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Population trends in Asia and the Pacific

UNFPA Asia & the Pacific
Population trends in Asia and the Pacific

The Asia and the Pacific region is home to 60 per cent of the world’s population – some 4.3 billion people – and includes the world’s most populous countries, China and India. The region also contains some of the smallest populations on the planet, especially among the Small Island Developing States in the Pacific. This diversity is accompanied by changing demographic trends, characterized by overall lower fertility and mortality rates, as well as rapid urbanization and sizeable migration flows within and outside the region.

 

Although the total fertility rate for the region as a whole is currently close to the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman, changes have not been uniform. Family size in East Asia has fallen to 1.7 children per woman, while remaining high in South Asia at 2.5 children per woman. While some countries are confronted with a “youth bulge”, which presents opportunities to accelerate development, others are ageing rapidly, making the provision of adequate health care and other services imperative. The skewed sex ratio at birth due to prenatal sex selection is also a concern in several of the most populous countries, with important consequences now and in the future for these societies.

 

Between now and 2050 the number of people aged 60 years and older in the region will more than double, reaching 1.3 billion. By the middle of this century, one in four people will be 60 or older, compared to one in ten today. The proportion of elderly in East and North-East Asia will be even higher – one in three people will be over 60; most in this group will be women without pensions or any type of social protection net.

 

Migration is also an important issue in the region: 40 per cent of all international migrants globally originate from Asia and the Pacific and there are even more people moving within their own countries. Although only two out of every five people in the region currently live in urban areas, this ratio will increase significantly in the next two decades as millions move from the countryside to towns and cities in search of employment and better opportunities. Rapid urbanization requires proactive planning to make urban areas places of economic growth and create new opportunities for sustainable development.

Adolescents & youth

Comprehensive sexuality education

The Fund promotes comprehensive sexuality education for both in- and out-of-school adolescents by promoting supportive national policies, strengthening curricula, training teachers and developing tools to measure implementation in schools. Comprehensive sexuality education is complemented by the use of information communication technologies such as the Internet and social media, improving young people’s access to reliable information.

 

Youth-friendly health services

 UNFPA promotes the scaling up of youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services that respect clients’ right to confidentiality and do not judge, stigmatize or discriminate against them, and it advocates for the elimination of legal and policy barriers to accessing information and services.

 

Engaging youth

 UNFPA also supports and partners with youth-led organizations in the region and provides opportunities for young people to participate in high-level advocacy events such as the Bali Youth Forum (2012) and the Sixth Asia-Pacific Population Conference (2013).

The Y-PEER, or youth peer education initiative, active throughout the region, trains thousands of young people to be advocates for and sources of factual information on sexual and reproductive health, and to act as mentors to their peers on these important life-shaping issues.

Ageing

The number of older people in the Asia-Pacific region is rising at an unprecedented rate and it is at the forefront of the global phenomenon of population ageing.

 

By 2050, one in four people in Asia and the Pacific will be over 60 years old. The population of older persons (aged over 60) in the region will triple between 2010 and 2050, reaching close to 1.3 billion people.

 

While increasing longevity is a positive outcome of social, economic and technological development, the rapid pace of ageing has profound and far-reaching social, economic and political implications.

 

A large number of older persons have to grapple with income insecurity due to a lack of social protection and accumulated assets. Only about 30 per cent of the older population in the region receives some form of pension.

 

Older women are more vulnerable to poverty than older men due to a combination of relative disadvantage throughout their lives, including lower educational levels and the continued reliance on women in many societies to provide unpaid family work, including care giving.

 

While there is still a strong tradition of family and community support for older persons, changing family structures combined with migration are resulting in the gradual weakening of informal support systems. Yet most countries’ health-care and social support systems have limited capacity to meet the need for geriatric care services.

 

Key facts

 The number of older people in the Asia-Pacific will triple reaching 1.3 billion by 2050.

Women constitute the majority (53 per cent) of the population aged 60 or older in the region, and their share rises to       60 per cent above age 80.

 

Population ageing is an important element of global population dynamics and a key mandate area for UNFPA. In this sense, UNFPA in Asia and the Pacific supports countries in developing ageing situation analysis and research to guide national strategies and policies at national level to promote the well-being of the older ones.

 

In promoting specific policies to improve social protection for older persons, UNFPA helps governments develop community-based support for the elderly and social protection programmes.

Emergencies

 The Asia and the Pacific region is the most disaster-prone area in the world. The Global Risks Atlas 2013, which evaluates 179 countries, puts 3 out of 10 countries in the region in the Extreme to High Risk categories. In addition to cyclical floods, earthquakes, and other disasters, a number of countries are experiencing protracted civil conflict.

Over the past four decades, the average number of people affected by annual flooding more than doubled, from 29.5 million to over 63 million, while populations in cyclone-prone areas jumped from 71 million to over 120 million.

 

In times of upheaval or natural disasters, pregnancy-related deaths and gender-based violence soar. Many women lose access to essential reproductive health services and give birth in appalling conditions without access to safe delivery services and life saving care.

 

UNFPA’s country offices in the Asia and the Pacific region work closely with national governments and key civil society and other partners to ensure that the reproductive health and protection needs of women and girls are addressed before, during and after a crisis.

UNFPA takes the lead with national partners to coordinate the prevention and response to gender-based violence, and the sexual and reproductive health response to disasters and conflicts. It works to ensure that life-saving supplies and services are accessible for the affected population, paying particular attention to the special needs of women and young people.

Priority areas include maternal health, family planning, prevention of sexually transmitted infections including HIV, adolescent health, and combating gender-based violence.

Family planning

 Providing family planning services, including counselling and contraceptives, is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions, contributing to dramatic reductions in maternal mortality and morbidity.

 

Over the last 20 years, the Asia and the Pacific region has seen impressive improvements in sexual and reproductive health. This is due in part to the increased use of modern contraceptives and improvements in the provision of reproductive and sexual health care. Despite improvements, there are still 140 million women in the region with an unmet need for family planning.

 

Though government support for family planning has grown stronger in many countries, much remains to be done. UNFPA is promoting a development agenda that encourages countries to make family planning services, including a full range of quality contraceptive methods, readily available to women, men and adolescents. This strategy prevents unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, and reduces maternal deaths and disabilities, saving Asian countries billions of dollars in health care and related costs.

 

The Fund is also strengthening health systems and supply chain management in order to ensure uninterrupted supplies of contraceptives, improving the technical capacity of healthcare providers, including counsellors, and advocating for equitable access to quality reproductive health commodities and services.

Gender equality

 Child marriage and early motherhood can severely curtail educational and employment opportunities for adolescent girls and young women, while threatening their survival and well-being.

 

Gender-based violence is endemic in the region. Women and girls are frequently subjected to all forms of violence and abuse. There is a lack of adequate data to inform policy and programme interventions, and insufficient monitoring to address impunity and provide protection.

During conflicts and natural disasters, social structures are further destabilized, leaving many women and girls vulnerable to increased sexual violence, exploitative labour and trafficking.

 

UNFPA works in close partnership with Governments, other UN agencies and civil society networks to address violence against women and girls by strengthening national capacities to gather evidence to guide policy and programme responses, and to deal with it as a public health issue by making a wide range of services, including counselling and safe spaces, available for victims and survivors.

 

UNFPA has consistently promoted gender equality and the rights of women and adolescent girls through evidence-based advocacy and policy dialogue with government officials, civil society organizations, and community and religious leaders to ensure that these perspectives are integrated into national policies, development frameworks and laws.

 

Additionally, the Fund has fostered an enabling environment for rights-based and gender-sensitive approaches, working with men and boys as change agents to prevent gender-based violence, and working to eliminate gender discrimination and harmful practices such as child marriage and son preference.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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