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Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2009
 
1. Demographic trends

Population growth in the Asia-Pacific region is much slower overall than in previous decades, but the situation differs from one country to another, particularly in the components of growth – fertility, mortality and migration. Moreover, while many countries still have high levels of fertility, an increasing number have started to feel the impact of population ageing.

Since 1990, the population of the Asia-Pacific region has been growing more slowly than that of the rest of the world. Between 1990 and 1995, it grew 1.5% annually but subsequently the growth rate declined steadily. By 2008, annual growth had fallen to 1.0% – the lowest rate among the world’s developing regions.

Because more than half the region’s population are in China and India the region’s statistical averages are largely determined by these two countries. This can mask considerable variations between other countries, or groups of countries. Thus, although in 2008 the average population growth rate for Asia and the Pacific as a whole was 1.0%, in the landlocked developing countries it was 1.7%, in the least developed countries it was 1.6%, in the high-income economies it was 0.3%, and in the low-income economies it was 1.4%.

The region’s highest population growth rates in 2008 were in Afghanistan at 3.5%, and Timor-Leste at 3.2%. Both countries have high rates of natural increase (births minus deaths) and have seen their overall growth rates boosted by the return of former refugees. Other countries currently experiencing population growth rates of 2.0% or more are: Macao, China; Marshall Islands; Pakistan; Papua New Guinea; Singapore; Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

In East and North-East Asia in 2008, the population growth rate was above 1.0% only in Mongolia and Macao, China. Countries where growth rates were positive but low – less than 1.0% a year – included: Armenia; China; DPR Korea; Hong Kong, China; Kazakhstan; Myanmar; Republic of Korea; Sri Lanka, Thailand; and several Pacific island developing economies whose population growth rates have been reduced by net outmigration.

Figure 1.1 Population growth for selected Asia-Pacific groupings, 1990-2008

In Japan the population size has become essentially stationary, while in the Russian Federation it is declining because death rates exceed birth rates. Georgia also has a negative population growth rate because it has low natural increase combined with net out-migration. In the Pacific, the population of Niue is also declining because of out-migration.

The crude birth rate is calculated as the number of births in a year per 1,000 people. This is likely to be higher when a high proportion of women are of childbearing age. The most useful indicator for this is the total fertility rate (TFR) which is the number of children that a woman would bear in her lifetime if she followed current levels of fertility. It is calculated for five-year age groups of women aged 15-49. In Asia and the Pacific, the TFR has declined steadily and is significantly lower than the global average: in the decade between 1990-1995 and 2005-2010, the TFR fell from 2.9 to 2.3 children per woman – a consequence of both government-supported reproductive health programmes and rapid economic and social growth.

Figure 1.2 Average annual population growth, Asia and the Pacific, 1990-1995, and 2005-2010

Trends for TFRs vary widely across subregions. The steepest declines have generally been in countries that previously had the highest rates. Thus, between 1990-1995 and 2005-2010 the TFR for the Asia-Pacific region as a whole declined by 0.6 children per woman, but in the landlocked developing countries and in SAARC, the TFR fell by 1.2. In the least developed countries the decline was 1.4, and in the ASEAN countries it was 0.8.

In other countries, the TFR remained high. Over the period 2005-2010, it was above 3.0 children per woman in Afghanistan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Pakistan, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste and several Pacific island States.

Although all East and North-East Asian countries or areas have TFRs below replacement level – 2.1 children per woman – their previously high fertility levels have left them with them high proportions of young adults who are helping drive population growth. The only exception is Japan where the population is older and the total number of people is falling. Fertility is also below replacement level in Armenia, Australia, Georgia, Islamic Republic of Iran, New Zealand, Russian Federation, Singapore and Thailand.

For both mothers and children, one major contributor to premature death is early childbearing. Consequently, most reproductive health programmes attempt to raise the age at which women first give birth. For this purpose, one valuable indicator is the adolescent fertility rate, which is the average number of live births annually per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years. For Asia and the Pacific as a whole, the rate for the period 2005-2010 is estimated at 38.9. Among the least developed countries, for which the regional average is 68.0, Afghanistan and Nepal have the highest rates – more than 100 – similar to the rate for the Africa region.

