ESCAP’s focus on population dynamics reflects the changing landscape of the region. Asia-Pacific, with over 4.2 billion people, 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.
Although the region has made great strides by reducing hunger and extreme deprivation, in expanding access to basic services, health and education, and in promoting economic growth and food security - millions still struggle with poverty, disease and social inequalities. In the Asia-Pacific, a staggering 641 million people live on less than $1 daily (UNFPA).
Each country finds itself at a different stage of demographic transition, ranging from those experiencing high to low rates of fertility and mortality representing 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 mother and child.
Several countries in the region are grappling with an unprecedented age shift as older persons leave the work force. With low fertility rates, it is a growing concern there are simply not enough young people to fill labour gaps left by older persons who are living longer than ever.
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 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; the emerging issue of sex ratio imbalance at birth; large numbers of youth with little access to health, education and employment opportunities; localized/sub-national HIV epidemics; vulnerability to natural disasters; unmet need for family planning; high maternal mortality; and population ageing (UNFPA).
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 Commission sessions every year and the Asian and Pacific Population Conference every decade. As a regional forum for countries in Asia-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 also 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 and providing country support to fulfil them. ESCAP also publishes the Asia-Pacific Population Journal, the pre-eminent source for current population trends in our region.