Population Matters



While it is not always obvious, progress is being made in reducing unsustainable fertility rates. Here are some examples.

Global progress

World population growth peaked in percentage terms around 1970 and in absolute terms around 1990. While people have been living longer, the birth rate has been falling. Based on 2010 data, the average woman has 2.5 children, down from three in 1995. Four in 10 people live in countries where the fertility rate is low enough to ensure an eventual reduction in population, excluding the impact of migration.


Historical success stories

In the last 20 years, countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil and Iran have reduced their fertility rate by over half through the provision of sex and relationship education, improved family planning services and the promotion of the benefits of smaller families. Other countries, such as Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam achieved earlier reductions and have continued to reduce their fertility rate.

Education through entertainment

Education-entertainment uses entertainment, such as TV or radio drama serials, to encourage positive behaviour change among the audience. A leading exponent is the Population Media Center, which operates in three continents and has been in existence since 1998.

Population, health and environment programmes

Population, health and environment (PHE) programmes, seek to build healthy and sustainable communities by combining education, health, family planning and conservation in low income communities in developing countries. Examples include CHASE Africa and PHE Ethiopia, both of which have been supported through PopOffsets.

Pregnant women waiting to see a doctor

Recent international initiatives

Aspen Global Health and Development has initiated the Resolve Award, which celebrates progress made by governments toward delivering on the promise of universal access to reproductive health.

The United Nations has adopted Sustainable Development Goals that include:

  • ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages;
  • ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all; and
  • achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) is a new global partnership that supports the rights of women and girls to decide for themselves whether or not to have children. Governments, civil society, multilateral organizations, donors, the private sector and the research and development community are working together to enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020. FP2020 is an outcome of the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, at which more than 20 national governments made commitments to address the policy, financing, delivery and sociocultural barriers to women accessing contraceptive information, services and supplies.

Next: Consequences

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