Table 1.1 contains some of the basic demographic indicators for Pacific Asia and shows clearly the considerable gap which still exists in the region between birth and death rates. As with many parts of the Third World, the rapid diffusion of improvements in health care from developed countries has brought down death rates throughout the region, with one or two exceptions. Birth rates, on the other hand, which are influenced by a much more complex mix of medical, social and economic factors, have been brought down more slowly and rather erratically.
The result is that population growth rates in Pacific Asia, whilst being relatively lower for the region as a whole compared to the rest of the Third World, remain quite high in some individual countries. When added to the generally youthful population structure, this means that many countries will still be growing rapidly for some time to come (Figure 5.1).
Allan and Anne Findlay have discussed in detail elsewhere in this series the nature of demographic change and its relationship to the development process. It is sufficient to note at this point that low-income households and national governments tend to have very different views on the merits and demerits of large families. Most of the poor see large numbers of children, especially males, as sources of unpaid labour and as security in old age in countries without welfare systems.