Rapid population growth is a threat to wellbeing in the poorest countries, whereas very low fertility increasingly threatens the future welfare of many developed countries. The mapping of global trends in population growth from 2005-10 shows four distinct patterns. Most of the poorest countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, are characterised by rapid growth of more than 2% per year. Moderate annual growth of 1-2% is concentrated in large countries, such as India and Indonesia, and across north Africa and western Latin America. Whereas most advanced-economy countries and large middle-income countries, such as China and Brazil, are characterised by low or no growth (0-1% per year), most of eastern Europe, Japan, and a few western European countries are characterised by population decline. Countries with rapid growth face adverse social, economic, and environmental pressures, whereas those with low or negative growth face rapid population ageing, unsustainable burdens on public pensions and health-care systems, and slow economic growth. Countries with rapid growth should consider the implementation of voluntary family planning programmes as their main policy option to reduce the high unmet need for contraception, unwanted pregnancies, and probirth reproductive norms. In countries with low or negative growth, policies to address ageing and very low fertility are still evolving. Further research into the potential effect of demographic policies on other social systems, social groups, and fertility decisions and trends is therefore recommended.
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