Country Listing

Peru Table of Contents


Demography of Growth, Migration, and Work

Significant in different ways were the divisions according to the major ecological zones. In 1990 the coastal region held 53 percent of the nation's peoples; the highlands, 36 percent; and the Selva, the other 11 percent. This distribution pattern marked an abrupt change from almost thirty years earlier when the figures for coast and highlands were nearly the reverse. These shifts obviously had significant implications for the nation in terms of government, the economy, and social relations. For example, the agricultural sector had two parts: the mechanized high-export production of the coastal plantations and cooperatives, and the intensively farmed small-holdings of the Sierra, which have depended most heavily on hand labor and were essentially unchanged in technology since the colonial period. Although the highland farm technology was effective, Andean production was undermined by urbanward migrations and the revolution and repression of the 1980s.

Within the contexts of these significant demographic changes, the general growth of the population has been constant since its low point at the end of the colonial period. Between 1972 and 1981, the country grew by 25 percent. The increase may have been greater between 1981 and 1991, reaching over 30 percent, if projections were correct (see fig. 7). The increase ran counter to the anticipated benefits stemming from the continued drop in fertility rates, which declined from 6.7 children born per woman in 1965 to 3.3 in 1991, and in birth rates, which dropped from a high of 45 births per 1,000 in 1965 to 27 per 1,000 in 1992. The crude death rates, however, despite the many problems in health care, fell over this same period from 16 to 7 per 1,000, basically matching the decline in the birthrate and retaining the actual rate of population growth near its same level as before. Life expectancy for males in Peru has increased from fifty-one years in 1980 to estimates of sixty-three years in 1991, second lowest in South America after Bolivia. Demographers projected that Peru's population would reach 28 million by the year 2000 and 37 million in 2025 if these rates continued. Contemporary dilemmas paled before the problems posed by such estimates. A significant lowering in infant deaths would markedly increase the overall growth rate and accompanying problems posed to institutions, services, and resources.

Data as of September 1992