Growing population threat to food security

Growing population threat to food security

The most least developed countries need to create enough “quality jobs” – particularly for the youth – to absorb growing populations.

unctad inside-topFor most least developed countries, their most valuable asset is their people, in particular the young. But they need to create enough “quality jobs” to absorb the growing populations.

The world’s 49 least developed countries (LDCs) face “a stark demographic challenge” as their population is expected to double to 1.7 billion by 2050, according to The Least Developed Countries Report 2013, published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).

The report paints a mixed picture of the 49 LDCs. In 2011, their total population was 858 million, almost 12% of the global population, but this is expected to double to 1.7 billion by 2050. The youth population, those aged between 15 and 24, is expected to increase by 131.7 million to 300 million. The working age population will increase by about 15.7 million people a year to 2050.

But these population increases are not translating into increases in economic growth, nor are LDCs creating enough “quality jobs” to absorb the growing youth and working age populations. Between 2000 and 2012, employment growth was 2.9% a year, well below the LDCs’ average gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates of 7%.

Unemployment in the years 2000 to 2012 was 5.5%. In most LDCs, youth unemployment is higher than the average LDC unemployment rate. African LDCs have the lowest youth unemployment at 9.6%. There are also Island and Asian LDCs.

For most LDCs, their most valuable asset is their people, in particular the young. The report urges these countries to “engage” their people in productive employment in order to achieve “lasting and constructive growth”.

In spite of the sluggish global economic performance of recent years, LDCs have posted moderate economic growth. Per capita income for the group as a whole has been expanding steadily, and the annual economic growth rate increased from 4.5% in 2011 to 5.3% in 2012, and 15 LDCs have growth rates exceeding 6%.

Fixed investment peaked at 21.8% of GDP between 2010 and 2011. Public investment rose from 7.2% of GDP between 1999 and 2001 to 8.8% in 2009 to 2011, while foreign direct investment shot up by 20% to $26-billion (R262-billion) in 2012.

Agriculture seems to be main economic driver, and accounts for more than a quarter of GDP in 29 LDCs. Mining also plays significant role. The share of mining, including construction and public utilities, of GDP surged from 14.4% between 1999 and 2001, to 22% between 2009 and 2011.



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