24 October 2011
Today begins the one-week countdown to 31st October when the world population is predicted to reach seven billion.
That's a rise of two billion in less than a quarter century.
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Seven days from now the world's seven billionth baby will be born. That's according to the UN's projections, and it's using the milestone to take stock of trends in population growth.
The big question is how long the planet can continue to satisfy the voracious appetite of its growing number of human inhabitants.
In fact, over the past six decades, the global fertility rate has been cut in half. Statistically from five children per woman to 2.5. But 78 million babies are still being born every year, almost all of them in developing countries.
The UN says women in these countries are having so many babies because of poverty, lack of education, income and access to birth control.
Not only that, they and their children face a high risk of poor health, and early death. So the UN is highlighting the need to boost education and employment opportunities for poor women: in other words, address the poverty, and the demography will look after itself, as it did in Europe.
Barbara Plett, BBC News, New York
Click to hear the vocabulary
calculations and estimates
- the milestone
the significant number
- to take stock of
to think carefully about something with a view to developing a policy about it
changes over time
- the voracious appetite of
the using up of resources at a very fast rate
- fertility rate
average number of children born to each woman
- access to
- to boost
to increase and improve
find an answer to the problem of
- the demography
the high birthrates in undeveloped countries