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In A World of 8 Billion

Wong Shu Lee  


  July 07, 2022

In 2011, the world reached a population of 7 billion. This year, the number will hit 8 billion, prompting the attendant responses. Some will marvel at the advancements in health that have extended lifespans, reduced maternal mortality and child mortality, and given rise to vaccine development in record time. Others will tout technological innovations that have eased our lives and connected us more than ever. Still, others will herald gains in gender equality. 


However, the progress in gender equality is not universal. Women are still dying in childbirth. Gender gaps remain entrenched. The digital divide leaves more women and those in developing countries offline. More recently, COVID-19 vaccines remain unevenly distributed. 


The same concerns and challenges raised 11 years ago remain or have worsened: Climate change, violence, and discrimination. The world reached a particularly grim milestone in May: More than 100 million were forcibly displaced worldwide. 


For the first time in history, we are seeing extreme diversity in the mean age of countries and the fertility rates of populations. While the populations of a growing number of countries are aging and about 60 percent of the world’s population live in countries with below-replacement fertility of 2.1 children per woman, other countries have huge youth populations and keep growing apace. 


But the focus should be on people, not the population. Reducing people to numbers strips them of their humanity. Instead of making the numbers work for systems, make the systems work for the numbers by promoting the health and well-being of people. 


According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “Even though the pace of global population growth will continue to decline in the coming decades, the world population is likely to be between 20 and 30 percent larger in 2050 than in 2020. Having accurate estimates of population trends and reliable forecasts of future changes, including the size of populations and their distributions by age, sex, and geographical location, is required for policy formulation and implementation and as a guide to assist countries in following a path towards sustainable development.” 


If, for example, fertility is falling, is it because prospective parents worry about how they will provide for a family, find affordable living space, or how going on maternity leave might hamper a mother’s career trajectory? If fertility is rising, is it by choice or because women don’t have knowledge of or access to modern contraception? Making sure everyone is counted can allow governments to better assess the needs of a changing population and chart a surer path to addressing those needs for demographic resilience. 


In an ideal world, 8 billion people means 8 billion opportunities for healthier societies empowered by rights and choices. But the playing field is not and has never been even. Based on gender, ethnicity, class, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and origin, among other factors, too many are still exposed to discrimination, harassment, and violence. We do ourselves no favors when neglecting those left behind.  


After reading all the information above, what are your thoughts? What are the essential things you need to live a healthy and happy life? Are you confident to provide for a family? If not, what are you lacking right now? Does the environment provide you a possibility to achieve what you need in order to practice your human and reproductive rights? 


Source of information: https://www.unfpa.org/events/world-population-day


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