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Desertification Indicator System for Mediterranean Europe

1. Definition



Brief definition

The average annual rate of change of population size during a specified period.

Unit of measure


2. Position within the logical framework DPSIR

Type of Indicator

Driving Force

3. Target and political pertinence


The indicator contributes to the definition of the socio-economic context of the area affected by desertification. The population growth rate measures how fast the size of the population is changing.

Importance with respect to desertification

The rate of population growth is identified by Agenda 21 as one of the crucial elements affecting long-term sustainability. This issue can impact the land degradation process in different ways.

Rapid population growth can place a strain on a country's capacity for handling a wide range of issues of economic, social, and environmental significance, particularly when rapid population growth occurs in conjunction with poverty and lack of access to resources, or unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, or in ecologically vulnerable zones. However depopulation, especially in the Mediterranean basin, can also negatively impact and accelerate the land degradation process, when it leads a decrease of land protection.

The relationships between population growth and desertification must therefore be analyzed carefully in relation to other factors affecting sustainability, and for each individual area.

International Conventions and agreements


Secondary objectives of the indicator

Population growth, at both national and sub national levels, represents a fundamental indicator for national decision- makers.

4. Methodological description and basic definitions

Definitions and basic concepts

The rate of population growth, r, between two dates, t1 and t2, is calculated as an exponential rate of growth, conventionally expressed in units of per cent per year:

r = 100 ln (P2 /P1)/(t2 -t1)

Where P1 and P2 are the number of persons at times 1 and 2, respectively, and the time interval (t2 -t1) is expressed in years.

For a country, the estimate is generally based on either an intercensus population growth rate calculated from two censuses, each adjusted for incompleteness; or from the components of population growth (adjusted for incompleteness, when necessary) during a period. The components are numbers of births, deaths and migrants.

Intercensus growth rates can also be calculated for sub national areas.

Benchmarks Indication of the values/ranges of value


Methods of measurement

See Definitions and basic concepts.

Limits of the indicator

The indicator does not reflect the quality of population growth and the age structure of the population. Therefore this indicator should be examined alongside demographic variation.

Linkages with other indicators

There are close linkages between this indicator and other demographic and social indicators, as well as all indicators expressed in per capita terms (for example, GDP per capita). Population growth usually has implications for indicators related to education, infrastructure, and employment. It is also related to human settlements and the use of natural resources, including sink capacities.

5. Evaluation of data needs and availability

Data required to calculate the indicator

The population growth rate can be calculated either from census data or from registration data (births, deaths and migrants).

The United Nations recommends that countries take censuses every 10 years, and these data can be used to calculate an intercensus population growth rate.

Data sources

In recent decades most countries have carried out censuses that are widely available. For example, 204 countries or areas carried out a census during the 1990 census decade (1985 to 1994). Data on births, deaths and migrants may come from national registration systems or from special questions in demographic surveys and censuses.

Availability of data from national and international sources

National and sub-national census data, as well as data on births, deaths and migrants, are available for the large majority of countries from national sources and publications; as well as from questionnaires sent to national statistical offices from the Statistics Division, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). For all countries, census and registration data are evaluated and, if necessary, adjusted for incompleteness by the Population Division, DESA, as part of its preparations for the official United Nations population estimates and projections.

6. Institutions that have participated in developing the indicator

Main institutions responsible

The lead agency is the United Nations DESA. The contact point is the Director, Population Division, DESA; fax no. (1 212) 963 2147.

Other contributing organizations

Universities of Basilicata, Lisbon, Murcia, Athens, Amsterdam, Leeds

7. Additional information


Population Division, DESA, World Population Prospects: The 1998 Revision. Vol. I.

Comprehensive Tables (United Nations publication Sales No. E.99.XIII.9, New York, 1999).

Population Division, DESA, World Population Prospects: The 1998 Revision. Vol. III.

Analytical Report (United Nations. ESA/P/WP.156, New York, 1999).

Population Division, DESA, Manual X: Indirect Techniques for Demographic Estimation (United Nations Sales No. E.83.XIII.2, New York, 1983).

Population Division, DESA, World Urbanization Prospects: The 1998 Revision (United Nationspublication, forthcoming).

Population Division, DESA, MORTPAK-LITE - The United Nations Software Package for Mortality Measurement (United Nations, New York, 1988).

Statistics Division/DESA, 1997 Demographic Yearbook, (United Nations Sales No.E/F.99.XIII.1, 1999).

Other references

Population Division, DESA, National Population Policies (United Nations Sales No. E.99.XIII.3., New York, 1998).

Population Division, DESA, Results of the Eighth United Nations Population Inquiry Among Governments (forthcoming).

Internet Site: http://www.un.org/esa/population

Contacts Name and address

University of Basilicata
Prof Giovanni Quaranta
email: quaranta@unibas.it