188.8.131.52 Demographics and societies
The population of the Latin American region has continued to grow and is expected to be 50% larger than in 2000 by the year 2050. Its annual population growth rate has decreased and is expected to reach a value of 0.89% by 2015, which is considerably less than 1.9%, the average rate for the 1975-2002 period. The population has continued to migrate from the countryside to the cities, and by 2015 about 80% of the population will be urban, almost 30% more than in the 1960s. The population aged under 15 years will decline and at the same time the population aged over 65 years will increase. Total fertility rate (births per woman) decreased from 5.1 to 2.5 between 1970-1975 and 2000-2005 and is expected to decrease to 2.2 by 2015 (ECLAC, 1998).
According to ECLAC (1998) the number of people in an age-range making them dependent (between 0 and 14 and over 65 years) will increase from 54.8% at present to almost 60% in 2050. This will increase pressure on the social security systems in the region and increase the contributions that the population of working age will have to make in order to maintain the availability of health and educational services. Life expectancy at birth increased from 61.2 years in the 1970s to 72.1 years in the 2000-2005 five-year period, and is expected to increase to 74.4 years by 2015. Crude mortality rate is expected to increase from the current value of 7.8 (per thousand) to almost 12 by 2050.
Human migration has become an important issue in the region. Recent studies (ECLAC, 2002b) have estimated that 20 million Latin American and Caribbean nationals reside outside their countries, with the vast majority in North America. This phenomenon has important effects on national economies and creates important social dependencies: 5% of households in the region benefit from remittances which in 2003 amounted to US$38 billion (17.6% more than in 2002; IMO, 2005).
According to the Human Development Index, all countries in the region are classified within high and medium development ranks. In addition, Latin American countries are ranked within the upper half of the Human Poverty Index and have shown a systematic improvement between 1975 and 2002. It is difficult to ignore the fact that, although there are no Latin American countries classified in the low development rank, there are huge contrasts among and within countries in terms of levels of technological development, sophistication of financial sectors, export capacities and income distribution (CEPAL, 2002).