HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (March 12, 2002 – East-West Wire)---With the United Nations possibly revising downward its world population estimate for the year 2050 by at least a billion people, policymakers should not be lulled into curtailing family planning programs because major population growth will still occur, an East-West Center population researcher said.

Demographers are meeting this week at the United Nations to reassess world population estimates, possibly leaning toward a lower prediction of 7.9 billion in 2050 compared to predictions of 9.3 billion and up. In the year 2000, world population numbered 6.0 billion.

A number of populous countries have lowered their fertility rates faster than they have raised per capita income. Fertility in India, which was the first country to start a national family planning program, has dropped from 6.0 children per woman in 1950 to 3.2 today.

Robert Retherford, a specialist on fertility and family planning, said that even when fertility falls to "replacement level" -- 2.1 children per woman -- population continues to grow for some time because of a temporarily inflated proportion of people in the childbearing ages of 15 to 50. This "population momentum" will keep the world's population growing for many decades.

To illustrate this momentum, Retherford pointed out that fertility dropped to 2.0 children per woman in Japan in 1957 and continued falling to 1.3 in the year 2000. Yet Japan's population will continue growing until 2006, by which time it will have increased by about 35 percent over the preceding 50 years.

"Policymakers should not become complacent," Retherford said. "World population will still grow by about one-third by the year 2050 and will continue to grow more after that, placing great strains on global resources and the environment. It's important to continue efforts to bring down fertility fast in those countries that still have high or moderately high fertility."

Robert Retherford can be reached at: Tel: 808-944-7403 Email: retherfr@eastwestcenter.org 

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