UNITED NATIONS— The United Nations is projecting that the world’s population will grow by nearly a billion people in the next 12 years, to more than 8 billion. In a new report, the U.N. says the developing world is likely to see the biggest population surge, with some of the least developed countries seeing the fastest growth.
Currently, there are just over 7 billion people on the planet. The U.N. says that number will grow by almost 1 billion by 2025 and then hit 9.6 billion in 2050. By the start of the next century, there could be nearly 11 billion people on Earth.
China is the world’s most populous nation, with nearly 1.4 billion people. But, the U.N. projects that at current growth rates, India likely will surpass China in about 15 years.
The U.N.’s John Wilmoth said Thursday at the report’s launch that fertility, mortality and migration affect population rates, with fertility having the biggest impact.
“There is not only a risk of rapid growth for some countries, there is a risk of population decline for some countries. So many countries have very low levels of fertility and this presents challenges as well. If low fertility is maintained over many years, then populations age very rapidly," said Wilmoth.
The report found several developed countries with low fertility rates that have resulted in shrinking and aging populations, including in East Asia and southern and eastern Europe.
At the other extreme are countries where populations are rising rapidly, including in 49 of the world’s least developed countries, many of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa. In these countries, women are having on average of more than five children each.
“On the other side, of course, is the concern about rapid growth in high fertility countries - and this then raises concerns about the sustainability of those populations, the ability to feed the populations and to provide a standard of living that would be considered acceptable," he said.
Wilmoth says neither challenge is impossible to overcome. In the past, global growth has surged periodically and society has kept pace with food production and managing aging populations, but he notes it is best to avoid the extremes of rapid growth or low fertility.