5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

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Demography and development

The world population crossed the 7 billion threshold in 2011 and should reach 11.3 billion in 2100, according to the United Nations Population Fund. Today, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) account only for 13% of the world's population, but they should equate the population of the more developed countries by 2030 and continue growing until 2100. African countries will carry the biggest share of this growth, particularly due to sustained population growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, population of industrialized countries is plateauing and that from other developing countries will stabilise after reaching a maximum in 2070. This global picture makes clear that the evolution of demography and its multiple consequences is indeed one of the greatest challenges for development cooperation.

Both mortality and fertility indicators set Sub-Saharan Africa apart. It has the highest fertility rates with an average of 5.1 children per woman in 2010-5 (compared to a world average of 2.5 children) and the lowest life expectancy at birth at 59.2 years (world average is 71.6 years). In light of these developments, within the next 15 years some 375 million youth in Sub-Saharan Africa will reach employment age with very low perspectives to be integrated into the labour market.

This raises multiple challenges, from those related to high dependency burdens and the shortage of resources to invest in human capital, to the risk of political instability. Yet, as shown by the East Asia's experience, a growing share of working adults in the population may be of great benefit if they can find productive employment and thereby raise labour productivity and increase real income. Better harnessing demographic dividends in Africa implies to put in place the necessary adjustments to turn demographic trends into development opportunities.

Many countries with rapidly growing populations are threatened by hunger or deforestation; others are struggling with conflict or political instability. Fragile states are typically countries where the population growth is the fastest in the world. While progress is not precluded, population growth in these countries is a challenge multiplier. In terms of food security, hunger and malnutrition, while significant progress has been made in reducing global hunger, most of the progress has occurred in countries with relatively low fertility rates. Where fertility rates remain high, the battle against hunger has yet to be won.

Biodiversity loss, deforestation and land erosion are specific long-term consequences of over-exploitation that are intimately connected to demographic pressure. Investments in sustainable agriculture, water conservation, habitat preservation and reforestation are crucial to boost food security, preserve biophysical resources and increase resilience to climate change, conflict and other threats associated with demographic growth. In these countries, an evermore refined understanding of the potential impact of demographic pressure is crucial to design adequate policies and anticipate responses.

Related sessions

Demography and development
auditorium A1
8 June
09:00 to 10:30
Demography and development
debate D5
7 June
09:30 to 10:45
Demography and development
debate D1
8 June
10:45 to 12:00
Demography and development
debate D5
8 June
13:30 to 14:45
Demography and development
debate D4
8 June
15:15 to 16:30
Demography and development
project S1
7 June
18:00 to 19:15
Demography and development
stand
Demography and development
performance Cinémobile
Demography and development
exhibition