Troublesome Trends: Population Growth, Distribution, Migration

Article excerpt

At the same time that world population growth has reached an all-time high, population distribution within countries is increasingly being altered by changing demographics and rural-urban migration. The number of cross-border migrants and refugees has also risen sharply.

The International Conference on Population and Development is to consider action to help stabilize population growth rates, ease pressures underlying rapid urbanization and migration within and across borders, and safeguard the rights of international migrants and refugees. Demographic issues, such as the ageing of populations, will also be addressed.

In fact, there are significant differences among regions and countries in population growth and distribution, with important implications for the ultimate size and regional distribution of the world population. For example, more than 93 per cent of the 93 million people being added to the population each year are in developing countries.

Moreover, while many developing countries have a large proportion of children and young people in their populations due to high fertility levels, the proportion of older people, especially women, in developed and developing countries alike has increased notably. In the developed countries, approximately one in every six persons is at least 60 years old, and this proportion is expected to be about one in every four persons by 2025.

To address this situation, the Cairo Conference draft programme of action aims to enhance the self-reliance of elderly people and create conditions that promote quality of life and enable them to work and live independently in their own communities for as long as possible. It also Governments, in collaboration with the private sector, to strengthen support systems for the elderly.

Recent UN data show that 43 per cent of the world population lives in urban areas, compared to 38 per cent in 1975. By 2005, half the world's population is projected to be urban. For example, in 1950, only New York's metropolitan area had more than 10 million inhabitants. In 1992, there were 13 urban agglomerations of at least that size, and that number is expected to double by 2010, when four fifths of the mega-cities will be in developing countries.

Consumption patterns of urban areas, especially in the more developed regions, continue to put heavy pressure on the global ecosystem. At the same time, rapid urban growth in many developing countries has lead to deteriorating and unsustainable conditions of human settlement. Problems include poor shelter conditions, inadequate management of settlements and disaster-prone areas, poor land-use planning and deficient basic infrastructure.

In order to foster a more balanced spatial distribution of the population and reduce the role of the various factors which push people into migrating, draft recommendations call for:

* Governments assessing on a regular basis how the consequences of their economic and environmental policies, among other factors, influence population distribution and internal migration, both permanent and temporary;

* Countries adopting sustainable regional development strategies which encourage the growth of small-or medium-sized urban centres and the sustainable development of rural areas;

* Governments considering incentives to encourage the redistribution and relocation of industries and businesses from urban to rural areas; and * Governments actively supporting access to land ownership or use and access to water resources in rural areas, as well as encouraging investments to enhance rural productivity, improve rural infrastructure and social services, and facilitate the establishment of credit, production and marketing cooperatives and other grass-roots organizations. …

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