Graphic: Life Expectancy in the Islands of the Caribbean

Graphic: Life Expectancy in the Islands of the Caribbean

In general, population statistics in the Caribbean show trends toward growth. The estimated population of the Caribbean in 2010 was 286 million inhabitants and the projected population for 2050 is 391 million. That figure is based on maximum annual growth trends of 2% in the coming years.

Within the region, the population of the continental Caribbean is greater than that of the islands. Cuba, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados are the countries with the lowest projected population increases, with less than 1% per year. On the other hand, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras are the countries with the highest growth rates. Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic are the countries with the largest projected total increases in the coming decades. Currently, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti and Nicaragua have the highest birth rates, with 30 births per year for each 1,000 inhabitants. These trends have led to intense birth control campaigns in many Caribbean countries. The goal of reaching a rate of 20 births per year for each 1,000 inhabitants is one of the major challenges throughout the region.

At the same time, there has been a significant reduction in mortality rates. This is due to improved sanitary conditions and investments in health care infrastructure, such as the construction of hospitals, the socialization of medicine, and increased aid among countries. This reduction in loss of life has brought about a significant increase in life expectancy. Today, life expectancy is 70 years, even though the region includes one of the countries with the lowest life expectancy in the world, just 49 years in Haiti. It is expected that life expectancy will continue to increase in the coming years throughout the region. This demographic characteristic will be reflected in an increase in the total Caribbean population.

The region’s political and economic characteristics have led to continual internal and external migrations. Most of the Caribbean countries have generated periodic migrations, from rural areas to the cities, between cities, and to other regions. Most migrants are in their productive years. They are mostly men and their most common destinations are the urban centers of their own countries or cities in Europe or the United States. One result of this pattern is that most Caribbean countries have a high proportion of young people (under age 15) and elderly (older than 65) in their populations. Consequently, 37% of the population is considered dependent because it is not part of the labor force. The trends mentioned above have significantly reduced the male portion of the population (as a result of migration) compared to females in the countries of the region, while demonstrating the population connections between the Caribbean and the industrialized regions of North America and Europe.

Author: Carlos Guilbe
Published: April 11, 2012.

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