As with the crude birth rate, the crude death rate is also influenced by the population’s age composition. For that reason, a more useful indicator for comparing mortality levels is the expectation of life at birth. Asia and the Pacific has already had relatively high life expectancies for some time, so over the past decade the increases have been modest. Between 1990-95 and 2005-2010, female life expectancy increased from 65.8 to 70.7 years and male life expectancy from 62.5 to 66.6 years. Both are higher than the global average. Generally, life expectancies are strongly influenced by levels of economic development. Thus, in the period 2005-2010, female life expectancy in the region’s low-income economies was only 66.3 years, while in the middle-income economies it was 70.2 years, and in the high-income economies it was 85.2 years. Afghanistan has the lowest female life expectancy, at 43.8 years.

Figure 1.3 Fertility rates in Asia and the Pacific, 1990-1995 and 2005-2010

Females born today in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to live on average about four years longer than males, but the female advantage differs from one country to another. In Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, for example, women will live more than 12 years longer than men, whose life expectancy, at 59-60 years, is on a par with that in the least developed countries. At the other end of the scale, there are a number of countries where women have a much smaller advantage – two years or less – as in Bangladesh, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nepal, Pakistan, Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands. The only country in which women and men have the same life expectancy is Afghanistan.

Figure 1.4 Crude death rates, Asia and the Pacific, 1990-1995 and 2005-2010

A number of countries in the region are passing through their demographic transition – as fertility and mortality switch from high to low. As they do so, their population structure changes. Instead of having a high proportion of young people they acquire a higher proportion of older people. The middle stages of this transition should present an economic opportunity. This is because the proportion of younger people will have declined but the proportion of older people will not yet have increased significantly – permitting a couple of decades of high productivity and relatively low health expenditure.

As a result of the demographic transition, and reflecting lower fertility during the previous 15 years, between 1990 and 2008, the proportion of the region’s population aged 0-14 years declined steadily, from 33.1 to 26.2% – slightly below the world average. But the proportion does vary according to the level of economic development. In 2008, in the low-income economies the proportion of the population aged 0-14 years was 31.2%, but in the high-income economies it was only 15.1%.

Over the same period, the proportion of the population age 65 or older in the region increased relatively slowly, from 5.1 to 6.9%. But this proportion varied greatly by country income level. Among low-income economies it was only 4.8%, and among middle-income economies it was 6.5%, but among high-income economies it was 17.3%. Japan is the most striking example. For five decades it has had low fertility – since around 1955 the TFR has been below replacement level. By 2008, the proportion of the population over 65 was 21.4%. No other country or area in the region is even close to this, although a number have reached proportions between 10 and 15% – Armenia; Australia; Georgia; Hong Kong, China; New Zealand; Republic of Korea; and the Russian Federation.

Under normal circumstances, there are likely to be roughly the same numbers of males and females. But some countries deviate from this norm– with a greater number of either males or females. This can happen for a several reasons. The balance might be disturbed, for example, by differences in male and female life expectancy, or by disproportionate shares of either males or females in in- or out-migration. In addition, some subregions have unusually low proportions of female births.

Figure 1.5 Proportion of population aged 0-14, Asia and the Pacific, 1990 and 2008

In South and South-West Asia, for example, the sex ratio – the number of females per 100 males– is considerably below 100, which is the result either of lower sex ratios at birth, or because mortality rates do not favour females. On the other hand, in most countries in North and Central Asia, the ratio is above 100, as a result of higher female life expectancies.

The sex ratios for children aged 0-14 years are determined primarily by the sex ratios at birth, and by rates of infant and child mortality. In most national populations, there are fewer girls born than boys – 95 females per 100 males. But since boys are more likely to die, by age 20 the sex ratios generally even out at around 100. If the sex ratio for the 0-14 age group is significantly below 95 this implies that the ratio of girls to boys is unusually low at birth or that a relatively high proportion of girls are dying. In 2008, countries in which the 0-14 age group had particularly low sex ratios include Armenia, Azerbaijan, China and Georgia.

