The number of inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean will rise from 635 million currently to 793 million by 2061, when it is expected that the population aged 65 or older will exceed that of persons under 20, Dirk Jaspers of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said today during the second meeting of the Regional Conference on Population and Development that is being held from October 6-9 in Mexico.
During the first working session of the meeting, the Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Center (CELADE)-Population Division of ECLAC, Dirk Jaspers, presented the region’s sociodemographic context to the representatives of governments, international entities and civil society organizations who attended the gathering.
According to Jaspers, the high levels of maternal mortality and adolescent fertility in the region continue to be worrisome. Despite this, there has been a reduction in the birth rate overall and in infant mortality, as well as an increase in life expectancy, which brings with it a change in the population’s age structure and means that in the next fifteen years the current demographic bonus will come to an end in a third of Latin American and Caribbean countries.
According to the projections, the region’s population will rise to 793 million in 2061, when it will reach its maximum level before starting to decline. In this century the countries that will increase their populations the most in percentage terms will be Guatemala (from 16 million in 2015 to 34 million in 2100), Belize (from 359,000 in 2015 to 677,000 in 2096), Bolivia (from 11 million in 2015 to 18 million in 2091) and Ecuador (from 16 million in 2015 to 25 million in 2081).
Regarding the age structure, in 1988, the number of inhabitants aged 20 to 64 surpassed the population of those under 20. This latter group will continue reducing its proportion to the point where in 2057 the population aged 65 and over will surpass that of persons from 0 through 19. In addition, in 2025, the economically active population group, from 20 to 64 years of age, will reach its maximum in percentage terms and will represent nearly 60% of the total.
Dirk Jaspers stated that these changes in the age structure have specific implications for the areas of education, health and pensions.
In economic terms, the Director of the CELADE-Population Division of ECLAC also indicated that the consumption of the population aged 65 and over will surpass for the first time that of persons under 20 around the year 2030 in Cuba and Chile, and around 2045 in Colombia, Brazil and Mexico. Finally, in 2060 this phenomenon known as “aged economies” will have extended to the entire region, with the exception of Bolivia, Paraguay and some Caribbean countries.
With regard to the current situation, Jaspers explained that the region did not achieve the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on maternal mortality, whose deadline for compliance was this year, since in 2013 it still registered 85 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, which represents a reduction of 39% from 1990—far from the 75% target.
In contrast, Latin America and the Caribbean did meet the fourth MDG, since it reduced by two-thirds the deaths of children under 5 years of age—from 54 to 18 for every 1,000 live births—between 1990 and 2013. Nonetheless, Dirk Jaspers indicated that there continue to be gaps both at a socioeconomic level and among ethnic groups.
In terms of the birth rate, meanwhile, the majority of countries in the 1950s and 60s had rates close to 7 children per woman, while currently in many of them these figures are around 2.5 children, and in some places they have even fallen below the replacement rate, which corresponds to 2.1 children per woman.
Despite this, the region continues showing high levels of adolescent fertility. “What is most worrisome is that there is not a downward trend,” the specialist in population matters said. In the region, 75.5 live births are registered to mothers between the ages of 15 and 19 for every 1,000 women in that age range.
With regard to migration, the countries that have the greatest proportion of their population living outside their territory are Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and El Salvador, while on the other side of the spectrum lie Brazil, the Bahamas, Suriname and Argentina, with less than 3% of an emigrant population. It is estimated that around the year 2010 about 28.5 million Latin American and Caribbean people lived outside their countries of origin.
The statistics presented today will serve as the context for analyzing in the next two sessions the contribution of the operational guide for implementing the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development, which was approved in 2013 and includes measures related to infancy and adolescence, aging, sexual and reproductive health, gender equality, migration, territorial inequality, and indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples.
In addition, the government of Mexico—which co-organized this meeting with ECLAC through its National Population Council (CONAPO), headed by its Secretary-General, Patricia Chemor—assumed the presidency today of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference in the stead of Uruguay, which had held the position since 2013. The Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean is a subsidiary body of ECLAC and holds its meetings every two years.