BY Onome Amuge
Global population has been projected to hit the 8 billionth mark by 15 November 2022, while India is on course to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.
The United Nations made the projection in its World Population Prospects 2022 report.
The report stated that the world’s population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, before growing to an estimated peak of 10.4 billion during the 2080s, a level it is expected to remain until 2100 when it is expected to reach 11 billion.
The annual World Population Prospect report, which coincided with the World Population Day (11 July), also noted that more than half of the projected increase in the global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.
In a similar vein, sub-Saharan Africa countries are expected to contribute more than half of the increase anticipated through 2050.
Liu Zhenmin, UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs, however, warned that rapid population growth in these regions has made poverty eradication, combating hunger and malnutrition, and increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult for the international organisation.
Despite the projected increases, the UN reported that the global population is growing at its slowest rate since 1950, having fallen to less than 1 percent in 2020.
The decline was attributed to a drop in fertility rate, noting that two-thirds of the global population lives in a country or area where lifetime fertility is below 2.1 births per woman, roughly the level required for zero growth in the long run, for a population with low mortality.
The Covid-19 pandemic was identified as one of the factors that affected population growth, as its impact led to a fall in global life expectancy from 72.9 in 2019 to 71 years in 2021.
Successive waves of the pandemic in some countries were also said to have produced short-term reductions in numbers of pregnancies and births.
Sixty-one countries or areas across the globe were also projected to record a population decrease by at least 1 percent over the next three decades, as a result of sustained low levels of fertility and, in some cases, elevated rates of emigration.
“In most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in parts of Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, recent reductions in fertility have led to a demographic dividend, with a rise in the share of the working age population (25 to 64 years), providing an opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita,” the report noted.
John Wilmoth, director of the population division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), in his remarks on fertility control measures by some governments to curb overpopulation, noted that further actions by governments aimed at reducing fertility would have little impact on the pace of population growth between now and mid-century, because of the youthful age structure of today’s global population.
“Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of lower fertility, if maintained over several decades, could be a more substantial deceleration of global population growth in the second half of the century,” Wilmoth added.
To make the most of the opportunities of the projected population growth, the UN charged countries to invest in the further development of their human capital, by ensuring access to health care and quality education at all ages, and by promoting opportunities for productive employment and decent work.
The report further argued that achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those related to health, education and gender equality, will contribute to reducing fertility levels and slowing global population growth.