Figure 1.6 Females per hundred males, in Asia and the Pacific, 1990 and 2008

Figure 1.7 Life expectancy at birth for females and males, Asia and the Pacific, 2005-2010

Population size (thousands)

De facto mid-year population, covering all residents, regardless of legal status or citizenship, except for refugees not permanently settled in the country of asylum. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP as the sum of individual country values. Source: World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Average annual population growth (% per annum)

The average annual rate of change in the total population over a five-year period, starting and ending in the middle of the indicated years. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using total population as weight. Source: World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Crude birth rate (per 1,000 population)

The total number of births in a population during a given period divided by the total number of person-years lived by the population during that period, generally approximated by the size of the population at the mid-point of the period multiplied by the length of the period in years. Presented per 1,000 people for five-year periods. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using total population as weight. Source: World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Crude death rate (per 1,000 population)

The ratio of the number of deaths occurring during a calendar year to the number exposed to the risk of dying during the same period, equivalent to the mean population or average population for the period. Presented per 1,000 people for five-year periods. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using total population as weight. Source: World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Proportion of children in total population (% of total population)

The proportion of children aged 0-14 in the total population. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using total population as weight. Source: World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Proportion of elderly in total population (% of total population)

The proportion of people aged 65 or older in the total population. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using total population as weight. Source: World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Population sex ratio (women per 100 men)

The number of women divided by the number of men in the total population, expressed per 100 men. Aggregates: Averages are calculated as the sum of women population divided by the sum of men population. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Child sex ratio (girls per 100 boys)

The number of girls divided by the number of boys in the total population aged 0-14 years. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP as the sum of girls aged 0-14 divided by the sum of boys aged 0-14. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Fertility rate (live births per women)

The number of children a woman would have by the end of her reproductive period if she experienced the current prevailing age-specific fertility rates throughout her childbearing life. Reported as annual averages for five-year periods starting and ending in the middle of the indicated years. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using women aged 15-49 as weight. Source: World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Adolescent fertility rate (live births per 1,000 women aged 15-19)

The number of births to women aged 15-19 divided by the number of women in the same age group. Reported as average number of births per thousand women for five-year periods starting and ending in the middle of the indicated years. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using women aged 15-19 as weight. Source: World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Life expectancy at birth (years)

The number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of age-specific mortality rates at the time of birth were to stay the same throughout the child's life. Data are disaggregated by sex. Aggregates: Calculated for ESCAP by the United Nations Population Division. Source: World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision, Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

 
 
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Table 1.1 Population

Table 1.2 Birth and death
Table 1.3 Children and elderly
Table 1.4 Women and girls
Table 1.5 Fertility

Table 1.6 Life expectancy

Figures gif format
Figure 1.1 Population growth for selected Asia-Pacific groupings, 1990-2008
Figure 1.1  Population growth for selected Asia-Pacific groupings, 1990-2008
Figure 1.2 Average annual population growth, Asia and the Pacific, 1990-1995, and 2005-2010
Figure 1.2  Average annual population growth, Asia and the Pacific, 1990-1995, and 2005-2010
Figure 1.3 Fertility rates in Asia and the Pacific, 1990-1995 and 2005-2010
Figure 1.3  Fertility rates in Asia and the Pacific, 1990-1995 and 2005-2010
Figure 1.4 Crude death rates, Asia and the Pacific, 1990-1995 and 2005-2010
Figure 1.4  Crude death rates, Asia and the Pacific, 1990-1995 and 2005-2010
Figure 1.5 Proportion of population aged 0-14, Asia and the Pacific, 1990 and 2008
Figure 1.5  Proportion of population aged 0-14, Asia and the Pacific, 1990 and 2008
Figure 1.6 Females per hundred males, in Asia and the Pacific, 1990 and 2008
Figure 1.6  Females per hundred males, in Asia and the Pacific, 1990 and 2008
Figure 1.7 Life expectancy at birth for females and males, Asia and the Pacific, 2005-2010
Figure 1.7  Life expectancy at birth for females and males, Asia and the Pacific, 2005-2010
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