World population growing at slower pace, UN report says

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According to the United Nations, this striking mark in the world population will reach eight billion people around November 15 this year. Nonetheless, the number of people on our planet is growing slowly. By 2080, it is forecast to stop growing at 10.4 billion people by then, as the United Nations writes in a report for World Population Day on July 11.

John Wilmoth, director of the UN Population Division, has many opportunities in global development – despite all the regional differences – especially for developing countries. In addition to the fight against poverty and hunger, this is particularly true of education: Fewer offspring increase the attention per child, Wilmoth told Deutsche Presse-Agentur. The flip side of lower birth rates is that the population is getting older, and a more significant proportion is reaching an age when it is dependent on assistance. Effective because life expectancy will also increase: From 72.8 in 2019 to 77.2 in 2050, according to UN estimates.

Particular attention to global development is likely to be paid to the world’s most populous regions:

China: the world’s (still) most populous country, faces enormous challenges. Last year alone, more than ten million babies were born in the People’s Republic. This number sounds considerable, but it is too low to keep the population of 1.4 billion people stable in the long term. China is aging rapidly as the “one-child policy” effects pursued for decades become more noticeable. The lifting of the controversial restriction had only briefly led to a slight increase in births in 2016. But the number has continued to fall every year since then.

Experts explain the low number of new births by saying that couples, who generally grew up as single children themselves, would consider it normal to have only one child. High costs for housing, education, health, and the dwindling willingness to marry are also cited as reasons for the low birth rate. According to predictions, the billion-strong population will likely start shrinking in a few years – probably even sooner than has long been assumed.

India: South Asia is officially the second-most populous country in the world, with more than 1.3 billion people living there – around one-sixth of humanity. And India’s relatively young population is still expected to grow, overtaking China in 2023, according to a new UN report.

But the birth rate in India is also declining: for some time now, according to official figures, Indian women have had an average of only two children in their lifetime – around ten percent fewer than comparable figures five years earlier and less than the reproduction rate of 2.1 needed for a stable population. According to the statistics, approximately two-thirds of couples now use contraception, whereas only one in two did so five years ago.

Since the population is still very young, it will continue to grow despite lower birth rates, experts say. As recently as the 1960s, a woman in India gave birth to an average of around six children. Many feared an explosion in population growth and consequent problems with food production, among other things.

The African continent: No part of the world will grow as much in the foreseeable future as Africa, which is largely underdeveloped. According to the German Foundation for World Population, around 1.4 billion people live on the continent. And the number is growing: by 2050, the population will increase to approximately 2.5 billion.

By the end of the century, Africa will be home to around three times as many people as it is today, just under 4.3 billion – about 40 percent of the world’s population. The biggest drivers are ten countries in particular, which will account for more than half of all newborns in 2050: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Algeria, and Sudan. However, the global trend of slowing growth will also impact Africa, with the population growth rate estimated at 0.6 percent in 2100.

The outlook: In the meantime, more and more high-income countries – like Japan already today – will undergo negative population development. For a stable growth rate, countries like Germany must rely on migration. The UN advises in the report, “All countries, whether experiencing a net inflow or outflow of migrants, should take steps to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration.”

In its outlook, the United Nations looks ahead to the year 2100 – a particular turning point in world history, according to current projections: the total population is expected to shrink then. According to Wilmoth, however, the information about a development 80 years from now should be taken with a grain of salt. “For the next 30 or 40 years, we know what’s going to happen to the population of individual countries and globally. But beyond that, you start looking two or three generations into the future. In that time frame, there’s a lot more uncertainty.”

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