Press Releases

                                                                                                                            25 March 2004

    United Nations Issues “World Population Policies 2003”


    NEW YORK, 24 March (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) -- The Population Division has issued World Population Policies 2003, which contains the most comprehensive and up-to-date information available on the population policy situation for all 194 Member and non-Member States of the United Nations.

    This publication provides an overview of population policies for every country as of 2003, and at mid-decade for the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s -- that is, at the time of the United Nations international population conferences at Bucharest, Mexico City and Cairo.

    The study includes information on national population policies in relation to population growth, population age structure, fertility, mortality, spatial distribution and international migration.  In order to provide the proper background, key demographic indicators are also presented for each country.

    High mortality is the most significant population concern for developing countries.  Over 80 per cent of developing countries list infant and child mortality, maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS as the most pressing population and development issues.  The most significant demographic concern of the developed countries relates to low fertility and its consequences, including population ageing and the shrinking of the working-age population.

    Other major findings are:

    -- High rate of population growth is a concern for most countries of the developing world.  Over half of countries in the less developed regions consider their rate of population growth to be too high.  Over three quarters of African countries view their population growth rate as too high.

    -- Nearly half of developed countries view their population growth rate as too low.  Almost 40 per cent of developed countries have adopted policies to raise their population growth.

    -- Three fifths of developing countries report that fertility is too high.  Among the group of least developed countries, over three quarters report that their fertility levels are too high.

    -- In contrast, three fifths of developed countries find their fertility levels to be too low.  The persistence of low fertility has become a concern for these countries.  In most developed countries, fertility has fallen well below the replacement level of two children per woman.

    -- Over 90 per cent of countries support the provision of contraceptive methods, either directly (through government facilities) or indirectly (through support of non-government sources).  Less than one half of developed countries provide contraceptives directly, reflecting the growing prominence of non-governmental organizations and the private sector in the delivery of reproductive health services.

    -- Three quarters of developed countries consider population ageing to be a major concern, as do one half of developing countries.  Population ageing is an inevitable consequence of the demographic transition; that is the shift to lower fertility and mortality.

    -- Almost three quarters of countries view the size of their working-age population as a major concern.  Developed countries are concerned that the size of the working-age population is too small, thus creating labour shortages.  In contrast, most developing countries feel that the working-age population is too large, posing problems of high unemployment.

    -- Concern about HIV/AIDS is now universal.  Eighty per cent of countries in less developed regions report that AIDS is a major concern, as do three quarters of the countries in more developed regions.  Around 90 per cent of countries in Africa and in Latin America and the Caribbean consider HIV/AIDS to be a major concern.

    -- One third of countries have policies in place to lower immigration.  This proportion is up from only 7 per cent in 1976.  Developed and developing countries are similar in their desire to lower immigration.

    -- Three fourths of countries consider their spatial distribution to be unsatisfactory.  Governments have expressed concern about the pattern of spatial distribution for many years.  This concern has often arisen from high levels of migration from rural to urban areas and the uncontrolled growth of primate cities.  Governments in the past have attempted to modify population distribution in a variety of ways.  However, most of these attempts have failed to achieve their objectives.

    This issue of World Population Policies 2003 is being released during the tenth anniversary celebration of the adoption of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.  This compendium and analysis of national population policies contributes to the deliberations of the thirty-seventh session of the Commission on Population and Development, which is reviewing and appraising the progress made in achieving the goals and objectives of the Programme of Action.  The Programme of Action recommended that actions should be taken to “measure, assess, monitor and evaluate progress towards meeting the goals of the present Programme of Action”.  To that end, this study addresses governments’ views and policies across many of the critical areas covered in the Programme.

    For additional information, please contact the office of Joseph Chamie, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, New York, N.Y. 10017, USA; tel.: (212) 963-3921 or fax: (212) 963-2147; Internet: http//

    World Population Policies 2003 (Sales No. E.04.XIII.3, ISBN 92-1-151393-6) is available for US$55.00 from United Nations Publications, Two UN Plaza, Room DC2-853, Dept. PRES, New York, NY 10017 USA; tel. 800-253-9646 or 212-963-8302, fax: 212-963-3489, e-mail:; or Section des Ventes et Commercialisation, Bureau E-4, CH-1211, Geneva 10, Switzerland, tel.: 41-22-917-2614, fax. 41-22-917-0027, e-mail:; Internet: http//

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