Impacts of world population growth on resources and economic growth

May 27, 2009

SOURCE: MOJ News Agency (Iran)

The world population is projected to reach seven billion early in 2012, up from the current 6.8 billion, and surpass nine billion people by 2050, reveals the 2008 Revision of the official United Nations population estimates and projections.


Credit: UN Photo/ P Johnson

Population projections

In July 2009, the world population will reach 6.8 billion, 313 million more than in 2005 or a gain of 78 million persons yearly. Assuming that fertility levels continue to decline, the world population is expected to reach 9.1 billion in 2050 and to be increasing by about 33 million persons yearly at that time, according to the medium variant. Most of the additional 2.3 billion people will enlarge the population of developing countries, which is projected to rise from 5.6 billion in 2009 to 7.9 billion in 2050, and will be distributed among the population aged 15-59 (1.2 billion) and 60 or over (1.1 billion) because the number of children under age 15 in developing countries will decrease.

In contrast, the population of the more developed regions is expected to change minimally, passing from 1.23 billion to 1.28 billion, and would have declined to 1.15 billion were it not for the projected net migration from developing to developed countries, which is projected to average 2.4 million persons annually from 2009 to 2050.

Another recent UN report, World Population Policies 2007, says that many governments continue to be concerned about the consequences of excessive population growth for economic growth and sustainable development. High population growth remains a salient concern in the developing world. Half of the developing countries viewed their population growth as too high in 2007 although rates of population growth in developing countries continue to decline, from an average annual rate of 2.4 per cent in 1970-1975 to 1.4 per cent in 2000-2005. Among the 50 least developed countries, the percentage of countries that viewed population growth as too high rose from 50 per cent in 1986 to 78 per cent in 2007.

Pressures on resources

Many developing countries have realized the importance of reducing high rates of population growth in order to ease mounting pressure on renewable and non-renewable resources, combat climate change, prevent food insufficiency and provide decent employment and basic social services to all their people.

Africa is the region with the highest percentage of countries viewing population growth as too high: 66 per cent of countries did so in 2007, up from 35 per cent in 1976. In Asia, which has experienced substantial declines in fertility, 45 per cent of countries viewed population growth as too high. Moreover, the adverse effects of climate change cannot be bound within any administrative boundaries.

Climate change poses a grave challenge for the whole world and has wide ranging implications for human well-being as well as for security, including the risk of armed conflict over resources and large-scale migrations of population within nations and across national borders. It has been estimated that 150 million environmental refugees will exist in 2050, due mainly to the effects of coastal flooding, shoreline erosion and agricultural disruption. "A range of development policies are urgently needed to address this situation, including renewed commitment to meeting the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Investing in family planning

Investments in family planning and reproductive health, girls education, economic opportunities and empowering of women, and in youth could help least developed and developing countries to speed up their demographic transition, enabling them to achieve demographic windows of opportunity which may contribute to economic growth.

World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database by the UN Population Division is available here.

PSN address the Anglo-Ethiopia Society in London

May 22, 2009


Louise Carver, Population and Sustainability Network Communications Officer had delivered an address to the Anglo-Ethiopian Society on the impact of population growth in Ethiopia.

Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


The event

The event held by the Anglo-Ethiopian Society at the Royal Asiatic Society in London was attended by a mixed group of UK and Ethiopian colleagues, including Ethiopia Embassy representatives.

PSN address on population growth in Ethiopia

Louise's address was called Population Growth in Ethiopia, Causes, Impacts and Wider Areas of influence.  

The population of Ethiopia is projected to more than double in size before 2050. Eight million Ethiopians are estimated to be living on permanent food aid and many more live in a state of constant food insecurity. Available land holdings and arable land is compromised through exploitation of resources and poor conservation methods.

At the same time fertility remains high and access to sexual and reproductive health services including family planning limited. Unique challenges in providing these services are presented by the geographically difficult environment, however conservation projects that have incorporated voluntary family planning services have recieved positive uptake.

Read the presentation

PSN offers expert opinion at Commonwealth Health Ministers Forum

May 19, 2009


Population and Sustainability Network coordinator Karen Newman addressed Commonwealth Health Ministers at a meeting in Geneva exploring the interface between health and climate change.

Credit: WHO/P. Virot  


The Population and Sustainability Network provided an expert session that addressed the ethical considerations of approaching the links between population growth and climate change at the meeting on the 17th May 2009. Other topics included the relationship between rapid population growth in the Least Developed Countries and adaptation to climate change.

Building upon the Commonwealth Health secretariat’s ongoing work on health and climate change, the meeting provided an opportunity for delegations from Commonwealth countries to share their experiences of the issue and discuss policy and technical solutions and cooperation.

PSN’s presentation on the ethical aspects of linking population with climate change is available here.

PSN contributes to APPG maternal morbidity hearings

December 9, 2008


PSN has contributed to parliamentary hearings on maternal morbidity being undertaken by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Population, Development and Reproductive Health. 

Credit: UN Photo/Victoria Hazou


Maternal morbidity: common yet overlooked

Maternal morbidity refers to illness and injuries related to pregnancy and childbirth. While maternal morbidity leaves 10 - 20 million women and girls every year with long-term physical, psychological, social and economic problems, many conditions and complications are treatable and preventable.

For this reason, in July 2008 the APPG on Population, Development and Reproductive Health launched an inquiry to increase understanding of this injustice, and to promote action to address this common yet overlooked health issue.

The hearings

In September PSN and roughly fifty other individuals and organisations responded to the APPG's call for evidence and submitted written evidence to the hearings. On 8 December PSN’s Karen Newman also provided oral testimony to the hearings at Westminster.

