NEW YORK, February 27, 2003 ( – Yesterday, the United Nations released the 2002 Revision of the official United Nations population estimates and projections.  For the first time, the United Nations Population Division projects that future fertility levels in most developing countries will likely fall below 2.1 children per woman, the level needed to ensure the long-term replacement of the population, at some point in the twenty-first century.  By 2050, the medium variant of the 2002 Revision projects that three out of every four countries in the less developed regions will be experiencing below-replacement fertility, with all developed countries far below replacement level as well.  As a consequence of these changes, the 2002 Revision projects a lower population in 2050 than the 2000 Revision did: 8.9 billion instead of 9.3 billion according to the medium variant. About half of the 0.4 billion difference in the projected populations results from a reduction in the projected number of births, primarily as a result of lower expected future fertility levels.  The other half of the difference reflects an increase in the number of projected deaths, the majority stemming from higher projected levels of HIV prevalence.

Populations will decline in 33 countries by 2050 according to the report, with countries such as Italy projected to be 22 per cent smaller and the Russian Federation nearly 50 per cent smaller.

The deeper reductions of fertility projected in the 2002 Revision result in a faster ageing of the population of developing countries than in previous revisions, which will stress social security systems.  Globally, the number of older persons (60 years or over) will nearly triple, increasing from 606 million in 2000 to nearly 1.9 billion by 2050.  In more developed regions, the population aged 60 or over currently constitutes 19 per cent of the population; by 2050 it will account for 32 per cent of the population.

Increases in the median age, the age at which 50 per cent of the population is older and 50 per cent is younger than that age, reflect the ageing of the population.  Among developed countries, 17 are expected to have a median age of 50 years or more, with Japan, Latvia and Slovenia (each with a median age of about 53 years), and the Czech Republic, Estonia, Italy, Singapore and Spain (each with a median age of about 52 years) leading the list.

See the UN report online at:


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