The world is about to get a whole lot more crowded, according to a new report by the United Nations, with the planet’s population expected to climb to nearly 10 billion by the middle of this century.
The UN’s World Population Prospects 2019, published on Tuesday, estimated that the next three decades will see today’s figure of 7.7 billion people rise to 9.7 billion by 2050 despite a continued slowdown in the global birth rate.
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More than half of the increase will be concentrated in just nine countries – India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States – while the population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to nearly double.
“Many of the fastest-growing populations are in the poorest countries, where population growth brings additional challenges in the effort to eradicate poverty, achieve greater equality, combat hunger and malnutrition and strengthen the coverage and quality of health and education systems to ensure that no one is left behind,” said Liu Zhenmin, the UN’s undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs.
The study concluded that the world’s population could reach a peak of nearly 11 billion around the end of the current century.
Falling fertility rate
Amid the boom projected to take place in some parts of the world, the planet’s most populous country, China, is expected to see its population drop by more than two percent by 2050.
Such a decline would see India overtake it in top spot by 2027, according to the UN report.
All told, 27 countries or territories have experienced a reduction of at least one percent in the size of their populations since 2010 due to falling birth rates, which declined from 3.2 births a woman in 1990 to 2.5 in 2019, and is expected to fall further to 2.2 in 2050.
The problem is particularly pressing in parts of Europe, according to the UN report, with deaths now already outpacing births in Belarus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine, as well as Japan.
The UN says a minimum of 2.1 births a woman is needed to ensure the replacement of generations and avoid long-term population decline in the absence of migration.
The report also projected people would survive longer in the future, with global average life expectancy expected to reach 77.1 years in 2050 against 72.6 years currently. In 1990, the average life expectancy worldwide was 64.2 years.
The UN, however, warned those in poorer countries – where life expectancy lags about seven years below the international average – would continue to live shorter lives compared with more affluent people.