New population estimates and projections for Latin America and the Caribbean used to estimate the demographic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic show that Latin America and the Caribbean lost 2.9 years of life expectancy at birth, from 75.1 years in 2019 to 72.1 years in 2021. This makes it the region of the world that lost the most years of life expectancy due to the pandemic.
The loss between 2019 and 2021 was greatest in Central America, at 3.6 years, although there was evidence of an acceleration in the loss of life expectancy in the Caribbean in 2021, as well as large inequalities between countries. However, projections suggest lost years of life expectancy will begin to recover as early as 2022, thanks to the vaccination process and the measures taken by countries to combat the pandemic.
Population growth is slowing
Although population growth in the region began to slow in 1991, in 2020 and 2021 there were sharp declines as a result of the pandemic. For the 2015–2025 period, an annual population growth rate of 8 per thousand is estimated, while the 2020–2021 growth rate was only 5.9 per thousand.
By 2022, estimates place the region's population at just over 660 million. The slowing population growth, resulting mainly from declining fertility, will lead the region’s population to peak in 2056, at a total of 751.9 million.
The region’s total fertility rate (TFR), which fell below replacement level in 2015, is estimated at 1.85 live births per woman in 2022 and will continue to fall, reaching 1.68 by 2100. There has also been an increase in the average age of fertility. As discussed in the report The sociodemographic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean, the decrease in the number of births in the region steepened as a result of the pandemic. Fertility declined during the economic crisis, as couples were reluctant to have children amid adversity and uncertainty.
Population estimates and projections show that adolescents aged 15–19 in Latin America and the Caribbean have a fertility rate 48% higher than the world average for that age group, second only to the estimates and projected rates for Africa. Nine countries in the region are among the 60 in the world with the highest adolescent fertility rates in 2015–2020. Nevertheless, on average the rate of decline in adolescent fertility has steepened in the region since 2010, from 73.1 children per 1,000 women aged 15–19 that year to 52.1 in 2022.
Other demographic trends in the region
In terms of international migration, Latin America and the Caribbean is a net source region, posting a negative migratory balance from 1950 to date. Despite the difficulties of population movement during the pandemic, owing mainly to border closures, the region showed negative migratory balances in 2020 and 2021, albeit lower than those estimated for 2019.
Another long-term trend is population ageing and the approach of the end of the demographic dividend. The population aged 60 and over is projected to exceed those under age 15 by 2047.
Population estimates and projections were prepared by the Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre (CELADE), Population Division of ECLAC, in conjunction with the United Nations Population Division, as part of World Population Prospects 2022. The technique used was the cohort-component framework by one-year intervals of age and time, unlike the previous revision (2019), which was prepared for years ending in 0 and 5 and by five-year age group.