National Geographic : 1998 Oct
one expert urged. "These are individuals. some time during the year. What about jobs? There is already an increasing shortage of those too, and according to the Population Reference Bureau masses of unemployed people form "a social and political time bomb." But there has been dramatic progress over the past 30 years. Birthrates have dropped in many developing countries (including China and India), and the number of children born to each woman has fallen on average from six to three. This is the result of remarkable changes on three fronts: contraception, health care, and culture, the strongbox in which our sense of what we can do is locked. Contraception has been the key. The num ber of women in some developing countries using contraceptives has risen to more than 50 percent. "There isn't any place where women have had the choice that they haven't chosen to have fewer children," says Beverly Winikoff at the Population Council in New York City. "Governments don't need to resort to force." Yet some 200 million women become preg nant each year. Half of these pregnancies are Soon to have a sibling, an only child nestles in her mother's sari at a clinic in Bangladesh. Nurses provide checkups and offer advice-starting with "space your children." Longer gaps between births mean healthier mothers and babies and slower population growth.