The newly released report – The World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights – by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) produces many projections.
There is good news: Population growth is slowing, and it is expected to come to almost a standstill. Now, the average number of births per woman is 2.5, but by 2050, it is projected to drop to 2.2, putting the world on the brink of population decline. A rate of 2.1 births per woman is considered to be barely enough to sustain the population, which is expected to reach its maximum by the end of the century at 11 billion. The lower number of births per woman will hit hardest 55 countries that are set to see their populations decline by at least one percent. The bad news is that most of the fastest growing populations are in the poorest countries.
- The world’s population continues to grow, albeit at a slower pace than at any time since 1950, owing to reduced levels of fertility. From an estimated 7.7 billion people worldwide in 2019, the medium-variant projection indicates that the global population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 10.9 billion in 2100.
- With a projected addition of over one billion people, countries of sub-Saharan Africa could account for more than half of the growth of the world’s population between 2019 and 2050, and the region’s population is projected to continue growing through the end of the century. By contrast, populations in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, Central and Southern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Northern America are projected to reach peak population size and to begin to decline before the end of this century.
- Two-thirds of the projected growth of the global population through 2050 will be driven by current age structures and would occur even if childbearing in high-fertility countries today were to fall immediately to around two births per woman over a lifetime. This is true because the large population of children and youth in such countries will reach reproductive age over the next few decades and begin to have children of their own.
- The 47 least developed countries are among the world’s fastest growing – many are projected to double in population between 2019 and 2050 – putting pressure on already strained resources.
For many countries or areas the challenges to achieving sustainable development are compounded by their vulnerability to climate change, climate variability and sea-level rise.
- More than half of the projected increase in the global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in just nine countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the United States of America. Disparate population growth rates among the world’s largest countries will re-order their ranking by size: for example, India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country around 2027.
- The populations of 55 countries or areas are projected to decrease by one per cent or more between 2019 and 2050 because of sustained low levels of fertility, and, in some places, high rates of emigration. The largest relative reductions in population size over that period, with losses of around 20 per cent or more, are expected in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and the Wallis and Futuna Islands.
- In most of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in parts of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, recent reductions in fertility mean that the population at working ages (25 to 64 years) is growing faster than in other age groups, providing an opportunity for accelerated economic growth known as the “demographic dividend”.
- In 2018, for the first time in history, persons aged 65 years or over worldwide outnumbered children under age five. Projections indicate that by 2050 there will be more than twice as many persons above 65 as children under five. By 2050, the number of persons aged 65 years or over globally will also surpass the number of adolescents and youth aged 15 to 24 years.
Trends in population size and age structure are shaped mostly by levels of fertility and mortality, which have declined almost universally around the globe. In some countries, international migration also has become an important determinant of population change.
- Total fertility has fallen markedly over recent decades in many countries, such that today close to half of all people globally live in a country or area where lifetime fertility is below 2.1 live births per woman, which is roughly the level required for populations with low mortality to have a growth rate of zero in the long run. In 2019, fertility remains above this level, on average, in sub-Saharan Africa (4.6 live births per woman), Oceania excluding Australia and New Zealand (3.4), Northern Africa and Western Asia (2.9), and Central and Southern Asia (2.4).
- Some countries, including several in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, continue to experience high levels of adolescent fertility, with potentially adverse health and social consequences for both the young women and their children. Between 2015 and 2020, an estimated 62 million babies will be born to mothers aged 15-19 years worldwide.
- Life expectancy at birth for the world’s population reached 72.6 years in 2019, an improvement of more than 8 years since 1990. Further improvements in survival are projected to result in an average length of life globally of around 77.1 years in 2050.
- While considerable progress has been made towards closing the longevity differential between countries, the gaps remain wide. Life expectancy in the least developed countries lags 7.4 years behind the global average, due largely to persistently high levels of child and maternal mortality and, in some countries, to violence and conflicts or the continuing impact of the HIV epidemic.
- In some parts of the world, international migration has become a major component of population change. Between 2010 and 2020, 36 countries or areas are experiencing a net inflow of more than 200 thousand migrants; in 14 of those, the total net inflow is expected to exceed 1 million people over the decade. For several of the top receiving countries, including Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, large increases in the number of international migrants have been driven mostly by refugee movements, in particular from Syria.
- It is estimated that ten countries are experiencing a net outflow of more than 1 million migrants between 2010 and 2020. For many of these, losses of population due to migration are dominated by temporary labour movements, such as for Bangladesh (net outflow of -4.2 million during 2010-2020), Nepal (-1.8 million) and the Philippines (-1.2 million). In others, including Syria (-7.5 million), Venezuela (-3.7 million), and Myanmar (-1.3 million), insecurity and conflict have driven the net outflow of migrants over the decade. Societies can adapt to demographic realities by anticipating future trends and incorporating that information into policies and planning.
- Countries where fertility levels remain high should prepare to meet the needs of growing numbers of children and young people. Countries where a decline in fertility is creating an opportunity for a demographic dividend need to invest in human capital by ensuring access to health care and education at all ages and opportunities for productive employment. Countries with ageing populations should take steps to adapt public programmes to the growing proportion of older persons. All countries should take steps to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration for the benefit of all.
As always it is incumbent upon socialists to point out the fact that powerful political forces have been spreading a myth for years that the world is overpopulated. The overpopulation myths are handy for the exploiters, giving them a "scientific" excuse for the misery they cause so they can enjoy their blood-money without remorse.
There are starving people in the world. However, it is not because the earth cannot produce enough food for them, but because there is a problem getting the food to the people. The fact that people not having access to food in some countries does not mean the food is not available or that it is impossible to feed all of them. In fact, food production has exceeded population growth and better farming techniques have allowed producers to produce more food on less land.
Of all the myths about Africa prevailing in the West, none is propagated with more vigour and regularity than the notion that overpopulation is a central cause of African poverty. Each new famine has given propagators of this myth fresh ammunition. Indeed, in many African regions, the problem is underpopulation: The people are so thinly spread over large areas that it is often difficult to create a meaningful infrastructure to promote the interaction crucial to development. Africa's average population density is only 16 per square kilometer, against China's 100 per square kilometer and India's 225. In fact, Africa has only one-fifth the population density of Europe. Furthermore, Africa has more arable land per capita than any other developing region. Africans point to the case of India, condemned by many experts in the 1960s to perpetual hunger. Today India is producing the bulk of its own food.
In a socialist society humanity will for the first time be truly free and living according to natural principles, it will consciously direct its own development. Mankind will act consciously and according to a plan and to the whims of the market economy. With socialism overpopulation will not be an issue. The solution to the population “problem” is to overthrow capitalism for if production is geared to the needs of the people and not to filling the coffers of a few capitalists and their corporations there will be no population problem. It is not people who are “polluting” the world with their numbers but Big Business.