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Why Fertility Rates in Developing Countries Remain Higher than Developed Nations

By Jason K Jensen, Private Investigator

Fertility rates and mortality rates demographic trends distinguish developed nations from developing nations. A developed nation is defined by the United Nations as a country whose people earn a gross national per capita of $11,456 and above. These countries, which include most of the nations in Europe are viewed as high-income, highly-developed, industrialized nations. They tend to have low fertility rates and mortality rates. Their people are expected to enjoy a long life expectancy. These countries are highly industrialized and urbanized.

In contrast, the nations of the world who are viewed as low-income, developing nations are mostly found in Africa. The people there suffer from economic hardships and disease. These troubles result in a high mortality rates and increased fertility rates, thereby result in a very low life expectancy. There gross national per capita is designated at less than $936 a year. Countries with a gross national per capita between $936 a year and $11,456 are considered to be developing countries as well, by their incomes are viewed as middle income nations. Our focus today is the disparities between high-income, highly developed nations of Europe with that of the low-income nations of Africa. Europe was selected because as a union of several nations they are leading the way in sustainable development. But the nations of Africa are the countries who need sustainable development the most. For the purpose of this presentation, I have selected an average country from both continents to supply my data for comparisons. The subject nations I have picked for demonstrational purposes of demographic comparisons is the countries of Italy and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

There are significantly diverse cultural and social issues at work in both countries. In a country of less than 300,000 sq km, the country of Italy is the home of 58 Million people, with a labor force of 29 Million. (CIA, 2010). The growing concern for the people of Italy, however, is that the population is shrinking because the fertility rate is too low to sustain itself in the generations to follow. The term that demographers use is graying of the population. Unless fertility is increased the problem will worsen for the next twenty years for Italy. These countries are meeting the demand for an increase in fertility rates by placing government incentives to encourage its population to bear more children. At present, Italy for instance, has a total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.32 (The number of children born by women). The reason for the concern is that a shrinking population has trouble providing for its retired elderly, hence, the concerns of a graying population.

In comparison, providing for the elderly is not a concern in Congo. This is a nation of nearly 2.5 Million sq km. Its people number nearly 71 Million, with a labor force of 23 Million. (CIA, 2010). Where Italy has a graying population, Congo is a comparatively young nation with a population growing out of control, not shrinking. Its TFR is 6.11 (number 7th in the world). Its mortality rate is 11.39 deaths /1000 people (number 6th in the world). 47% of the population is under 14 years old. 51% of the people are between 15 and 65. Only 2.5 % are older than 65. Also of concern is its population is estimated to be growing at a rate 3.165% despite the high number of people living with HIV/AIDS and the widespread of other infectious diseases, and the loss of 5 Million in the past two decades. (CIA, 2008). It Congo, the people are confronted with huge sanitation, health and nutritional problems which are all leading causes for high fertility and mortality rates.

In Congo, food and waterbourne diseases, such as bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid are widespread. The people are frequently attacked by vectorbourne (from the air) diseases, like malaria, plague, and African trypanosomiasis. There are also reported cases of water contact diseases like schistosomiasis and diseases like rabies from animals. Without good sanitation and health care, the fertility rates and mortality rates in Congo tends to remain high and shall continue unless addressed smartly. The continued growth applies added strain on the over-burgeoned resources available to the country.

In order for a country to reach sustainable development, the Country must achieve balance with its available resources. In the nation of Congo, the country is endowed with vast potential wealth, but because the limited experience of its leaders, the lack of emphasis on education and literacy, and the exploitation of its resources, the country’s potential is undeveloped. In Congo, the total population is only 62% literate with a school life-expectancy of 9 for boys and 6 for girls. Whereas, in Italy like other European countries, the education age is high, and college education is usual. The school age expectancy for males in Italy is 16 and 17 for females. It should be noted that the 11 year gap in educational achievement and fertility rates are proportional. The later a female begins reproducing impacts the number of children that mother may have in her reproductive lifetime. (Wright/Boorse, 2011). Education and access to contraceptives is also as likely an issue.

There are other cultural and social issues that impact fertility rates and mortality rates. In Congo’s recent history civil strife arose in 1997 leading to the death of more than 5 Million due to the violence, famine and disease. The disturbances resulted in the reduced national output and loss government revenue as foreign businesses curtailed their operations caused by the uncertain times clashing within the country.

In comparison, most of Europe including Italy has experienced prosperity since its national conflict ended for the most part with the end of World War II. The country has experienced no significant civil unrest, and no conflicts with its neighbors for more than 60 years. Its gross national product is high as a result of its stability. To the north, Italy is largely industrialized with a reputation of manufacturing high-quality consumer goods. To the south, Italy is known for its agriculture. According to 2008 reports, Italy was 68% urbanized with a rate of urbanization of 0.4%. (CIA, 2008). The migration is limited, keeping development sustainable and resources well-balanced. Sound industrialization is key for a developed nation; and an agricultural societies are general poorer.

Congo is mostly agricultural, with only 34% of its people residing in urbanized communities. Its urbanization rate is high unfortunately, a whopping 5.1%, which is a common trend in nations where people are seeking new employment opportunities, hoping to change their lives. (Wright/Boorse, 2011). The migration of people creates new problems for a developing nation. It tends to burden the frail existing urban infrastructure. It adds to sanitation concerns, increased electrical demands, added municipal waste, and the like.

The increased demands cause more pollution and increased deforestation in order to meet the expanding community. Congo has a vast tropical rain forest. It is hot and humid, situated at the equator. It has problems with flooding during the rainy season. The deforestation of tropical rain forests adds to erosion and global warming concerns. Because of the problems the people suffer from migration and refugees, crime is high. Poaching is a problem for its wild life resources. Because of irresponsible management of its resources like mining, the damage to the environment is high.

In order for the developing countries of Africa, like Congo, to achieve sustainability it must gain control of its fertility rates and mortality rates. The only way that can be attained is through stewardship from the already developed nations. We must assist the nations of Africa to understand the value of education, while we assist them to improve their sanitation and health crisis. They must bring their fertility rates down. They must curtail their population growth in order to have their available resources catch up with their existing population demands. The European nations are good examples for the African continent to follow. As developed nations, European countries, like Italy, can stimulate their own economies while providing needed aid to the low-income developing nations through the production of goods and services they can offer in the process of developing Congo and other nations of Africa. Please spread the word to our leaders!


R.T. Wright & D.F. Boorse. (2011). Environmental Science: Toward a Sustainable Future

(11th ed.). Benjamin Cummings.

CIA. (2010). The World Factbook.

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