With the world’s population having reached 8bn on Tuesday November 15 with the birth of a baby in the Philippines, a big question for a planet stricken by interlocking climate, environment, economic and geopolitical crises, but seeking sustainable development, is where do we go from here.
The World Population Prospects 2022 report from the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs offers some answers and insights on the occasion of a milestone that comes just 11 years since the number of people on Earth reached the seven billion mark.
(Credit: All graphs and tables from World Population Prospects 2022, cc-by-sa 3.0 IGO).
While the world’s population continues to grow, the pace of growth is slowing. The latest UN projections suggest that the global population could grow to around 8.5bn in 2030, 9.7bn in 2050 and 10.4bn in 2100.
Globally, life expectancy reached 72.8 years in 2019, up almost nine years since 1990. Further reductions in mortality are projected to result in an average longevity of around 77.2 years globally in 2050. In 2020, the global population growth rate fell under 1% per year for the first time since 1950.
Life expectancy at birth for women in 2019 exceeded that for men by 5.4 years globally, with female and male life expectancies of 73.8 and 68.4, respectively. “A female survival advantage is observed in all regions and countries, ranging from 7 years in Latin America and the Caribbean to 2.9 years in Australia and New Zealand,” notes the UN report.
In 2021, the average fertility of the world’s population stood at 2.3 births per woman over a lifetime, having fallen from about five births per woman in 1950. Global fertility is projected to decline further to 2.1 births per woman by 2050.
In 2022, the two most populous regions are both in Asia: Eastern and South-Eastern Asia with 2.3bn people (29% of the global population), and Central and Southern Asia with 2.1bn (26%). China and India, with more than 1.4bn each (India’s population is expected to overtake that of China in 2023), accounted for most of the population in these two regions.
More than half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050, says the UN, will be concentrated in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania. Disparate growth rates among the world’s largest countries will re-order their ranking by size.
In terms of the greying of populations in many parts of the world, the share of the global population aged 65 years or above is projected to rise from 10% in 2022 to 16% in 2050.
“By 2050, the number of persons aged 65 years or over worldwide is projected to be more than twice the number of children under age 5 and about the same as the number of children under age 12,” points out the UN report.
It also observes: “The populations of 61 countries or areas are projected to decrease by 1 per cent or more between 2022 and 2050, owing to sustained low levels of fertility and, in some cases, elevated rates of emigration.”
Among countries with at least half a million people, the largest relative reductions in population size until 2050, with losses of 20% or more, are expected to occur in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine
The question of planning for migration in tune with workforce demand is set to remain a difficult one for developed countries, given population greying.
“For high-income countries between 2000 and 2020, the contribution of international migration to population growth (net inflow of 80.5 million) exceeded the balance of births over deaths (66.2 million),” concludes the report. “Over the next few decades, migration will be the sole driver of population growth in high-income countries. By contrast, for the foreseeable future, population increase in low-income and lower-middle-income countries will continue to be driven by an excess of births over deaths.”