Assembly of New Brunswick
New Brunswick at the Dawn of a New Century
IV. WHERE ARE WE GOING?
A. Global Trends
Over the past three decades, many parts of the world have undergone remarkable demographic, social, economic and political change. Many countries have made substantial progress in expanding access to reproductive health care and in lowering death rates. In addition, in many nations, levels of education and income levels have improved, particularly for women.
As the 20th century draws to a close, three demographic trends loom especially large on the horizon: the aging of the world's population, the growth of cities, and the urgent need to bring population growth and growing needs more into balance with available resources, while limiting the pace of environmental destruction.
The rate of global population growth increased from approximately 2 per cent over a thousand year period to 2 per cent per year during the 1950's. Despite the fact that fertility rates are beginning to drop, the world's population is growing on average by 1.8 per cent a year. Global population grows by 240,000 every day, and by over 95 million every year; the equivalent of three Canada's or another Mexico.
The world's population now stands at 5.4 billion, and there will be approximately 6.25 billion people living on the planet by the turn of the century. With the momentum of population growth, it is conceivable that another 3 billion people will be added to the planet between 1985 and 2025.
The change brought about by demographic transition affects not only the rate of population growth but transforms the population age structure.
The demographic transition to an older population structure is proceeding very quickly in many countries. By 2025, more than 12 per cent of the population of less developed regions will be over 60 years of age. In more developed regions the proportion of elderly people will exceed 25 per cent.
In an extensive United Nations study conducted in 1988, it was observed that despite their current youthful populations, developing countries will experience the most rapid aging during the next several decades, and after the turn of the century they will contain the vast majority of the world's older persons. By the year 2025, more than 70 per cent of the world's elderly population will reside in developing regions.
According to the United Nations, another very significant demographic development of the twentieth century has been the increase in the number and proportion of persons living in urban areas. The world's urban population has grown fivefold, a rate of growth that outstrips the world's ability to provide adequate housing, services, education and jobs. In 1900, about 14 per cent of the world's population lived in cities. By 1980, that figure had exceeded 40 per cent.
Canada is expected to experience even greater relative demographic aging than the United States, Europe, and many other parts of the world. In 1989, only 10 percent of Canada's population was 65 years or older. By 2020 however, 19 percent of Canada's population will be 65 and over, compared to, for instance, 16 percent for both the United Kingdom and the United States.
Canada and the United States are expected to have a major slowdown in the growth of their workforce. Given slower labor force growth and the rapid pace of technological change, governments, corporations and unions in Canada and the United States will have to place more emphasis on continuing education, training and retraining of workers to meet the actual skill levels required by employers and society -- a task that is already underway in New Brunswick.