The global population hit 8 billion people on 15th November 2022, and is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and 10.4 billion by 2100, according to the latest United Nation’s World Population Prospects 2022.
While landmark 8 billion figure may sound alarming, the rate of global population growth is actually slowing, and is currently only at 1%.
Global Population Growth by Region
Population growth varies by region.
Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and South Eastern Asia are the two regions of the world which will see relatively high population growth between now and 2050, but most other regions will see either only relatively limited population growth or population decline.
Regions with high population growth rates still have relatively high fertility rates – as high as 3 to 4 per woman in some countries, but this is considerably lower than was the case in past decades and is falling in the majority of countries.
Conversely 61 countries are predicted to have lower populations in 2050 than they currently have now, and so are in population decline.
Future Population growth is based on past growth
Interestingly the report notes that all of the population growth to 2050 is already ‘locked in’, assuming development continues at a steady pace and there are no unforeseen catastrophic global events.
What this means is that future growth is based mainly around current young populations living longer, which seems to be a kind of last-gasp for the demographic transition.
There is no reason to expect population growth to carry on growing significantly after 2100 because the average fertility rate is now 2.1 per woman, which is just over replacement rate and increases in life expectancy are slowing.
In other words, there is no real need to panic, and the discourse around the 8 billion mark seems to suggest that while population growth will make other sustainable development goals harder to achieved, we are unlikely to see a mind of Malthusian meltdown.
Population Growth and other Sustainable Development Goals
The report suggests that there is little need to focus attention on reducing fertility rates in most countries, because these have been falling rapidly in recent years, rather the international development community should focus its attention on poverty alleviation and education of the young.
Ageing Populations a future problem?
Another thing the report highlights is that the global dependency ratio is going to increase going forwards and so there will be fewer people to care for the old.
The share of the global population over 65 is going to increase from 10% today to 16% in 2050, and the report suggests that countries which are projected to have higher proportions of old people need to put in place policy measures such as adequate health care and social security measures to accomodate for such changes.
The impact of Migration
The report notes that for high income countries net migration had more of an impact on population than net gains from the number of births (once deaths have been taken into account).
Between 2020 and 2022 high income countries experienced net migration of 80 million and 66.2 million people added by net births.
However, it’s worth noting that we are taking about relatively small figures for immigration – 80 million spread over 20 years is only 20 million a year spread over all high income countries.
And immigration of young and working age populations could help solve the challenges rich countries face from ageing populations, so happy days.
Signposting and Relevance to A-Level Sociology
United Nations: World Population Prospects 2022.
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