Subject: UNFPA: Launch of the State of the World Population 2007

United Nations Population Fund


Launch of the State of the World Population 2007

Report: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth Youth Supplement: Growing up Urban

Dili, Timor-Leste: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will officially launch the STATE OF THE WORLD POPULATION 2007 which consists of the report UNLEASHING THE POTENTIAL OF URBAN GROWTH and the additional youth supplement GROWING UP URBAN. The launching of these two reports will coincide with the World Population Day (11 July).

The purpose of the report UNLEASHING THE POTENTIAL OF URBAN GROWTH is to show how the world's urban population has rapidly grown over the 20th century and how the next few decades will see an unprecedented scale of urban growth in the developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia. The report discusses the consequences of this urban population growth and urbanization, that is, the increase in the urban share of total population.

The youth supplement GROWING UP URBAN, features the stories of young women and men growing up in cities of the developing world, where the population under 25 is often more than half of the total population.

Timor-Leste has a comparatively small urban population as compared to other countries in South-East Asia. According to the Timor-Leste 2004 Population and Housing Census, about 26.1% out of 924, 642 people live in urban areas. Most of the urban population (62.6%) is concentrated in Dili, the capital city. However, the urban population is growing very fast. For example, in Dili, the population grew in average by an annual rate of 11.8% between 1999 and 2004, while for the rest of the country this growth was 3.2%. Almost 60% of the growth in Dili was caused by migration. It is estimated that if this rate of growth continues at its recent pace, the population of the capital city will double in six years.

As in most less developed countries, the majority of recent migrants to Dili, about 50%, are from the ages of 15 to 25 years. This prevalence of young people results in substantial population pressures on the labor market, on housing, on social services and, in general, on the demand for utilities such as water, electricity, sewage, etc. It is very likely that the large proportion of youth in Dili is related to the recent crisis that Timor-Leste experienced last year. Socio-demographic research conducted in other countries indicates that a large proportion of youth in the population could put excessive pressure on social structures, especially the labor market and the educational system. The result is escalating grievances among youth, which are likely to cause violent conflicts. However, it is important to clarify that population factors were not the determinants of Timor-Leste's recent violent conflicts. The problem is multifaceted, caused by the interrelation of several determinants. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that demographic factors increased the probability of civil conflict.

A major issue posited by the UNFPA report is that urbanization is unavoidable. Nevertheless, it can also be positive. Cities provide youngsters with possibilities of a better future. The percentage of the poor in cities is frequently very large; however it is in the urban economy where they have the best hope of escaping poverty. The expansion of cities may result in environmental problems, but they can also generate solutions. The concentration of population in cities can provide long-term sustainability. The potential benefits of urbanization may surpass the possible disadvantages. The real test is learning how to take advantage of its possibilities.

From the above, it may be concluded that the real challenge for Timor-Leste is to make the best possible use of the opportunities that accompany the process of urbanization that the country is experiencing and improve the prospects for young people. It will be necessary to explore approaches, find those more appropriate to the specific reality of the country and put them into practice. This is not an activity without challenges, but it is possible.

Socioeconomic development, structural employment changes and policies directed to massive job creation are necessary to avoid the possibility of a substantial labor supply becoming a major economic, social and political difficulty both in rural and urban areas. Right policies may open windows of opportunities and change what seems to be a problem into an advantage.

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