenty-first century will require the implementation of all the policies and recommendations in the present Programme of Action.

6.2. The majority of the world's countries are converging towards a pattern of low birth and death rates, but since those countries are proceeding at different speeds, the emerging picture is that of a world facing increasingly diverse demographic situations. Interms of national averages, during the period 1985-1990, fertility ranged from an estimated 8.5 children per woman in Rwanda to 1.3 children per woman in Italy, while expectation of life at birth, an indicator of mortality conditions, ranged from an estimated 41 years in Sierra Leone to 78.3 years in Japan. In many regions,including some countries with economies in transition, it is estimated that life expectancy at birth has decreased. During theperiod 1985-1990, 44 per cent of the world population were living in the 114 countries that had growth rates of more than 2 per cent per annum. These included nearly all the countries in Africa,whose population- doubling time averages about 24 years, two thirds of those in Asia and one third of those in Latin America. On the other hand, 66 countries (the majority of them in Europe), representing 23 per cent of the world population, had growth rates of less than 1 per cent per annum. Europe's population would takemore than 380 years to double at current rates. These disparate levels and differentials have implications for the ultimate size and regional distribution of the world population and for the prospects for sustainable development. It is projected that between 1995 and 2015 the population of the more developed regionswill increase by some 120 million, while the population of the less developed regions will increase by 1,727 million.


6.3. Recognizing that the ultimate goal is the improvement of the quality of life of present and future generations, the objective is to facilitate the demographic transition as soon as possible incountries where there is an imbalance between demographic rates andsocial, economic and environmental goals, while fully respecting human rights. This process will contribute to the stabilization of the world population, and, together with changes in unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, to sustainable development and economic growth.


6.4. Countries should give greater attention to the importance of population trends for development. Countries that have notcompleted their demographic transition should take effective steps in this regard within the context of their social and economic development and with full respect of human rights. Countries that have concluded the demographic transition should take necessary steps to optimize their demographic trends within the context of their social and economic development. These steps include economic development and poverty alleviation, especially in ruralareas, improvement of women's status, ensuring of universal accessto quality primary education and primary health care, including reproductive health and family-planning services, and educational strategies regarding responsible parenthood and sexual education. Countries should mobilize all sectors of society in these efforts, including non-governmental organizations, local community groups and the private sector.

6.5. In attempting to address population growth concerns, countries should recognize the interrelationships between fertility and mortality levels and aim to reduce high levels of infant, child and maternal mortality so as to lessen the need for high fertility and reduce the occurrence of high-risk births.


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