United Nations World Population Projections

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations is a vital interface between global policies in the economic and environmental spheres and national action. The Department works in three main interlinked areas: (i) it compiles, generates and analyzes a wide range of economic, social and environmental data and information on which UN Member States can draw to review common problems and take stock of policy options; (ii) it facilitates the negotiations of Member States with many intergovernmental bodies on joint courses of action to address ongoing or emerging global challenges; and (iii) it advises interested governments on the ways and means of translating policy frameworks developed in United Nations conferences and summit meetings into programmes at the national level and, through technical assistance, helps build requisite capacities.

The international community celebrates World Population Day each year in July and this presents an opportunity to identify potential population research and development topics. Global health, the environment, and poverty alleviation, are important areas involving population issues. For those involved with the well-being of future generations and protecting planet earth’s resources, these issues provide inspiration for collaboration with the social, economic and environmental programs of governments and supranational organizations. The current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to increase by about a billion by 2025 and reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Continued population growth in many countries, as well as population ageing, urbanization, and migration, will have a profound impact on social and economic development and the environment in the years to come. Increasingly complex and interconnected population and demo 2013graphic dynamics impact access to health, education, housing, sanitation, water, food, and energy; they heavily influence the livelihoods of people and the stability of nations around the world. Today’s younger generation of 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 is the largest the world has experienced, and it will shape the future of the world we live in, determining the important economic, political, social, and cultural outcomes in their countries.

Sixty years ago, the distribution of the world’s population was very different from the situation today. Back then, Europe represented 22% of the world’s 2.5 billion people. Germany, Britain, Italy and France were among the largest dozen of the world’s most populous nations. But today, none of these four European nations ranks among the top twelve by population size. Japan and Russia are also projected to fall from the top twelve rankings within this century. By mid-century the three most populous nations will be India, China, and Nigeria. Strong economic growth in Asia coupled with high fertility rates in Africa have contributed to this regional shift in global population and will continue to influence future trends. The latest World Population Prospects report from the United Nations contains a summary of the key findings from its ongoing monitoring of world population statistics and projections. Among these key findings are the following: (a) future population growth is highly dependent on the path of future fertility; for the UN’s medium projection, global fertility is assumed to decline from 2.53 children per women in 2005-2010 to 2.24 in 2045-2050; a change in fertility rates by 0.50 children per women above or below the medium projection defines the range of plausible outcomes for future high and low projections. The high fertility path would demo result in a global population of 10.9 billion by 2050 and 16.6 billion by 2100; the corresponding low fertility path would produce population totals of 8.3 billion by 2050 and 6.8 billion by 2100; (b) slow population growth brought about as a result of reductions in fertility leads to gradual population ageing; in more developed regions, 23 per cent of the population is already aged 60 years or over and that proportion is projected to reach 32 per cent in 2050 and 34 per cent by 2100; population ageing is less advanced in developing countries where only 9 per cent is aged 60 years or over at present, but is projected to reach 19 per cent by 2050 and 27 percent by 2100; (c) the number of persons aged 80 or over is projected to increase substantially, from 120 million in 2013 to 392 million in 2050 and 830 million by 2100; (d) half of all population growth is concentrated in a small number of countries; during 2013-2100, eight countries alone are expected to account for more than half of the world’s increase in population. By relative ranking, these are Nigeria, India, Tanzania, Congo, Niger, Uganda, Ethiopia, and the United States.

The work of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and in particular its Population Division, is important in providing insights into future trends and opportunities for population-related research and development and inspiring global collaboration in the interests of future generations.