Changes in population characteristics

Changes in population characteristics

  • fertility
  • explosion or implosion?
  • population growth in the less developed world
  • population growth in the more developed world
  • mortality


In most parts of the world, fertility exceeds both mortality and migration. It is, therefore, the main determinant of population growth. Its importance has increased over time with the worldwide fall in mortality. Several African countries have very high birth rates of 50 and over 1000 per year. At the other end of the scale, Austria, Germany, Belarus, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Ukraine have birth rates of 9 and under per 1000 per year. Why does fertility vary?

  • The relationship with death rate can be important. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have high birth rates that counter the high rates of infant mortality. One study of sub-saharan africa concluded that a woman must have on average, eight or nine children to be 95% certain of a surviving adult son. In contrast, in Europe, the average falls short of two children. Improvements in healthcare, sanitation and diet have led to a drop in rates of child mortality and reduce the needs for large numbers of children as forms of sercurity for the future. The USA has one of the highest birth rates among developed countries, with a total fertility rate of 2.0. Other developed countries have fertility rates lower than two.
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Fertility - 2

  • In many parts of the world, tradition demands high rates of reproduction. Intense cultural expectations may override the wishes of women. One useful indicator of a womens ability to limit the number of children they have, and of the prospect for future fertility decline, is thier desire to cease child-bearing. In vietnam 92% of women who had two children said they did not wish to have anymore children. In Nigeria, by contrast, the figure was only 4%. Fertility among women aged 15 to 19 present a special concern, as these young women may lack the physical development and social support needed, and child-bearing may curtail a young womans education. In some countries such as Chad, Bangledesh and Moxambique, more than one in four adolescent girls have given birth.
  • Education for women, particularly female literacy, is a key to lower fertility. With education comes knowledge of birth control, more oppertunities for employment and wider choices. Contraceptive use is becoming more widespread in developing countries to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies and to lower birth rates. A clear prerequisite is the availabilty of modern contraception for couples with both the knowledge and desire to use it. This objective has been generally achived in much of Latin America and the Caribbean, but often short falls in sub-Sharan Africa and parts of Asia and Oceania. For example in Rwanda, only 10% of women practise a modern method of family planning, while at least 70% do in Brazil. Obstacles such as lack of funds and supplies, and the lack of comprehensive programmes to educate couples with thier choices, are significant boundaries.
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Fertility - 3

  • Young age structures lead to developing countries far outpacing developed countries in population growth. Large proportions of young people, as there are in Mali, and Bolivia, ensure furture population growth even when birth per woman decline. This is because the 'youth buldge' is about to move through the child-bearing years.Conversly, countries with smaller proportions of youth, such as Poland and Japan face population decline even if births per women increase.
  • Social class is important. Fertility decreases from lower to higher classes or castes.
  • Religion is a major significance because both Islam and Roman Catholic Church oppose the use of artificial birth control. However, adherence to religious doctrine tends to lessen with economic development. This is particularly well illustrated in Italy. Although it is the location of the Vatican - the home of the pope - the fertility rate in Italy is very low (1.3). This suggests that some form of artifical birth control is taking place.
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Fertility - 4

  • Economic factors are important, particulary in less developed countires, where children are an economic asses. They are viewed as producers rather than consumers. In more developed countries, this is reversed. The length of time children spend in education makes them expensive, as does the cost of childcare if both parents work. In eastern Europe, economic uncertainy is a major factor in causing low fertility rates.
  • There have been several cases in recent years of countries seeking to influence the rate of population growth. Such political influences have been either to increase the population (as in 1930s Germany and Japan and more recently in Russia and Romania0 or to decrease it (as in China with its one-child policy).
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Explosion or implosion?

There are over 6.5 billion people in the world. In the late 20th century, the population was doubling every 30years - this was described as the 'population explosion'. Various predictions have been made about the population growth. In 1996, one study by Earthscan estimated that the worlds population would peak at around 10.6 billion in 2080 and then decline. The main reason for the slow down in population growth is that fertility rates are falling faster than had been expected.

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Population growth in the less developed world

The fastest rates of population growth have been in the less economically developed world. Consquently, the greatest falls in fertility rates are expected to take place there. The average growth rate in the less developed world (excluding China) is 1.8%. Expect in Africa and the middle east, where in almost 50 countries families of at least six children are the norm and the annual population growth is still over 2.3%, birth rates are now declining in less developed countries.

