Mon, Aug 03, 2015 - Page 9 News List

Global population to hit 9.7 billion by 2050: UN report

Despite a continuing slowdown in the rate of population growth, it is ‘almost inevitable’ that the number of people on the planet will rise from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion in 2050, according to the latest UN projections

By Sam Jones and Mark Anderson  /  The Guardian

Illustration: Yusha

Ten years ago, the world population was growing by 1.24 percent annually; today, the figure has dropped to 1.18 percent — an addition of about 83 million people per year. The overall growth rate, which peaked in the late 1960s, has been falling steadily since the 1970s.

The UN report attributes the slowdown to the near-global decline in fertility rates — measured as the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime — even in Africa , where the rates remain the highest.

However, that fall is being offset by countries in which populations are already large, or where high numbers of children are born. According to the study, nine countries are set to account for half the world’s population growth between now and 2050: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the US, Indonesia and Uganda.

“Continued population growth until 2050 is almost inevitable, even if the decline of fertility accelerates,” says the report, World Population Prospects: the 2015 revision.

“There is an 80 percent probability that the population of the world will be between 8.4 and 8.6 billion in 2030, between 9.4 and 10 billion in 2050 and between 10 and 12.5 billion in 2100,” the report says.

By 2050, six countries — China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and the US — are expected to have populations of more than 300 million.

The report says that Africa alone is set to drive more than half of the world’s population growth over the next 35 years, during which time the population of 28 of the continent’s countries is set to more than double. It is predicted that by 2050, Nigeria’s population is set to surpass that of the US, making the west African nation the third most populous country in the world.

If current birthrate trends persist, Africa, which contains 27 of the world’s 48 least-developed countries, will be the only major area still experiencing substantial population growth after 2050. Consequently, its share of the global population is forecast to rise to 25 percent in 2050 and 39 percent by 2100. Asia’s share, meanwhile, is set to fall to 54 percent in 2050 and 44 percent in 2100.

“Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding future trends in fertility in Africa, the large number of young people currently on the continent who will reach adulthood in the coming years and have children of their own, ensures that the region will play a central role in shaping the size and distribution of the world’s population over the coming decades,” the report says.

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs population division director John Wilmoth said the new projections laid bare the scale of the task facing the world as it prepares to agree the development framework for the next 15 years.

“The concentration of population growth in the poorest countries presents its own set of challenges, making it more difficult to eradicate poverty and inequality, to combat hunger and malnutrition, and to expand educational enrollment and health systems, all of which are crucial to the success of the new sustainable development agenda,” he said.

Wilmoth said that although the population growth rate had declined “gradually but steadily” since the 1970s, it had done so at different speeds in different parts of the world.

“Africa is currently the region of the world where population growth is still rather rapid due to continued high levels of fertility, but even there we see the sorts of changes that were predicted and expected in the sense that, once populations start to have a higher level of life expectancy, they also come to realize that there’s not the same need to produce as many children,” he said. “With increasing child survival, it just doesn’t make as much sense to have such large families as it did in the past.”

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