Yesterday, on World Population Day, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) released its latest World Population Prospects report, marking the next milestones in human populations.
According to the projections, world population will finally reach 8 billion this year, on 15 November to be precise. The next significant dates will be 2030, when the population is expected to reach 8.,5 billion, 2050, with a population of 9.7 billion, and, lastly, 2080, when the population is believed to reach a peak of approximatively 10.4 billion, a level projected to be maintained until 2100.
This year’s World Population Day falls during a milestone year, when we anticipate the birth of the Earth’s 8th billionth inhabitant. Reaching a global population of 8 billion is a numerical landmark, but our focus must always be on people.António Guterres, UN Secretary General
Despite the rapidity at which world population has been increasing over the recent centuries (it only reached the first billion in 1804), it seems the growth rate is actually decreasing. The report reveals that global population is growing at its slowest rate since 1950, in 2020 specifically the growth rate was less than 1%.
The report further shows that birth rates have also decreased worldwide, two thirds of the global population living in a country with a lifetime birth rate of 2.1 births per woman. In a country with low mortality rates, the 2.1 births per woman level is equivalent to no population growth over time. This, along with high emigration, leads to 61 countries being expected to have a negative population growth of -1% by 2050.
The Population Division’s Director John Wilmoth says governmental attempts at affecting birth rates have no impact in the near future, “nevertheless, the cumulative effect of lower fertility, if maintained over several decades, could be a more substantial deceleration of global population growth in the second half of the century.”
Regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems its only overall effect was reducing the global life expectancy to 71 years, from 72.9 in 2019. However, the report shows that life expectancy is generally increasing and the population is aging. By 2050, it is expected that global longevity will be about 77.2 years and the number of people over 65 years old will be more than double that of children under 5 years old and roughly the same as children under 12 years old.
This is an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity, and marvel at advancements in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates.António Guterres, UN Secretary General
Guterres highlighted that the report is also “a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another”. The majority of the growth by 2050 comes from just 8 countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Addressing the rapid population growth in just a few countries, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin warned that “rapid population growth makes eradicating poverty, combatting hunger and malnutrition, and increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult” and he pointed out that only by “achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to health, education and gender equality, will contribute to reducing fertility levels and slowing global population growth”.