PSN’s input to the hearings argued that the high incidence of preventable maternal morbidity in developing countries must be viewed as a violation of women’s rights, and focused on the opportunities that exist to significantly reduce maternal mortality by increasing access to voluntary family planning programmes.

UPDATE May 2009

The APPG’s report of the maternal morbidity hearings Better off Dead? has been published and is available here. 

Sex and the metacities: population growth in Mumbai and Dhaka

November 24, 2008

SOURCE: The Guardian

Cities such as Mumbai and Dhaka are referred to as metacities: cities so big that they stretch the megacity definition.


Credit: UN Photo/Liba Taylor 

Rise of the metacity

Dhaka has seen its population double in the past 15 years, Mumbai in the past 25. Both are chasing the magic 20 million mark, when they become "meta", and both have swelling slums cramming the inner city, and extending around the periphery. Over half Mumbai's population lives in slums. In some parts they say there are 50,000 people living to one square kilometre. People living this close get sick, and pregnant.
Lack of reproductive choice

Mehrunisa and Zosna, two women in their 30s living a country apart, are both expecting babies. It's Zosna's second, and Mehrunisa's fifth. Zosna, who lives in a Dhaka slum, is apprehensive about giving birth. Mehrunisa just wishes the whole thing wasn't happening. She lives in Shivaji Nagar, a slum on the outskirts of Mumbai, 12 miles and a world away from the cool marble of the mayor's residence. It's built on the city's biggest dump and crawls with flies and goats. The huts seem to grow out of the filth and trash, flapping with loose plastic and Vodafone adverts torn from walls to make roofs. Scraps of tarpaulin wave like flags in the wind. She is sanguine about her new child: "I have no choice now."

Choice is a rare commodity here. Shivaji Nagar is a socially conservative, predominantly Muslim slum, where husbands and mothers-in-law rule and an unwritten code says that women should be having children. Contraception and abortion are viewed with profound suspicion.

Nasimbee, a neighbour of Mehrunisa, lets rip. "Why should I have another child?" She's already had five and now does her family planning on the sly. It's not hard, she says, since her husband "lost his brain" to drink and drugs: "He won't find out, he can't find out." These women are conducting a covert operation, fighting their husbands, their culture, the system. And once they've battled with the family, problems await.
Obstacles to accessing health services

Mehrunisa has stomach pains and wants to get an ultrasound, but can't afford it. Even if she could, the machine in the municipal hospital has been broken for years. Anita Shenoy, a tired-eyed doctor at the single public clinic that serves the 600,000-strong slum admits they struggle to meet demand: "There is a big queue here in the morning ... people can't wait." Instead they go to private clinics but these, she adds, are often bogus — fake doctors with made-up qualifications trying to make a quick buck by selling sham drugs.

Dhaka slums

A thousand miles north, the Dhaka slum rises out of water, not rubbish. Shacks are built on bamboo stilts, and black streams froth with pollution beneath. The local ward commissioner Anhaj Mahmud has a mantra for what's happening on his patch: "Population and corruption, corruption and population." His brother Mohammed, a wealthy property developer, is more specific: "Me? I have one son, one daughter. Look over there, they have six ..." But Zosna and her neighbours have a different take: "We all know that two children is a happy family." After two, they have an injection or go on the pill. Their mothers, they say, had five or six children. Not them. These women are lucky though — they live within reach of a Marie Stopes clinic that doles out contraception and advice.

Everyone agrees with the ward commissioner on one thing. Corruption is everywhere, from the party leaders banged up on corruption charges, to the forestry department official who was busted with wodges of cash stuffed in his pillowcases. Department for International Development health adviser Fran McConville describes the country as a "paradox". Bangladesh has made extraordinary social progress, especially in health. But this is thanks to what she describes as a "phenomenally strong NGO community": in other words, despite the government, not because of it. It's a picture the director general of family planning seems happy to endorse.

She says the government has a "lack of manpower" in the slums and that it's up to the NGOs.

Masudus Salehin, a Marie Stopes programme manager working in the Dhaka slums, feels the weight of this responsibility, and questions whether the government shouldn't carry more of it. "We're not able to reach all the houses ... there are lots of gaps." He knows there are still women who have no idea how much easier they can make their lives by choosing how many children they have, and when. In Mumbai, Dr Shenoy echoes his frustration. If there could be another public clinic, if services could be made more available, it would be different.

But in the Victorian corridors of the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai, the agenda seems to be elsewhere. Dr Phatak raises his voice: "The slum dwellers aren't as poor as you think. They can easily earn 100 rupees [a little over a pound] a day." He claims they have "the easiest interface with the municipal health structure" and that the corporation's focus is not on primary healthcare and local clinics where women like Mehrunisa could get vital family planning advice, but on rural services and the hospitals in central Mumbai.

His solution for the slums is to wish them away. It's a policy of repulsion. "We don't give them facilities. We make it difficult for them to live here. But we can't remove them and throw them away because our country today allows people from anywhere to go anywhere so it is very difficult to uproot these people." He looks almost wistful.

Awaiting prosperity and recognition

Mehrunisa does not want to be uprooted. This is home, dump and all. And the slums will never magically vanish; Mumbai is a magnet to people all over India. They're going to keep coming, and they're going to keep having children.

Dr Phatak hopes that Mumbai's "prosperity" will match its population. It might. But the women in the slums won't see much of it. For that to happen the corporation must first recognise them, then accept that this city is their home, and then provide them with the services they so desperately need.