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The  Most Difficult Problem of the Millennium ?
Population Explosion ...
1. Are there too many people in the world?
2. In a Nutshell
3. Six billion and more to come....
4. The Demographic Profile Changes...
5. The Indian Population Explosion:  It goes on....
6. The China Solution: Is it Good or Bad?
7. Methods of  Contraception...

Important Links on the subject:   Under Preparation

1. Are there too many people in the world?

There. Another five babies were born in the last second, and two people died. That means the world's population grew by three. The same thing happens each and every second - so this year, the human race will increase by 78 million people.

 The numbers are staggering. The United Nations says that this year, on 12 October 1999, the planet's population will reach 6 billion for the first time in history. 

 Estimates of exactly how many people the earth can support range wildly from four billion (meaning we're already in crisis) to 16 billion or more. But where the ultimate limit lies is a theoretical question. The immediate issue is that population growth is already causing enormous problems. It is gobbling up natural resources, putting enormous pressure on public services such as health and education, and making it almost impossible for hundreds of millions of people to break free from poverty. 

Economic growth averaging between 1% and 2% a year over a long period is impressive to economists - but if population is increasing by 1.4% a year, as the United Nations estimates, then we need impressive economic growth just to feed, clothe and house people at our current uneven levels of prosperity. 

The challenge is biggest in the poorest countries, which have some of the highest population growth rates. The UN estimates that population growth will average 0.3% between 1995 and 2000 in 'more developed regions' but 2.7% in the 'least developed countries'. 

The good news is that population growth has slowed significantly in the last thirty years. The UN's projected rate for 1995-2000 of 1.4% a year compares with a peak of 2% a year in 1965-1970. 

Economic development speeds up population growth by raising living standards and improving health services, so fewer children die in infancy and adults live longer. But it gradually also slows the growth down again by raising standards of education and creating more prosperous lifestyles in which people postpone having children and limit the size of their families. Vigorous campaigns promoting family planning have helped to speed up this 'demographic transition'.

 The bad news is that the rapid growth of the past has created a vast wave of people who are now entering child-bearing age - one billion people aged between 15 and 24. Their decisions on how soon they want to start families and how many children they want to have will be critical for our future. 

 2. In a Nutshell

Each and every day: 

400,000 babies are born. 

140,000 people die in total. 

15,000 people are infected with HIV. 

140,000 acres of wild land are lost. 

72,000 acres of rain forest are destroyed. 

70 animal and plant species become extinct. 

At the moment: 

There are 1 billion people between the ages of 15 and 24. 

The world gains enough people to populate San Francisco every three days. 

There's been more population growth in the last 50 years than in the 4 million years before them. 

The average life expectancy is 63 years old - (61 for men, 65 for women). 

Only 7% of the world's population live in areas which aren't experiencing population growth. 

In the future: 

By 2006, more than half the world's population will live in cities. 

Thirty countries are expected to decrease in population over the next 50 years - but only two of these (Japan and Cuba) aren't European or Russian Federation nations.

The three most populous countries - India, China and the USA - will account for one in every three human beings in 2050. 

Some Comments: 

* This is a problem. There's gonna be 6 billion people this year - I can remember when we reached 5 billion - it was only about ten years ago. At this rate, it'll be quite a crowded place quite soon!

* Apparently the population of the world will level out through pestilence, famine or war. In any event, it'll reach a natural equilibrium. I think that increasing infertility will have some bearing on the issue. 

*  I think it's a very serious concern. The earth's resources as they're currently meted out are stretched already in certain parts of the world, which is a serious issue for the future. It'll need a global plan.

3. Six billion and more to  come...

This year sees the world's population hit 6 billion for the first time. The Y6B issue, as it is being called, affects all future generations and will shape human global society in the 21st century and beyond. 

Of course, no one will actually know who the 6 billionth baby will be, or where he/she will be born, but there are certain things that we can say about it: 

It will more than likely be born in a developing country, where 97% of the world's population growth is taking place. 

It'll be just one of 400,000 babies born on the Day of Six Billion. 

It can expect to live to be 63 years old. 

It'll probably live in a city. If it doesn't, it'll probably move to one. 

Events to mark Y6B are being held all over the world to raise awareness about the speed of population growth and what that means for us, particularly young people who have yet to decide whether and when to have a family. 

4. The Demographic Profile

Population trends are creating two different worlds: the young and the old. 

The challenge from the young is how to encourage them to delay having families and to have fewer children than their parents.

The challenge from the old is how to pay for their pensions and medical care when there are so many of them compared to people of working age. 

The world of the young is in the developing nations. In 78 countries, two out of every five people are children under the age of 15. These nations are also the most rapidly growing, with most having more than five babies per woman, and among the poorest. 

The world of the old is in the industrialized west, where population growth has slowed, or where the population is even shrinking. These nations, such as much of Europe, have fewer young people and more elderly. 

5. The Indian Population Explosion:  It goes on....

From  370  million  people  in 1950 to  1000 million  people  in  1999!
Then to  1900 million  people  by  2050 if not  controlled....?

