In 1988 the world's population reached five billion. The figure suggests a veritable population boom, but the explosion is not being heard everywhere. Throughout the 80's, the population growth rate will be negative or near-zero in most European countries, the USA and Japan. In both the USA and France, the birth rate plunged from 3.6 to 1.8 births per woman (the replacement rate is 2.1). In Germany the birth rate has fallen from 2.6 to less than 1.3. Italy is even lower than Germany; Spain, Greece and Portugal are following suit.
Constant medical advances are prolonging life. There will be more women among the elderly population and the number of very old people (80 and up) will create medical and social problems. The results will be an aging population in general, although some sectors will have distinctive differences - for example, migrant populations are settling in industrialized countries and their populations are becoming younger relative to that of the nation as a whole.
According to a 1997 report, the United States population was increasing by 0.9 percent (2.5 million) per year, more than three times the average for the rest of the industrialized world.
[Former socialist countries] In the former Eastern bloc countries the story is the same. Hungarians, Czechs, and Bulgarians are reproducing at the same level as people in the free-market countries. The USSR is keeping up a birth rate equal to renewal of generations, but only because of the Asian and Muslim communities. The only exception is Poland, where the rate is a bit higher than minimum for renewal.
[Developing countries] In developing countries, the rates differ dramatically. In ten years, the birth rate in China has plunged by 50%. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea are nearing the level of renewal. Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and even Indonesia seem to be moving in the same direction. In Latin America, countries like Mexico and Brazil are experiencing brutal falls in birth rates. At the same time, in other developing areas: these include sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Haiti and others the projected growth rate is so high as to be scarcely believable. Africa has an annual increase of 2.9%; Latin America has an increase of 2.7%; and Asia and Oceania has an increase of 1.9%. These are among the poorest and least stable countries.