Children of the future

On Universal Children’s Day (Nov. 20), UNICEF looked ahead: Where will most of the world’s children be born come 2025 and 2050?

The agency turned to current demographic trends for an answer. Its analysis, outlined in a report dubbed Generation 2025 and Beyond: The Critical Importance of Understanding Demographic Trends for Children of the 21st Century, predicts that nearly half of the projected 2 billion births between 2010 and 2025 will be in low and middle-income countries.

Overall, UNICEF projects that the proportion of children living in some of the world’s poorest countries will rise over the next few decades. It says that by 2025, two-thirds of children would be living in low and lower-middle-income countries. By 2050, that figure would have risen to 70 percent — and many of these children would be living in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, UNICEF forecasts that one out of every three children alive in 2050 would be from that region.

Sub-Saharan Africa is poised to surpass South Asia as the region with the most number of births by 2025, the report says. UNICEF attributes the prediction to the large number of adults of reproductive age in the region.

Consequently, the top 10 countries expected to have the highest increases in child population are in sub-Saharan Africa: Zambia, Niger, Malawi, Tanzania, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Mali, Rwanda and Nigeria.

Despite these expected increases in the number of children in Africa, UNICEF says children’s share of the world population is actually poised to decline. Children accounted for 32 percent of the world’s population in 2010. This is expected to drop to 29 percent in 2025 and 25 percent in 2050. Why? Falling fertility rates and longer life spans around the world are among contributing factors, UNICEF says.

The UNICEF report outlines some implications of these projections and suggests a few recommendations. Its key messages include: the need for governments and donors to recognize that “changing demographic trends will require adapting policies and programming and investments in children.”

“Child survival efforts must become even more firmly focused on sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, fragile states and the least developed countries,” the report says.

Read our previous DevTrivia.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.