Press Releases

    22 March 2002


    UN to Incorporate Below-Replacement Fertility for Developing
    Countries in 2002 Revision of Official UN Population Estimates, Projections

    NEW YORK, 20 March (DESA) -– Breaking with traditional thinking and having enormous implications, the United Nations Population Division foresees future fertility in developing countries falling below the two-child family norm.

    Over the past few decades, fertility rates in developing countries have fallen dramatically. Since 1965, for example, fertility in less developed regions has declined from six to slightly under three births per woman. And by the middle of the twenty-first century, fertility in many developing countries is likely to fall below the 2.1 children per woman required for long-term population replacement.

    Last week at the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Completing the Fertility Transition, 11 -14 March 2002, some 40 population experts from around the world endorsed the proposal for fertility projections to accommodate levels below the replacement floor. "There no longer seem to be any barriers to most countries reaching replacement level and subsequently falling below that level," said John Caldwell, an Australian National University professor.

    The experts were quick to point out, however, that even with declining fertility levels, population growth will continue, and the world would likely add another 3 billion persons by mid-century. Nearly all of this growth will occur in the less developed countries.

    The new guidelines would accommodate fertility levels below the two-child replacement level for all but the highest-fertility countries in the world, most of which are in Africa. The new guidelines would be incorporated in the Population Division’s 2002 Revision of the United Nations official world population estimates and projections.

    Additional information is available on the Web site of the Population Division at

    (See also Note to Correspondents no. 5717 of 4 March 2002.)

    For more information, please contact Joseph Chamie, Director, Population Division, at 212-963-3179, or Edoardo Bellando, Department of Public Information, at 212-963-8275.

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