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    South Asia's future population: are there really grounds for optimism?

    Leete R; Jones G

    International Family Planning Perspectives. 1991 Sep; 17(3):108-13.

    South Asia consisting of Bangladesh, India, Nepal Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, claims 1/5 to total world population with expected population growth of at least 200 million by the year 2000. Taking issue with assumptions behind World Bank (WB) and United Nations (UN) population projections for the region, the authors make less optimistic assumptions of country fertility and mortality trends when running population projections for the region. Following discussion of methodological issues for and analysis of population projections, the paper's alternate assumptions and projection results are presented and discussed. Projections were made for each country of the region over the period 1985-2010, based on assumptions that only very modest fertility declines and improvements in life expectancy would develop over most of the 1990s. South Asian population would therefore grow from over 1 billion in 1985, to 1.4 billion by 2000, and almost 1.8 billion by 2010. Overall slower fertility decline than assumed for the UN and WB projections point to larger population growth with momentum for continued, larger growth through the 21st century. Rapid, substantial population growth as envisioned by these projections will impede movement toward an urban-industrial economy, with a burgeoning labor force exceeding the absorptive capacity of the modern sector. Job seekers will pile up in agriculture and the informal sector. Demands upon the government to deliver education and health services will also be extraordinarily high. High-tech niches will, however, continue expanding in India and Pakistan with overall negative social effects. Their low demand for labor will exacerbate income disparities, fuel interpersonal, interclass, and interregional tensions, and only contribute to eventual ethnic, communal, and political conflict. Immediate, coordinated policy is urged to achieve balanced low mortality and low fertility over the next few decades.
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