The burden of eight billion

November 20, 2022

Population growth is increasingly concentrated in the poorest countries

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ach day, the human population reaches a new all-time high, driven by numerous inequities, lack of education and the status of women and girls. Fifty percent of pregnancies around the world are unplanned; 25 percent are unwanted. Poverty drives to control women’s lives, pronatalism for more male children, gender-based violence and child marriages are some of the sufferings that must be eliminated if ever-increasing population growth is to be stopped.

According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, it is estimated that the global population reached 8 billion on November 15. This is a moment to stop, reflect and take action. We have more than 8 billion opportunities to address the most pressing, fundamental threats to global sustainability where it matters most in human hearts and minds as we inspire entire communities to recognise the social and environmental power of prioritising health, education and equity for all.

Countries with the highest fertility levels tend to be those with the lowest income per capita. Over time, global population growth has become increasingly concentrated among the world’s poorest countries. In these countries, sustained rapid population growth can frustrate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which remain the world’s best pathway toward a happy and healthy future.

This rapid growth of the human population demonstrates achievements in public health and medicine, such as improvements in sanitation and disease control, better access to clean drinking water and the development of vaccines for effective medical therapies. Together with improved nutrition and rising living standards, such achievements will drop the risk of dying, especially among children, and generate an unparalleled growth of populations worldwide. At the same time, rapid population growth poses challenges to progress in social and economic development by necessitating an ever-increasing investment of resources to meet the needs of growing numbers of people. Understanding and planning for future demographic changes is essential to achieving continued progress towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while ensuring that no one is left behind.

In addition to driving rapid population growth, sustained high levels of fertility in some regions have resulted in a relatively youthful global age distribution. From a demographic perspective, a youthful age structure creates momentum and ensures that growth will continue even if average fertility drops immediately to lower levels. As the world grew from 7 to 8 billion, most of the population in low-income countries comprised children and youth under age 25. Despite projected declines in fertility, this age group will account for nearly half of the increase projected for this group of countries as the world grows from 8 to 9 billion. It has taken the global population 12 years to grow from 7 to 8 billion. It will take approximately 15 years to reach 9 billion in 2037, indicating that the population growth rate is slowing.

Rapid population growth poses challenges to progress in social and economic development by necessitating an ever-increasing investment of resources to meet the needs of growing numbers of people.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all components of population change, including fertility, mortality and national and international migration. In some countries, successive waves of the pandemic may have produced short-term reductions in the numbers of pregnancies and births. For many other countries, there is little evidence of an impact on fertility levels or trends.

The holding of an International Conference on Family Planning (November 14–17) in Pattaya City, Thailand, was a mega event of The Day of 8 Billion 2022. It served as a strategic inflexion point for the family planning and reproductive health community worldwide. It provided an opportunity to disseminate knowledge, celebrate successes, and identify the next steps toward reaching the goal of universal access to family planning systems, services and products by convening civil society, youth organisations, academia, governments, businesses, cities, parliaments, trade unions, media and more. International Conference on Family Planning is meant to bring together leading academic scientists, researchers and research scholars to exchange and share their experiences and research results on all aspects of Family Planning.

The current population of Pakistan is 230,968,207 as of Wednesday, November 9, based on the latest United Nations data. Pakistan has one of the highest birth rates, with 22 births per 1,000 people. Very few women use any type of birth control in Pakistan, and the surging population can put too much pressure on the health and education systems. Compared to other countries in the region, the growth rate of Pakistan is about 2.1 percent higher. It is predicted that in about 35 years, if this growth continues, the population of Pakistan will become double what it was in 2001. Judging from how the population has grown significantly over just ten years, this “doubled population” figure does not seem to be far off.

Major factors responsible for high population growth in Pakistan are high fertility, a low contraceptive prevalence rate, unmet need for family planning, early marriages, son preference, poverty and illiteracy, especially among women. Pakistan particularly struggles with high maternal mortality rates, adolescent birth rates and unmet need for contraception. The country has the third-highest maternal, foetal and child mortality burden globally. Major gaps remain at both service delivery and policy level, preventing adequate access to basic health facilities.

On the Day of Eight Billion, UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem stated that the growth of our population is a testament to humanity’s achievements, including reductions in poverty and gender inequality, advancements in healthcare and expanded access to education. These have resulted in more women surviving childbirth, more children surviving their early years, and longer, healthier lifespans, decade after decade. We need to understand and anticipate demographic trends so that governments can make informed policies and resource allocations to equip their populations with the right skills, tools and opportunities.


The writer is aplaywright and freelance journalist and can be reached at pashajaved1gmail.com and his blogging site: soulandland.com



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