News

    By 2050, We will Live In a More Populous, Urban World

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Demographers say India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia and Bangladesh will account for close to a half of the people born in the next 45 years.

    “By far India is the leader, which gives about a fifth of all the world’s growth today,” says Joseph Chamie, Director of Research at the Center for Migration Studies in New York, who served as Director of the United Nations Population Division for 25 years. 

    “The world is growing at 76 million people every year now and India contributes about a fifth of that. That’s followed by China, which is about ten percent and Pakistan at four percent; Nigeria, Indonesia and Bangladesh, each at around four percent.”

    By contrast, some 50 countries will see a decline in population, says Mr. Chamie. The Russian Federation is expected to lose the most in absolute numbers: about 31 million people, followed by Ukraine, which could lose 20 million, and Japan 16 million. Ukraine’s decline is especially noteworthy because it translates into a loss of 43 percent of its population, compared to 22 percent for the Russian Federation.

    Overall, the world’s population is still growing.  But demographers say the growth rate is slowing.  This is in contrast with the beginning of the 20th century when growth rates accelerated, reaching a peak in the 1970s. 

    William Butz, President of the Population Reference Bureau here in Washington, says that since then [the 1970s], people in almost every corner of the world have had fewer children.  He says that 65 countries, which account for 43 percent of the world’s population, now have fertility rates at the replacement level, which is two children per couple on average. 

    “Principally it is because their desired fertility has gone down and they have the means to control their fertility. On the point of desired fertility, it’s because of education of women. It’s because of higher incomes, because of cultural norms shifting to smaller families. And on the side of the ability to control fertility, it’s the increasing accessibility and availability of modern family planning methods,” says Mr. Butz.

    But some analysts note that in these methods are often unavailable to the poor.  Jay Keller, National Field Director of the private non-profit group Population Connection also in Washington, says unlimited population growth puts a strain on the already scarce resources in many developing countries.

    “What worries us the most is that rapid population growth is occurring in countries that are least able to absorb it and to deal with it: countries that don’t have a very good retirement systems right now," says Mr. Keller.  "So that’s a huge challenge if you have a developing country that’s trying to just basically figure out how to feed people and how to provide education for children.  And suddenly you have a birth rate that is in some cases going to double the population of that country in maybe 25-35 years.”

    Mr. Keller notes that people are moving to urban areas, creating “megacities,” such as Tokyo, Shanghai, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, that often threaten the environment and strain resources.  Demographic data indicate that within two years, a major shift will occur – for the first time in history the majority of the world will live in cities. 

    But many analysts are optimistic, noting some significant improvements in the world’s living conditions in recent decades.  Overall, mortality rates have declined and people live longer.  Demographer Joseph Chamie says this means that the quality of life has improved for most of the world.

    “In many countries, children could not remember their grandfathers because they died early. Now you have a chance not only to see your grandfather, but your great-grandfather and your great-grandmother. So you have many generations.”

    Demographers expect that by 2050, the global life expectancy at birth will have increased by at least ten years.  But as William Butz of the Population Reference Bureau notes, this also means that the world population is slowly aging.

    “Partly this is due to China, which after all, has about one fifth of the world’s population.  And the Chinese population is definitely aging because their numbers of birth have been relatively slow now for decades. But it isn’t just China," says Mr. Butz. "The U-S, all of Western Europe, other countries with relatively low fertility rates, Thailand, you could also include South Korea and certainly Japan, are aging. In many parts of Africa, life expectancy is also going up.  However, in Africa there are two things going on that countervail this. One is the relatively high fertility rates in many countries, almost all of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, which keeps the number of young people high and keeps the population overall from aging. And the second is H-I-V /AIDS, which in many of these countries is devastating parts of the population.”

    By the middle of this century, the proportion of people in the world who are 65 years of age or older is expected to more than double, from seven to 15 %.   Analysts say this will force countries with substantial aging populations to make long term plans for their continued employment, health care and retirement, something the United States is already doing.  Some countries may also have to find a way to attract a younger immigrant labor force who, by paying taxes, will help finance government retirement funds and health care for the elderly.

    Analysts predict that there will be demographic challenges ahead for the world. But, they say, history shows that problems can be overcome through informed policy making and careful planning for the future.

    This program was broadcast as part of VOA's Focus series.  To hear more Focus stories, please click here.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora