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The changing population

Population (millions) by sub-region: Asia and the Pacific

Asia and the Pacific's huge population is dominated by just three sub-regions. Overall, growth has now slowed to the world average of 1.3 per cent a year

Source: compiled from United Nations Population Division 2001

The region's population grew from 2 173 million in 1972 to 3 514 million in 2000 (United Nations Population Division 2001). Population growth rates had declined from 2.3 per cent in 1972 to 1.3 per cent (the same as the world average) by 2000 - although there are significant sub-regional variations. This can be partly attributed to declining fertility levels which have fallen from 5.1 to 2.1 children per woman over the past three decades (United Nations Population Division 2001).

Nevertheless, the region includes some of the most populous countries in the world, with China and India accounting for 38 per cent of the world population. It also contains five of the six countries which account for one-half of global annual population growth - Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan (United Nations Population Division 2001).

High population growth is reflected in the region's population structures. Most countries have youthful populations, with 30 per cent of Asia's population less than 15 years old (United Nations Population Division 2001). While this could be seen as a positive characteristic in terms of the large number of young workers available, in some sub-regions, especially the Pacific Islands, it also has significant negative socio-economic implications, particularly in terms of high unemployment. In addition, large numbers of young people entering their reproductive years compound the pressures of population growth.

Despite gains in life expectancy, an estimated 7.1 million people live with HIV/AIDS (almost 18 per cent of the world total) in Asia and the Pacific. There were about 435 000 deaths and more than 1 million new cases in 2001 (UNAIDS 2001).