The global population will add 2 billion in the next three decades, closing in on the 10-billion milestone by 2050, the UN said. India, projected to overtake China, will lead the charge.
A newly released report by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) titled ‘The World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights’ estimates that a mind-boggling 9.7 billion people will inhabit the Earth by 2050, an increase of two billion from now.
Nine countries are projected to be responsible for over the half of that surge. Leading the way is India, which is projected to add 273 million to its already massive 1.37 billion population and overtake China, whose population is expected to shrink by 31.4 million between 2019 and 2050. China’s population will continue to dwindle and is set to reach 1.1 billion by 2100, while India is expected to have 1.4 billion inhabitants by that time.
Runner-up Nigeria is not lagging far behind, and is expected to add 200 million people by 2050. Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, and the US are the other seven countries that will be driving the world population growth in the next 30 years, according to the report.
But the biggest jump in population size will happen in sub-Saharan Africa, where it will grow two-fold by 2050, a development that might further strain the fragile social systems of the countries.
“Many of the fastest growing populations are in the poorest countries, where population growth brings additional challenges,” DESA Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin said in a press release Monday.
Although the figures are stunning, population growth is slowing and is expected to come to almost a standstill. At the moment, 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 pack is led by China and followed by other countries, many located in Eastern Europe or the Caribbean. Lithuania and Bulgaria will suffer the biggest decline, seeing their populations shrink by 23 percent by 2050. Latvia, with an estimated 22 percent decline, is followed by the Wallis and Futuna Islands (20 percent), and Ukraine (20 percent).
While researchers sound the alarm over the rapid population growth in the developing world, they also point to the growing number of people 65 and older that constitute an economic burden. While only one in 11 people is currently in this age group, by 2050, one in six will be 65 or older. In some regions, such as Asia, Latin America, and Northern Africa, the proportion of the elderly population is expected to double by 2050, the study notes.