Environment

UN world population report predicts slowing growth rate, 10.9 billion peak by 2100

UN world population report pre...
The United Nations World Population Prospects 2019 report paints a demographic picture of a very different world by the end of the 21st century
The United Nations World Population Prospects 2019 report paints a demographic picture of a very different world by the end of the 21st century
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The United Nations World Population Prospects 2019 report paints a demographic picture of a very different world by the end of the 21st century
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The United Nations World Population Prospects 2019 report paints a demographic picture of a very different world by the end of the 21st century

The latest global population report from the United Nations estimates the number of people on the planet will peak at 10.9 billion by the end of the century. The vast majority of population growth is expected to come from sub-Saharan Africa, with declining population growth predicted in Asia, Europe and Latin America by 2100.

Underpinning the UN estimates is the observation of declining global fertility rates. At the beginning of the 20th century average global fertility rates sat around six births per woman. By 1990 this had fallen to 3.2, and in the latest report is currently averaged at 2.5 births per woman. It is predicted average fertility will continue to drop over the course of the century, to 2.2 in 2050, and finally 1.9 births per woman by 2100, ultimately suggesting a global population decline by the next century.

Of course, these birth rates are not even across the world, and more than 90 countries are already registering birth rates at below replacement levels (less than two births per woman). Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, is still averaging 4.6 births per woman, leading the UN report to estimate overall population in the area to double by 2050.

While this general estimate that the global population should peak at under 11 billion is better news than some earlier higher estimates that it would reach as high as 15 billion by the end of the century, the researchers behind the study suggest the vast majority of population growth coming over the course of this century will occur in the world's poorest countries.

Nigeria, for example, is set to grow from a current population of around 200 million, to the world's third most populous nation by 2100 with over 700 million people. Thomas Spoorenberg, one of the researchers from the UN Population Division generating this report, says these projections are an urgent reminder than global policy and planning must account for these major looming demographic changes.

"Many of the fastest growing populations are in the world's poorest countries," says Spoorenberg. "In these countries, population growth is a real challenge for efforts to eradicate poverty and inequality, combat hunger and malnutrition, strengthen the coverage and quality of education and health systems, and improve access to basic services."

And conversely, countries with declining and aging populations must account for their own fundamental shifts as well. It is generally thought that the ratio of working age people (25 to 64) to those over 65 should be at least 3 to 1. This is referred to as the potential support ratio, and the UN report notes this ratio is falling as aging populations increase.

Japan currently has the lowest potential support ratio in the world, at 1.8, and 29 countries are already below 3. The UN report predicts by 2050 there will be 48 countries with potential support ratios below 2, meaning there may be significant pressure on those countries to balance a declining labor market against increasing costly economic protections for older citizens.

"Persons aged 65 or over already make up the world's fastest growing age group and virtually all countries can expect the percentage of older persons in their populations to increase," explains Spoorenberg. "Countries need to plan now for population aging to ensure the well-being of older persons, the protection of their human rights, their economic security, access to appropriate health services and lifelong learning opportunities, and formal and informal support networks."

Source: United Nations World Population Prospects 2019

11 comments
Daishi
As Japan needs a labor market to support an aging population it will be interesting to see the impact it would have on their country and culture once 40% or 50% of the country is from sub-Saharan Africa or predominantly Muslim nations. Mass population migrations will becoming increasingly common and essentially everywhere will be a melting pot.
Roomie
Hans Rosling had this prediction down a long time ago.
Brian M
Human population growth is the most serious problem the world has. Forget global warming, habitat loss, decreasing biodiversity, they are only symptoms of the burgeoning human population. Solve the population growth crisis and things like controlling green house gases etc., become viable, without tackling population its a losing battle. The working/retired population might not be so much of an issue with AI, robotics and better health services.
Howe
Daishi - I disagree. I think the world is moving to a more isolationist position, and Japan's labor market is already struggling, hence the huge robot push over there.
Nelson Hyde Chick
An Earth of nine to ten billion humans will be a living hell devoid of wildlife and decency.
CAVUMark
Soylent Green!...... .its people.
Ran Xerox
One of the problems with decreasing support ratios are the pyramid scheme such as Social Security and state and federal pensions in that what the person paid into is either woefully inadequate or the people paying for the benefits being paid out are not the ones who enjoyed the work produced, it was a past generation and the retirement payout was kicked down the road. A 401K like system is far more workable. Medical is another issue and this is where I part from conservatives in that I think end of life needs to be handled better. It is a complete waste of public resources giving a 80 yo person an organ transplant yet it happens on state dime all the time. In fact we keep demented people alive when their own bodies are failing due to natural causes mostly because the family either does not want to let the go or wants the benefit checks.
owlbeyou
@Roomie, are you mixing up Hans Rosling with Thomas Mathus? Us humans will eventually exhaust Mother Nature to the limit, but it doesn't have to be like that. For sure, there has to be ways to get the developing world to have less children. Without any human rights protests from developed nations, China's one-child policy was a bold step that lasted an incredible 36 years (with a couple of adjustments, that estimates say prevented 400 million births!), but it eventually got more complicated because of too many boys and an aging population. A combination of consuming less resources per capita and smaller birth rates would be ideal. Personally, I'm doing my part, but capitalism is an insatiably hungry system. @CAVUMark, occasionally when I go shopping for food and find myself in the meat section (I'm mostly vegetarian), I think of Soylent Green. That sci-fi film made a big impression on me.
Nelson Hyde Chick
What good is peaking at 10.9 billion if the environment collapses at 9 billion?
notfromthisplanet
All great comments (especially @Nelson Hyde Chick) and proof that there is at least some intelligent life on this planet. Noticing a complete absence of the problem in our political discourse, I wrote a letter to all the POTUS candidates concerning our species' numbers. I'm anxious to see if I get any replies but the main point I want to make is that if those that grasp the gravity of this problem don't make it a political issue then nothing is going to change and as noted - the planet can't support the current population let alone 11 billion.