LATIN AMERICANS BREEDING LESS, YET SERVICES SLOW IN COMING
Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Latin America’s population growth has been slowing down. This could be part of the broad trend of demographic transition, where population growth finally slows down as economic growth moves up.
The bad news though is that Latin America’s peoples don’t seem to get access to services as quickly as one gets in economically growing countries. Which means that, in the short run, there will still be many folks mired in the hovels of poverty, thus delaying the achievement of the Millenium Development Goal for poverty alleviation.
Below is a World Bank report on the subject.
[Philippines, 14 December 2011]
Latin America's population growth slows but region's services still insufficient
WASHINGTON, October 31, 2011 – Will the planet be able to sustain more than 7 billion people? The answer will begin to become apparent today with the birth of Danica May Camacho in the Philippines. She was named the world’s seven billionth inhabitant by the United Nations.
Health, environmental and urban planning experts took advantage of the global event to warn about the challenges of a growing, aging population, which can have different consequences in each country.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, fertility rates have been declining since the 1960s –when women had an average of six children– although, paradoxically, the population has tripled. Among other factors, this increase is due to improved health care services and rising life expectancy in the region.
“The population continues to grow, but at a much slower pace than it did a century ago. By 2050, the growth rate is expected to approach zero and the population will stabilize at 800 million, 8 percent of the projected global population,” said Joana Godinho, the World Bank’s human development sector manager for Latin America.
For Godinho, the region is still experiencing a demographic benefit since most of the population is economically active. However, the population will rapidly age given the declining fertility and death rates, just as has occurred in developed countries. “This has an impact on public spending in health and pensions, as well as on poverty, inequality and economic growth,” said the expert, who stressed that the level of impact will depend on government actions to address the change.
Some measures to prepare for the region’s new demographics include the promotion of healthy lifestyles and lifelong learning for a long, productive life.
A dangerous concentration
Currently, more than 75 per cent of Latin America’s 590 million inhabitants live in cities, a record for the developing world.
This trend is global: in 1950, just 730 million people lived in cities; by 2009, the figure had risen to over 3 billion. In the region, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires each have populations of over 10 million. In Argentina, according to the most recent census, nine of every 10 inhabitants live in cities.
“The population not only grew, it also became more concentrated, often in areas without sufficient capacity to manage this increase,” said Niels Holm-Nielsen, World Bank risk-management specialist. This aspect of population growth involves risks. For Holm-Nielsen, two disturbing trends have emerged in Latin America over the past two decades: a change in land use and the settlement of millions of people –in many cases as a result of migration— in areas unsuitable for large populations, such as hillsides.
“People living in poverty have fewer possibilities for managing risks and are more likely to be victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and landslides,” added Holm-Nielsen. In response, the World Bank is providing assistance to prepare for and recover from these types of disasters, applying a broader risk-management approach and incorporating projects for disaster prevention, mitigation and reduction of vulnerability.
“The region has made advances in recent years in managing risks of natural disasters. Yet Colombia, one of the countries that has most improved its risk monitoring systems and integrated risk in its land use planning, recently experienced the worst flood in its history,” said the specialist. In the region, the World Bank also works to strengthen urban development through 59 projects in cities and towns.
These projects seek to reduce poverty, increase access to basic services and promote economically-productive and environmentally-sustainable cities.
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