20 August 2008 ~ 0 Comments

Widening demographic divide between rich and poor countries

The Population Reference Bureau just released the annual World Population Data Sheet. The report claims that the inequality in population and health profiles between rich and poor countries is widening.

Population Growth Chart Highlights Demographic Divides

While I find macro and meta-narrative style studies overly generalizing and notwithstanding unforeseen phenomenons, there is some truth to the claim that in the coming future, wealthier nations will experience population growth mostly through immigration while population growth would be centered largely in countries that are poor. The demographers and world-ranking scientists in population studies won’t admit this, but Karl Marx developed a theory that correlates to these findings.

In his debate with Thomas Malthus, Marx argued that for the bourgeoisie, the number of children reproduced depended on the optimal number required to carry on the capital accumulation process, whereas the proletariat would reproduce in large numbers to gain more control over the only means of production that they owned: labor. You can read more on the Marx-Malthus debate here.

Obviously, capital is not the only driving force of history and the bourgeoisie/proletariat dichotomy is not as clear-cut across countries. However, richer countries, on average, tend to be consumer societies especially as production is increasingly deterritorialized and dematerialized, requiring them to reproduce less for survival.

On the other hand, poorer countries are now breeding grounds for transnational capital, and poor people may find it more convenient to reproduce in larger numbers to increase their labor power in order to sustain themselves. And labor-intensive countries are then caught in the cycle of production, especially raw materials production, for export. Add to this the fact that women may have less reproductive rights in such countries–wham!

Excerpts from the report summary:

In 2008, world population is 6.7 billion: 1.2 billion people live in regions classified as more developed by the United Nations; 5.5 billion people reside in less developed regions. “We will likely see the 7 billion mark passed within four years,” said Carl Haub, PRB senior demographer and co-author of this year’s Data Sheet. “And by 2050, global population is projected to rise to 9.3 billion. Between now and mid-century, these diverging growth patterns will boost the population share living in today’s less developed countries from 82 percent to 86 percent.”
Despite some improvement, maternal mortality continues to be very high in developing countries. In those countries, 1 in 75 women still die from pregnancy-related causes. In both sub-Saharan Africa and in the 50 countries defined by the United Nations as least developed, that risk is a shocking 1 in 22. In stark contrast, about 1 in 6,000 women in the developed countries die from pregnancy-related causes.

Worldwide, women now average 2.6 children during their lifetimes, 3.2 in developing countries excluding China, and 4.7 in the least developed countries. Lifetime fertility is highest in sub-Saharan Africa at 5.4 children per woman. In the developed countries, women average 1.6 children. The United States, with an average of 2.1 children, is an exception to this low-fertility pattern in the world’s wealthier countries.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions:

Download the 2008 World Population Data Sheet (PDF: 711KB)
Download the Population Bulletin: “World Population Highlights: Key Findings from the 2008 World Population Data Sheet” (PDF: 854KB)
Download the 2008 World Population Clock

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