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The Global Aging Problem

The projected population trends also depend on achieving a major increase in the proportion of AIDS patients who get anti-retroviral therapy to treat the disease and on the success of efforts to control the further spread of HIV, she said.
by William M. Reilly
UPI UN Correspondent
United Nations (UPI) Mar 15, 2007
The United Nations says while the world's population is expected to increase 2.5 billion people in the next 43 years -- an increase equal to the global population of 1950 -- the inhabitants will get much older.

The Population Division of the U.N.'s Department of Economic and Social Affairs Tuesday released its "2006 Revision" saying the number of people on the globe should as expected reach 9.2 billion in 2050, up from the present estimate of 6.7 billion, and will include elderly persons numbering 1 billion.

"One of the surprises is that population growth is most concentrated in the 60 plus age group," Hania Zlotnik, the Director of the division, told reporters in a briefing at U.N. World Headquarters in New York.

The number of persons 60 years or over "is expected almost to triple, increasing from 673 million in 2005 to 2 billion by 2050," the division said. "Over the same period, the share of older persons living in developing countries is expected to rise from 64 percent to nearly 80 percent in 2050."

"The place where the action is, is the older population," she said. "The biggest change will occur in the developing world, and developing countries will have to cope with the situation" by investing in both education and care of the elderly.

The 2006 Revision says the increase will be absorbed mostly by the less developed regions, whose population is projected to rise from 5.4 billion in 2007 to 7.9 billion in 2050.

In contrast, the population of the more developed regions is expected to remain largely unchanged at 1.2 billion, and would have declined were it not for the projected net migration from developing to developed countries, which is expected to average 2.3 million persons annually, the report said.

The more developed regions are Australia/New Zealand, Europe, Japan and Northern America, the division said.

As a result of declining fertility and increasing longevity, the populations of more and more countries are ageing rapidly. Between 2005 and 2050, half of the increase in the world population will be accounted for by a rise in the population aged 60 years or over, whereas the number of persons under age 15, classified as children, will decline slightly.

Additionally, in the more developed regions, the population aged 60 or over is expected nearly to double, from 245 million in 2005 to 406 million in 2050, while the number of persons under age 60 will likely decline, from 971 million in 2005 to 839 million in 2050. "The world population is aging because of the great success in reducing population, the success of humanity in controlling its numbers," Zlotnik said.

The projected population trends also depend on achieving a major increase in the proportion of AIDS patients who get anti-retroviral therapy to treat the disease and on the success of efforts to control the further spread of HIV, she said.

"We are expecting a relatively good coverage of anti-retroviral drugs in 31 of the most affected countries by 2015," the demographer said. "According to our estimates, 70 per cent of the affected people are going to get treatment. Given that, we're postponing the deaths by several years." On average, those receiving treatment are expected to live 7.5 years longer than those who are not.

"Mainly as a result of these assumptions, and owing to the downward revision of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in countries where nationally representative data on the epidemic have become available, an estimated 32 million fewer deaths are projected to occur during 2005-2020 in the 62 most affected countries," the revision said.

Zlotnik discounted any major, immediate, effect of global warming on the overall population.

The 2006 Revision says fertility in the less developed countries as a whole is expected to drop from 2.75 children per woman in 2005-2010 to 2.05 in 2045-2050. To achieve such reductions, it is essential access to family planning expands in the poorest countries, the division said, pointing out without this, the world population could increase by twice as many people as those alive in 1950.

The chief of the U.N. Population Fund said the forecast serves as a wake-up call to the urgency of giving couples the means to exercise their human right to freely determine the sizes of their families.

"Currently, about 200 million women in these countries lack access to safe and effective contraceptive services," said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid in statement released at headquarters in New York. "Funding for family planning must be increased to meet the needs of these women, not only to determine the world's future, but also to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce maternal and infant death."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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