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[FOUNTAIN]Focus on population renewed

July 14,2003
World Population Day was observed on Friday. On July 11, 1987, the global population exceeded 5 billion, and the United Nations Population Fund established the day to encourage nations to pay attention to population issues.
Sixteen years have passed, and the world population today is 6.29 billion. More than 80 million people are added every year.
Isaac Asimov, an American scientist and writer, has estimated that the world population was about 150 million around the first century B.C., when Julius Caesar ruled Rome. Western demography scholars estimate that the world population exceeded 500 million in 1650. In 1800, 900 million people were living on the earth, and 1.6 billion were estimated to occupy our planet in 1900. The population growth rate accelerated after the Industrial Revolution.
What is the estimated total population ever since the human race appeared on the earth? In 1996, an American mathematician calculated the total at 68.9 billion between 1 million B.C. and 1960. By applying the annual growth rate of roughly 80 to 90 million people, the cumulated global population is about 72 billion.
Have all of these people lived a life of dignity as human beings, rather than as a meaningless statistical figure? The answer is no.
The International Labor Organization recently said that about half of the world population today lives on less than $2 a day. It is likely that the percentage of poor people was even greater in the past. Thus, most of the estimated 72 billion people who have appeared on the earth were not free from poverty.
Thomas Malthus, a British economist, warned about rapid population growth in a 1798 essay. He argued that famine and poverty are natural outcomes because food supplies grew according to an arithmetic progression while population grew geometrically.
More and more countries, however, are worrying about a population decline these days. Korea is one of them. The National Statistics Office estimated that Korea’s population was 47,932,822 as of Friday. The growth rate will slow, it said, and the population will begin to decline in 2023. A policy to encourage births is under discussion.
Poverty is still a serious problem, regardless of a population increase or decrease. In Korea, poverty has been bequeathed to younger generations of family members. That is why we must think about poverty issues on World Population Day.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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