India and China, two Asian nuclear powers that are also long-standing rivals in the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean region, remain the two most populous nations in the world, with more than 1 billion people each.
But when the world population reaches 8 billion, in November according to United Nations calculations, India is already expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country.
The current figures are 1.44 billion people in China and 1.39 billion in India. But the numbers are expected to change as India overtakes China. The United States ranks third, with more than 335 million people. At the end of last year, the world’s total population was about 7.9 billion.
According to a report in The New York Times on July 9, China is experiencing a “demographic crisis.” With abortion and reproductive health tightly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the ruling force now wants women to have multiple children, abandoning the old one-child policy.
China’s birthrate is at an all-time low and officials have been doling out housing and tax credits, educational benefits and even cash incentives to encourage women to have more children.
However, these benefits are only available to married couples, a prerequisite that is becoming less attractive to independent women, who in some cases prefer to be single mothers.
Currently, about 61% of the world’s population lives in Asia (4.7 billion), 17% in Africa (1.3 billion), 10% in Europe (750 million), 8% in Latin America and the Caribbean (650 million), and the remaining 5% in North America (370 million) and Oceania (43 million).
According to the World Population Prospects 2022, published this Monday, July 11, when World Population Day is celebrated, the growth of the planet’s inhabitants is at the slowest rate since 1950, having fallen below 1.0 % in 2020.
The latest projections from United Nations (UN) agencies suggest that the world population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050. It is projected to peak at around 10.4 billion people in the decade, 2080 and to remain at that level until 2100.
More than half of the projected increase in the world population until 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania, according to the report published by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Daes) of the United Nations.
And sub-Saharan African countries are expected to contribute more than half of the projected increase through 2050.
John Wilmoth, director of the Daes Population Division, told IPS that between 2022 and 2050 the population of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to almost double, surpassing 1 billion by the end of the 2040s.
“Today, fertility in sub-Saharan Africa remains high, averaging 4.6 births per woman. By 2050, the average level of fertility in the region is expected to remain close to 3.0 births per woman,” explained the senior Daes official, also known by its English acronym Desa.
Coupled with declining death rates, he said, this comparatively high level of fertility will drive continued population growth.
Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to account for more than half of global population growth between 2022 and 2050.
In 2022, the population of this region will grow at a rate of 2.5% per year, the highest among the major regions and more than triple the world average of 0.8% per year, Wilmoth pointed out.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that World Population Day is celebrated in a key year, in which the birth of the 8 billionth inhabitant of the Earth is expected.
“It is an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity and marvel at the advances in health that have extended life expectancy and drastically reduced maternal and infant mortality rates,” he said.
“At the same time, it is a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a time to reflect on where we still fall short of our mutual commitments,” he added.
According to the UN, the covid-19 pandemic has affected all three components of demographic change.
Global life expectancy at birth fell to 71.0 years in 2021. In some countries, successive waves of the pandemic may have produced short-term reductions in the number of pregnancies and births, while for many other countries, there is little evidence of an impact on fertility levels or trends.
The pandemic severely restricted all forms of human mobility, including international migration, while affecting all three components of demographic change.
Global life expectancy at birth fell to 71.0 years in 2021. In some countries, successive waves of the pandemic may have produced short-term reductions in the number of pregnancies and births, while for many other countries , there is little evidence of an impact on fertility levels or trends.
Regarding the impact of the pandemic, which has lasted three years and is still active, Joseph Chamie, a consultant demographer and former director of the United Nations Population Division, told IPS: “Yes, the covid-19 pandemic has had an impact in population growth due to increased mortality, reduced fertility in many countries, and declining levels of international migration.
However, he stressed, the world population continues to grow at a rate close to 1.0% per year. Even with the pandemic, the world’s population grew by nearly 80 million a year, he said.
On the impact of the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States to annul the precedent that kept abortion legal throughout the country for half a century, Chamie anticipated “it will have an impact on the births of many women in the United States.”
As a result of the Court’s decision, the United States has become a patchwork of abortion laws, with a myriad of enforcement rules, new legal challenges, and a large majority of Americans opposed to the decision.
“Despite the Supreme Court ruling on abortion, the US fertility rate, which was 1.64 births per woman in 2020, is likely to remain below replacement level for the foreseeable future,” he said. Chamie, author of numerous publications on population issues, including his book “Births, Deaths, Migrations, and Other Important Population Issues.”
Chamie also said that the world’s population growth during the 20th and 21st centuries is absolutely historic and unprecedented.
In less than a century, the world’s population has quadrupled, from 2 billion in 1927 to 8 billion in 2022, a growth that is unlikely to occur in the future.
In the second half of the 20th century, the world population reached its highest annual growth rate of 2.1% in the late 1960s and its highest annual increase of 93 million in the late 1980s.
By comparison, the current growth rate is slightly less than 1% and the annual increase is nearly 80 million, Chamie noted.
The world population is expected to increase by 25%, or an additional 2 billion people, to 10 billion by mid-century.
The global demographics specialist also warned that world population growth is seriously challenging efforts to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and pollution.
“Every time climate change is spoken, written or mentioned, governments cannot continue to ignore or dismiss the demographic growth of nations” in this phenomenon, Chamie warned.
The planet with 8,000 million human beings and which continues to grow must be seriously addressed in the negotiations on climate change.
He argued that stabilizing human populations is essential to limit growing demographic demands for energy, water, food, land, resources, housing, heating/cooling, transportation, material goods, and so on.
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