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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.