26 January 2005

Women, Men in Developing Countries Are Marrying Later, Having Children Later According to UN Report

Median Contraceptive Prevalence in Developing Countries Has Risen to 40 Per Cent in Just Two Decades

NEW YORK, 25 January (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) -- Women and men in developing countries are marrying later, having fewer children and having them later, following the pattern earlier set in the developed world.  As a result, average fertility in the developing countries has declined to under three children per woman. This is one of the major findings from World Fertility Report 2003, issued by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The report documents changes in reproductive behaviour, including marriage and contraceptive use, in 192 countries of the world since the early 1970s.  The report also presents latest information concerning governments’ views and policies on fertility.

The major findings of this study are:

Men and women are spending longer periods of their life unmarried.  Among the world’s 192 countries, the median proportion of women single at ages 25-29 increased from 15 per cent in the 1970s to 24 per cent in the 1990s.  Among men, the increase was from 32 per cent to 44 per cent.  The increases were even more substantial for developed countries, where the median proportions single at ages 25-29 increased from 15 per cent to 38 per cent among women and from 26 per cent to 57 per cent among men;

A tremendous increase in the use of family planning has taken place.  Between the 1970s and the 1990s, the median level of contraceptive prevalence (any method) among all 192 countries increased from 38 per cent of women currently married or in union to 52 per cent.  Among developing countries, median contraceptive prevalence rose from 27 per cent to 40 per cent;

Government policies have played an important role in modifying reproductive behaviour.  By 2001, 92 per cent of all governments supported family-planning programmes and distributed contraceptives either directly (75 per cent), through government facilities, or indirectly (17 per cent), by supporting the activities of non-governmental organizations, such as family-planning associations.

As a result, world population has experienced a major and unprecedented reduction of fertility levels, driven mostly by the decline in fertility in developing countries.  Fertility in developing countries today averages around 2.9 children per woman.  And in 20 developing countries, fertility is currently below replacement level.

For additional information, please, contact the office of Larry Heligman, Officer-in-Charge, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, New York, N.Y. 10017, USA; tel.:  +1 212 963-3921 or fax:  +1 212 963-2147; Internet:  http://www.unpopulation.org.

World Fertility Report 2003 (Sales No. E.04.XIII.10) is available for $90.00 from United Nations Publications, Two UN Plaza, Room DC2-853, Dept.:  PRESS, New York, NY 10017 USA; tel.:  +1 800 253-9646 or +1 212 963-8302, fax:  +1 212 963-3489, e-mail:  publications@un.org; 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:  unpubli@unog.ch; Internet:  http://www.un.org/publications.

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