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Social Development

Population and Development

Challenges and Opportunities

Changes in population size, structure and spatial distribution have a profound impact on economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development. While population growth in the Asia-Pacific region is relatively low, the region is experiencing rapid population ageing. However, each country finds itself at a different stage of the demographic transition, ranging from those experiencing high to low rates of fertility and mortality, which present both challenges and opportunities. In the few countries where fertility rates and population growth rates remain high, adolescent fertility is still high and can threaten the lives of both mothers and children.

In many countries, a combination of economic development and internal migration drive urban population growth, including 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 region’s vast size and great diversity, there are common trends and challenges related to population: inequity in access to services, including reproductive health services; unmet need for family planning; high maternal mortality rates; sex ratio imbalances at birth; gender inequality; gender-based violence; large numbers of youth with limited access to health, education and employment opportunities; population ageing; rapid urbanization; internal and cross-border migration; environmental degradation; and vulnerability to natural disasters.

Our Response

ESCAP, in collaboration with other United Nations and intergovernmental agencies, plays a pivotal role in assisting countries to formulate and implement population and development policies guided by the Plan of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Our Work

ESCAP convenes annual Commission sessions, and the Asian and Pacific Population Conference every decade, including its mid-term review five years after each conference. As a regional forum for countries in Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP strives to increase understanding of population issues, challenges and opportunities.
ESCAP supports tailoring of population policies through capacity-building for governments, inter-country research and analysis, dissemination of the latest population information, and the monitoring of international commitments as well as provision of technical support to ensure their implementation. 

For many years, ESCAP published the Asia-Pacific Population Journal, the preeminent source on population dynamics in our region. In addition, ESCAP publishes the annual Population Data Sheet, a useful tool for reference by researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders active in the field of population and development.