Six Things to Know About the UN’s 2015 Population Projections

August 31, 2015

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Last month the United Nations released its twenty-fourth round of official population estimates and projections. As expected, the organization concluded that the world population is still growing…and fast. Below we’ve listed our takeaways from the 2015 revision of World Population Prospects.

1. The world population continues to grow at a rapid rate: According to the medium-fertility projection, the global population is expected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100. Most of the projected growth will occur in the least developed countries, almost all in sub-Saharan Africa.

2. India will surpass China as the largest country in the world: India’s population is expected to surpass that of China by the year 2022. Each of the two countries already has more than 1.3 billion people, and collectively make up more than a third of the world population.

3. The fastest population growth will take place in Africa: Between 2015 and 2050, Africa is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth, and the populations of 28 African countries are projected to more than double. By 2100, ten African countries are projected to increase by at least five-fold: Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia.

4. Future population growth is highly dependent on fertility rates: The smallest change in fertility behavior can generate large differences in total population when projected over decades. In recent years, fertility has decreased in most parts of the globe (even in Africa, where fertility levels remain the highest in the world).

5. Life expectancy and under-5 mortality have improved in the least developed countries: Among the world’s poorest countries, the gain in life expectancy—from 51 years in 2000-2005 to 54 years in 2010-2015—is nearly double the increase for the rest of the globe. This is largely due to significant progress in reducing under-five mortality, which has fallen by more than 31 percent.

6. There’s a good opportunity for many countries to achieve a demographic dividend: Populations in many parts of the world remain young. In Africa, for instance, children under 15 make up 41 percent of the population and those between the ages of 15 and 24 account for an additional 19 percent. These youth can help bring about economic and social progress in their countries, but, to do that, they need adequate education, employment, and health care (including reproductive health care).

While many Western countries are experiencing a reduction in their fertility rates, a significant decrease in the overall, worldwide fertility rate must occur if our global population is to not surpass the UN’s medium projection of 11.2 billion people by the year 2100.

The most effective way to achieve this reduction is for governments and donor agencies to invest in reproductive health care and voluntary family planning worldwide. Doing this would not only empower women everywhere (and propel economic and social development), but it would ensure that we don’t stretch the Earth’s resources beyond their natural limits.

Please click here to tell the U.S. Congress to make a real investment of $1 billion annually to family planning. Because our planet and its inhabitants are worth it.

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