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U.N.: Report Says World Population Slowing, But Still Growing

  • Julie Moffett

Washington, 3 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations says that the world's population growth is slowing, but because of high fertility rates in the past, it is still increasing by over 80 million a year.

In its annual report on the state of world population released Wednesday, the U.N. says that the rate of global population has slowed to 1.4 percent a year, down from two percent in 1960 -- the height of the world's population explosion. But the report adds that although growth rates have slowed, the population rate has still doubled in the past half century.

The report says that there were 2.5 billion people in 1950, and that the population is expected to pass the six billion mark by mid-1999. By the year 2050, the report says there will be an estimated 9.4 billion people. That means the world's population may grow as much or more in the next 50 years as it has in the past 50.

Part of the reason for the anticipated growth in population, says the report, is that more young people than ever -- over one billion between the ages of 15 and 24 -- are now entering their childbearing years. At the same time, the number and proportions of people over the age of 65 are increasing at an unprecedented rate.

The report explains: "The rapid growth of young and old 'new generations' is challenging society's ability to provide education and health care for the young, and social, medical and financial support for the elderly."

In regards to the younger generation, the report says that this is the largest group ever in history to enter the childbearing years. As a result, the report says society has a "moral and practical imperative" to address young people's educational and health needs, and promote their human rights.

The report urges governments to help young people receive better education and information about sexuality, how to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and how to respect the rights of their partners, so they can make responsible decisions.

While noting that early marriage is still a norm in some parts of the world, the report says that such practice closes women's opportunities for education and employment. The report adds it would be particularly beneficial for governments to invest more on the health and educational rights of women.

Says the report: "For girls, the benefits of schooling are striking; an educated woman is more likely than others to seek medical care and maintain her family's health, and she often has a greater say in decisions such as when and whom to marry. She is more likely to delay her first pregnancy and to limit and space her children; and she is more likely to use modern, safe and effective contraception."

The report goes on to say that for young women, wage work offers economic opportunities to make wider social contacts, and marry later with more resources and skills.

Stirling Scruggs, Director of Information of the U.N. Population Fund, emphasized this theme to reporters Wednesday at a news conference in Washington.

Scruggs says: "Critical to all development efforts is the advancement of the rights of women as equal development partners and decision-makers."

Scruggs also adds that investments in reproductive health will enable women to chose when and whether to have children, thereby reducing the need for abortions and reinforcing the trend toward smaller families and slower population growth.

IMF critics plan hearings to review the IMF's role in Russia. The House Banking Oversight Subcommittee said it would call Karin Lissakers, U.S. executive director of the IMF, and David Lipton, Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, to testify next week.

As far as bilateral U.S. economic aid is concerned, the Administration's request for foreign aid is expected to pass the Senate. The president has asked for about $14 billion for foreign operations, but the Senate is expected to approve only about $12.6 billion.

The Senate bill provides $740 million for former Soviet states, including $210 million for Ukraine, $90 million for Armenia and $95 million for Georgia. The Senate bill also maintains a ban on all but humanitarian U.S. aid for Azerbaijan because of its economic blockade of Armenia. Aid to Eastern Europe and the Baltics is set at $433 million.

After the Senate and House have approved their foreign aid bills, the two measures must be reconciled into one bill and then approved again by the House and Senate before the measure is sent to Clinton for his signature.