Ireland's population growth rate up till 2010 will be the highest in Europe, at 1.3%, according to United Nations projections
Figures just released by the UN Population Fund say our urban growth rate, at 1.8%, also outstrips all countries in northern and eastern Europe. In all of Europe, only Albania has a higher forecast, at 2.5%.
Most countries have growth expectations of around half a per cent, while Baltic states Latvia and Lithuania are expected to shrink by that amount.
The population of the world's cities is increasing by more than one million people every week, UNFPA says, and this presents a huge challenge to governments, especially health authorities.
By next year, more than half the global population, 3.3 billion people, will be city-dwellers.
The increasing 'urbanisation' could create a crisis if sensible measures are not taken now, the UNFPA warns in a comprehensive report, Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth.
Sean Hand, who is Irish and head of human resources at the Population Fund headquarters in New York, said governments had to act now, by measures such as making basic serviced land available around urban centres.
"If we don’t plan now for that rate of growth, major difficulties will occur, even catastrophic consequences," Mr Hand told the launch of the report in Dublin.
"Urbanisation is inevitable, and the majority of people living in cities will be poor," he said. Even in countries where governments had made determined efforts to keep or relocate people in the countryside, such as India and China, the trend was too great to reverse.
The UNFP says mega-cities of more than 10 million people, such as Seoul or Sao Paolo, will continue to grow, but most people will be living in cities of 500,000 or fewer.
Of 31 countries across Europe, Ireland came 18th in health expenditure, as percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in the report. Ireland spends 5.8% of its GDP, less than countries such as Serbia and Montenegro (7.2%). The UK spends 6.9%.
Life expectancy of Irish men now is 75.9 years, the report says, while for women it is 81.
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