New Internationalist

Population and Progress - the Facts

September 1979

A NEW INTERNATIONALIST survey of world population trends, and a guide to national demographic statistics.

1. World Population Trends

During the 1970’s there has been a slow-down in the rate of world population increase and the forecasts for the year 2000 AD have been revised downwards. The latest figures are given here.

2. What changes Birth-Rates?

Improvements in a number of the following factors have accounted for the slow-down.

3. Poor or Population Developments

Fewer child deaths

There are encouraging indications of a steep fall in infant mortality in certain areas of the Third World. Nevertheless, in many regions child mortality rates remain at an unacceptably high figure.

About 15 million children under the age of five die every year - one quarter of all the world’s deaths.

90% of all child deaths could be avoided by safe water and sanitation - says World Health Organisation survey of eight developing countries.

4. But…

There are still many poverty-related causes of large families that need to be tackled in the Third World.

Living Standards

  • 20% seriously undernourished Education
  • 50% of the over 15’s are illiterate Health
  • 30% without safe water or health care Employment
  • 40% unemployed or under­employed

Migration to towns

According to some estimates 75,000 people are leaving the rural areas of the Third World every day to set up home in the towns and cities. Rapid urbanisation is bound to have radical effects on a nation’s population and on its economy.

EXPLODING CITIES 1950-2000 ad.

The numbers of people living in the world’s cities were, are and will be:

and in the Industrialised World



  • world’s people - 70%
  • world’s industry - 7%
  • world’s consumption - 10%

Each child born in industrialised world consumes 20 to 40 times as much as child born in developing world. So small population increase in rich world puts 8 times as much pressure on world resources as large population increase in poor world.

5. National Demographic Figures-by Region

Note: Figures are for mid-1977 (if available) or earlier. No country with less than one million population included.
Source: Department of Intentational Economics and Social Affairs; Demographic Yearbook 1977. 29th Edition, NY. UN 1978.

This feature was published in the September 1979 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 079

New Internationalist Magazine issue 079
Issue 079

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