Challenges and Opportunities
ESCAP’s focus on population dynamics reflects the changing landscape of the region. Asia-Pacific, with over 4.5 billion people in 2016, is home to nearly 60 per cent of the world’s population. It is a diverse region, with seven of the world’s ten most populous countries, and also some of the world’s smallest island nations in the Pacific. Population growth in the region as a whole is relatively low, growing at 0.9 per cent in 2016.
Population size and population growth matters when considering the overall impact of human consumption on the environment, assessing food security and infrastructure needs. It is essential to analyse demographic trends dynamics and their impact on sustainable development to be able to recommend adequate policies to address these population dynamics.
Although the region has made great strides by reducing hunger and extreme deprivation, expanding access to basic services, health and education, and promoting economic growth and food security - millions still struggle with poverty, disease and social inequalities.
Each country finds itself at a different stage of the demographic transition, ranging from those experiencing high to low rates of fertility and mortality, which present both challenges and opportunities. In countries where fertility rates and population growth rates remain high, adolescent fertility is still high and can be a threat to the lives of both mothers and children.
The region is also facing unprecedented population ageing. With low fertility rates, the workforces are already shrinking in some countries. Other countries are ageing and facing youth unemployment at the same time.
In many countries, a combination of economic development and internal migration are driving the expansion of megacities. International migration is also a prominent feature of population and development dynamics in most countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Despite the Asia-Pacific’s region’s vast size and great diversity, there are common trends and challenges related to population: inequity in access to services, including reproductive health services; gender inequality; gender-based violence; rapid urbanization; internal and cross-border migration; environmental degradation; sex ratio imbalances at birth; large numbers of youth with limited access to health, education and employment opportunities; localized/sub-national HIV epidemics; vulnerability to natural disasters; unmet need for family planning; high maternal mortality rates; and population ageing.
ESCAP, in cooperation with other United Nations and intergovernmental agencies, plays a pivotal role in assisting countries to formulate and implement population and development policies. ESCAP convenes the annual Commission sessions and the Asian and Pacific Population Conference every decade. As a regional forum for countries in Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP strives to increase understanding of population issues and challenges. We believe building consensus among countries is the best way to tackle these issues.
ESCAP helps tailor population policies through capacity-building for governments, inter-country research and analysis, dissemination of the latest population information, and the monitoring of international commitments as well as provision of technical support to ensure their implementation.
ESCAP publishes the Asia-Pacific Population Journal, the preeminent source on population dynamics in our region. In addition, ESCAP also publishes the annual Population Data Sheet, a useful tool for reference by researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders active in the field of population and development.