Population growth slowing in Latin America

23 Jul 19

Population growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is slowing down and the number of people living in the region will hit a maximum in about 2058.

After that, population levels are set to decline – by contrast with what is happening in the rest of the world, where negative growth is not foreseen in the next 80 years.

Intra-regional migration in Latin America has also increased in recent years, generating significant surges in the number of migrants heading for neighbouring countries.

Analysis by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean suggests that by 2058 population levels in the region will reach a maximum of about 767.5m people.

Slowing growth is due to  falling fertility rates and negative migration balances, according to the study prepared by ECLAC’s Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Center (CELADE)-Population Division.

The data suggest that the region went from median annual growth of 4.8m people in 1950–55 to a maximum of nearly 8.2m in 1985–90 but, as of 1990, population growth began to decline and it is now at 6m people per year.

An accelerated fall in fertility is a key explanation for the demographic transition that is underway.

The global fertility rate for Latin America and the Caribbean is estimated at 2.04 live births per woman – for the first time below the level of replacement of 2.1 live births – and could fall to 1.72 by 2070–75.

ECLAC’s analysis reveals that the median age of fertility had its lowest value in 2000–05, and now a far greater number of women are having children later in life – the average age is expected to reach 30.7 by 2095–2100.

Among adolescents aged 15 to 19, fertility fell from 68.1 live births per thousand women in 2010–15 to 63 in 2015–20, although it continues to be 48% higher than the world average.

As Latin America’s demographic transition has accelerated, it has become increasingly characterised by aging populations – presenting significant challenges for societies.

The proportion and absolute number of people aged 65 and older will increase in coming decades and it is expected that by 2047, they will surpass the population of minors under 15. Projections suggest that one in five Latin Americans will be over the age of 65 in 2050.

ECLAC’s figures also reveal an increase in intra-regional migration in recent years, with recent notable examples being large-scale migration from Haiti to South America and from Venezuela to neighbouring countries.

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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