See  the  Data  of  Midyear Population and Average Annual Period Growth Rates:  1950 to 2050  (Population in thousands, Annual  Growth Rate of  in percent) 

Year   Population       Year   Population       Period        Growth Rate

1950      369,880       1996      950,205      1950-1960     1.9
1960      445,857       1997      967,118      1960-1970     2.2
1970      555,043       1998      984,004      1970-1980     2.2
1980      690,462       1999    1,000,849      1980-1990     2.1
1990      850,558       2000    1,017,645      1990-2000     1.8

Some Demographic Indicators:  1998

Births per 1,000 population....................   26 
Deaths per 1,000 population....................   9 
Rate of natural increase (percent).............  1.7 
Annual rate of growth (percent)................  1.7 
Life expectancy at birth (years)............... 62.9 
Infant deaths per 1,000 live births............   63 
Total fertility rate (per woman)...............  3.2 

Midyear Population, by Age and Sex:  1998 and 2010 forecast 
(Population in thousands)

          ------------1998-----------               ------------2010-----------


00-04       118,063   60,537   57,525         117,741   60,260   57,481
05-09       112,794   58,189   54,605         115,983   59,446   56,537
10-14       108,478   55,852   52,626         115,314   59,188   56,125
15-19        99,655   52,492   47,163         112,151   57,751   54,400
20-24        90,423   48,132   42,291         109,658   56,446   53,212
25-29        81,543   41,792   39,751         101,218   52,643   48,574
30-34        72,790   36,317   36,474         91,900   48,936   42,964
35-39        63,790   32,474   31,316         82,729   43,206   39,523
40-44        54,995   28,525   26,470         73,735   36,734   37,002
45-49        45,884   24,033   21,851        64,343   32,128   32,215
50-54        37,589   19,796   17,792        54,529   27,819   26,710
55-59        29,711   15,550   14,161         44,638   22,799   21,839
60-64        22,959   11,884   11,076        34,493   17,629   16,863
65-69        18,208    9,230    8,979          25,575   12,911   12,664
70-74        13,222    6,646    6,576          17,267    8,587    8,680
75-79          8,154    4,220    3,934           11,214    5,575    5,639
80+             5,746    2,956    2,790              9,684    4,746    4,937

TOTAL    984,004  508,625  475,379    1,182,171  606,805  575,366

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, International Data Base.

The China Solution: Is it Good or Bad?

China was the first country to reach one billion people. There are now 1.3 billion people in the country - one in every five people in the world is Chinese. But the growth rate is falling, and it's due to the controversial practice of compulsory family planning. 

China has a 'one child per couple' policy introduced in the late 1970s. Before starting a pregnancy, couples have to obtain a permit from the authorities. Only one child is allowed per couple, except among certain minority groups and in some rural areas, where two children are permitted, especially if the first is a girl. 

Women must be sterilized or use contraceptive devices after they've had one child. If pregnancies are unauthorized, they are terminated. This is done voluntarily, in theory.  Additional children can result in heavy fines or the loss of housing and government jobs.

 The Chinese authorities consider their family planning to be a success. The birth rate is down to 1.8 children per woman, which is more than the 1.0 that the policy would suggest, but still an achievement. The population rose by less than one percent in 1998, the lowest since records began. It could also be argued that couples lavish a great deal of love and care on the one child they are allowed, resulting in close family units and well balanced and healthy children.

 However, there are some important ramifications to the one child policy. Boys have much more social status in Chinese culture than girls, and there is reason to believe that some Chinese couples abort female foetuses or kill baby girls. It is illegal to tell expectant parents the sex of their child but the practice is widespread. About 10,000 ultrasound machines, which can be used to study an unborn child and tell its sex, are sold every year.

 There is certainly an unhealthy gender imbalance in China, with 120 males for every 100 girls according to a top Chinese research institution, the Academy of Social Sciences. Many Chinese men are growing up single and have no hope of finding a wife or start a family. 

Is the policy good or bad? At the very least, China has acknowledged that it must limit its population growth and its birth rate has come down. But the policy is open to moral question and may have bad side effects - it opens women to the risk of abuse and babies to the possibility of being killed or abandoned. 

Methods of Contraception: What to Choose?

The key to family planning is adequate access to contraceptives. Here is a summary of the main different methods.


The most accessible form of contraception in the developing world. A condom is a sheath of fine rubber that  prevents any sperm from entering the woman and fertilizing an egg. Condoms are cheap and 98% effective, with the added benefit of protecting against sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. The downside is that a continual, ready source of supplies is needed. 

Contraceptive Pill 

The birth control pill contains a mixture of the hormones oestrogen and progestogen. It works by preventing ovulation, that is it stops the monthly release of an egg from a woman's ovary. It is 99% successful and easily reversible - taking the pill will not prevent you from having a child in the future. But women do need to remember to take it every day and like the condom, this form of contraception relies on a continual and readily available source of supplies. 

Other Supply methods 

Condoms and pills are called supply methods of contraception because people require regular 'supplies' of the product. There are other, less frequently used supply methods such as the diaphragm or cap. This is a circular dome made of rubber. It acts as a barrier to stop entering the womb. It should be used with a spermicidal cream, jelly or pessaries, which contain a chemical that destroys sperm. 


Intra-Uterine Devices, or IUDs, are small plastic and copper devices, usually shaped like a 'T', which are fitted into a woman's womb by a doctor. This only takes a couple of minutes. They work by stopping sperm meeting an egg, or by stopping an egg settling in the womb.They are effective from the moment they are inserted and can stay in place for five years. IUDs are 98-99% effective.


Sterilization is a permanent form of preventing the sperm reaching the egg. In women, this is done by cutting the Fallopian tubes, which carry eggs from the ovaries to the womb. In men, it is done by cutting the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles. Sterilization is a highly successful form of contraception, with failure rates less than 1%. However, it is one that is not readily reversible. There is also the problem of cultural resistance to sterilization in some countries - especially to male sterilization. 

Non Supply Methods

These forms of contraception rely more on timing than on medical intervention. The rhythm method (or natural family planning) works on studying the fertility peaks of a woman during her monthly cycle, and abstaining from sex when she is most fertile. They are relatively unreliable. 

(Part of this  was adapted from a  BBC feature on the subject)

Important Links on the subject:   Under Preparation