India is approaching China as the most populous country on Earth. Its population is over 1 billion and is expected to overtake that of China by 2050. This assumes an annual population growth of around 0.9% per year for India compared with 0.4% a year for China. In the southern states of India, such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where literacy rates are high, fertility rates have fallen sharply. However, in the impoverished Hindu belt in the north, traditional attitudes prevail, ensuring large numbers of children. Nevertheless, in India as a whole, fertility has dropped more than 50% in the last 30years.

Fertility rates are declining in the range of less developed countries from east Asia to the Caribbean, and throughout most of South America. Although traditional religious attitudes are usually seen as a barrier to low fertility, in the Islamic world fertility is now below replacement level, at fewer rhan 2.12 children per woman. Tunisa, Iran and Turkey are all now in this catergory.

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Population growth in the more developed world

In the more economically developed world, population growth has been slow for several decades. In some countries, for example Italy, Russia and Portugal there has been a small fall in population - in Italy a population decrease of 4 million by 2020 is forecast. In the next 40years, Germany could see its population drop by almost 20% and Japan by 25%. In Russia, President Putin has described the countries natural decrease as a 'national crisis'.

The fertility required to maintain the population level is 2.12 children per woman. There are already over 50 nations with fertility rates at or below this level. The United Nations predict that by 2016 there will be 88 nations in this catergory - 'under 2.1 club'. China is already a member of this 'club' although its population will not begin to decline until 2040 at the earliest. This is due to the lag time between reaching replacement-level fertility and actual population decline. Population growth in China will continue well into the 21st century.

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Population growth in the more developed world - 2

There are very low fertility rates in many east European countries, for example, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Latvia. Here economic collapse and uncertainty following the end of communist rule has made many women postpone or abandon having children.

Conversly at 2.0 fertility in the USA is relatively high. Some writers suggest that this is because the American people are more religious and optimistic than those in most other rich nations, leading to a disire for more children. It is also thought that immigration will continue to be high in the USA. This gives a younger structure to the population, thereby increasing fertility.

As concerns spread about low fertility in the more developed world. governments are beginning to act. Such as:

  • the Japanese government has set aside £50 million to try and stop the fall in fertility. The money is being spent on encouraging people to have more children and on projects to assist this objective.
  • several European countries have put in place incentives to increase birth rates, with considerable financial benefits being offered for a third child.
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Some of the highest death rates are found in less developed countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe all have death rates of 20 per 1000 or more. However, some of the lowest mortality rates are also found in countries at the lower end of the development range, for example, Kuwait (2 per 1000), Bahrain (3 per 1000), and Mexico (5 per 1000). Why does mortality vary?

  • Infant mortality is a prime indicator of socioeconomic developement. It is the most sensitive of the age-specific rates. Sierra Leone has an infant mortality rate of 163 per 1000 live births. Infant mortality is falling across the world, but there are still wide variations between nations - 142 infant deaths per 1000 births in Liberia, but only 3 per 1000 in Finland. Areas with high rates of infant mortality have high rates of mortality overall.
  • Areas with high levels of medical infastructure have low levels of mortality. A lack of prenatal and postnatal care, a shortage of medical facilities and trained professionals, and ignorance of need for professional care are major contributors to high rates of mortality.
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Mortality 2

  • Life expectancy is higher in countries with higher levels of economic development. Poverty, poor nutrition, and a lack of clean water and sanitation increase mortality rates. Worldwide, only 58% of the population has access to one of the lifes funadmental needs: adequate or improved sanitation facilities. There are, however, wide regional and rural/urban disparities. In developing countries, only one-quater to one-half of all rural residents have access to improved sanitation. In many parts of the world, rural populations also lack access to safe drinking water.
  • The incidence of AIDS is having a major effect on mortality, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of people in the world now living with HIV/AIDS is over 40 million, with over 25 million in sub-Saharan Africa. In some countries in Southern Africa, over 20% of the total population is affected. Out of the 7 million HIV/AIDS sufferers in the south and southeast Asia, over 5 million live in India. It is estimated, however, that infection rates have begun to decline in come countries.

Around the worl, mortality has fallen steadily because of medical advances. People are more willing to control mortality than thet are to control fertility.

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