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UN: Population growth rates fall to 1.1 percent in Asia-Pacific

The population growth rate in the Asia-Pacific region has dropped to 1.1 percent, according to the Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2008, compiled by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The 1.1 percent growth rate is the lowest in the developing world.

The study found a 0.5 percent drop in the number of children born per woman in the region during a ten year period. During 1995-2000, each woman had an average of 2.9 children in the Asia-Pacific region, while from 2000-2005 that number dropped to 2.4 children per woman.

Boat traffic in Shang-hai, China. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

“We are familiar with population ageing in countries like Japan but the same phenomenon is now evident in many countries,” said Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “Once the total fertility rate falls below the replacement rate of 2.1, we can expect the region’s population to start shrinking.”

Some countries in the region have already seen fertility drop below the replacement rate of 2.1, including China, Thailand, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. Populations in countries like Georgia and Armenia are currently declining.

However, other nations in the region still possess fertility rates above 3.0 children per woman. These include India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Philippines.

Despite a slowing population growth, Asia still contains 60 percent of global population and some of the most densely populated places in the world.

The world’s current total population is estimated at 6.7 billion. Estimates of future world population have it reaching near or above 9 billion by 2050. Some estimates argue that global populations will crest at 9 billion and begin to stabilize or decline, others predict it rising upwards of 11 billion.

Many environmentalists warn that current food and water crises are largely due to overpopulation, and that such problems will only worsen in coming decades.

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