World Population Awareness


This Amazing Map Shows Where Most of Humanity Lives

   January 21, 2016, Washington Post   By: Ishaan Tharoor

Click on the map to zoom and to see the article.

The map shows the distribution of the world's population. Half of humanity lives in the black space and the other half in the yellow. It's a stunning illustration of the degree to which people are concentrated in certain urban centers, particularly in Asia, where the majority of the global population lives.

Produced by Max Galka, the map was generated using statistics compiled by a NASA research unit with data which divides the world into about 30 million tiny boxes, each one roughly 3 miles by 3 miles in size. "For each box, the data provides estimate for the number of people living inside it."

The yellow region in the map reflects every cell that has a population of 8,000 or more people; the black reflects those with fewer than 8,000 people.

You can zoom in on the map to see a starker glimpse of the population density of certain areas. doclink

Population Growth in Africa: Grasping the Scale of the Challenge

While population growth slows in the rest of the world, it continues to rise in Africa. What are the implications? Isn’t it Europe that is overpopulated, rather than Africa?
   January 11, 2016, Guardian   By: Joseph J Bish

This article argues that resources normally given to infrastructure and education will have to be spent on people, as the African population explodes.

By the year 2050, African population growth would be able to re-fill an empty London five times a year.

Of the 2.37 billion increase in population expected worldwide by 2050, Africa alone will contribute 54%. According to some statistics, Nigeria will add more people to the world's population by 2050 than any other country.

The dynamics at play are straightforward. Public health is getting better. The 12 million Africans born in 1955 could expect to live only until the age of 37. Encouragingly, the 42 million Africans born this year can expect to live to the age of 60.

Meanwhile, another key demographic variable - the total fertility rate.

In Niger, where GDP per capita is less than $1 per day, the average number of children a woman is likely to have in her life is more than seven. If fertility does not fall at all - and it has not budged in the last 60 years - the country's population projection for 2100 veers towards 960 million people.

What has caught demographers off-guard is that African fertility has not fallen as expected. Precipitous declines in fertility in Asia and Latin America, from five children per woman in the 1970s to around 2.5 today, led many to believe Africa would follow a similar pattern.

Unfortunately, since the early 1990s, family planning programmes in Africa have resulted in slow, sometimes negligible, fertility declines. In a handful of countries, previous declines have stalled altogether and are reversing.

These dynamics create the opposite of a virtuous cycle. Rapid population growth helps overburden educational systems. Infrastructure is also compromised, with congested highways and stratospheric housing costs. The reality is that as the size of any populace expands, governments must keep apace.

Failure to do so results in a drop in per capita living standards.

Education an infrastructure are highly important to any country's development. With a burgeoning population, this is more difficult.

There are some signs of success, such as Family Planning 2020. Recent figures from Kenya and Zambia show substantial strengthening of contraceptive use among married women. In Kenya, 58% of married women now use modern contraception, and in Zambia this measure has risen from 33% to 45% in the last three years.

In both cases, the catalysts for improvements were government commitment and commensurate budget financing. The virtuous circle may not be completely out of reach, but it is attainable. doclink

World Population Dashboard

   January 1, 2016, UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund

This is a quick reference guide which gives one most of the needed information as to the state of the world from a human perspective. It is broken down into the Population, Maternal and Newborn Health, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Education, Fertility and finally, Life Expectancy categories. It has some interesting statistics, arrayed in an easy to digest way.

For example, Iran, which we tend to think of as an Islamic country with strong government controls, has a significantly high rate of contraceptive use. So does the USA, but we forever hear story after story about how difficult it is to get contraceptives, especially if you are poor and live in the South. Does the availability of easy to obtain contraceptives in places such as Minnesota, Vermont, Washington and Oregon annul the unavailability of contraceptives in Texas?

When it comes to life expectancy, Northern Europe, Canada and Japan are on top, but the USA is a bit behind.

As for education, while most of Northern Europe sees to it that its children receive adequate schooling, it is once again the USA that lags. In fact, this chart, or series of graphics of the world with countries listing different tones and colors, could be seen as a clarion call for the USA to "get a grip," as some of us would say.

As for fertility, Afghanistan and Pakistan show relatively high levels of fertility, but neighboring Iran has a very low level. Perhaps that is behind the government's reason to increase family size as a national policy.

In all, a very useful "Dashboard," thanks to the United Nations Population Fund. doclink

World Population Data 2015

Focus on Women's Empowerment
   Population Reference Bureau

Every year, Population Reference Bureau (PRB) provides the latest demographic data for the world, global regions, and more than 200 countries. This year's data include indicators on the status of women in key areas such as education, employment, and government. Looking at the numbers across the world, we can get a picture of women's progress towards equality. doclink

India Will Be Most Populous Country Sooner Than Thought, U.N. Says

   July 29, 2015, New York Times   By: Rick Gladstone

The U.N. reported that India's population will probably surpass China's by 2022, not 2028, as it had forecast just two years earlier. In its 2015 revision report, the population division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs said China's population was now 1.38 billion, compared with 1.31 billion in India. But in seven years, the populations of both nations are expected to reach 1.4 billion. Thereafter, India's population is estimated to grow to 1.5 billion in 2030 and 1.7 billion in 2050, while China's is expected to remain fairly constant until the 2030s, when it is expected to slightly decrease.

Over all, the report said, the world's current population of 7.3 billion is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, slightly more than the 9.6 billion forecast two years ago. The number could reach 11.2 billion by the end of the century. Much of the overall increase between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa, or in countries with already large populations. Half the growth will occur in just nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the United States, Indonesia and Uganda. By contrast, the populations of 48 countries are expected to decline in that period, mainly in Europe, because of a slowdown in fertility rates that started decades ago. The report said several countries faced a population decline of more than 15% by 2050, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.

Among the 10 largest countries by population, one is in Africa (Nigeria), five are in Asia (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan), two are in Latin America (Brazil and Mexico) one is in North America (the United States), and one is in Europe (Russia). Among these, Nigeria's population, currently ranked seventh largest, is growing the fastest, and it is expected to surpass the U.S. population by 2050, making Nigeria's population the world's third largest.

Due to substantial improvements in life expectancy, the population revision report projected that he number of people 80 or older will more than triple by 2050 and increase more than sevenfold by 2100. In 2015, 28% of all people 80 and older live in Europe, but as the populations of other areas increase in size and grow older, that share is expected to decline to 16% in 2050 and to 9% by 2100. Globally, life expectancy has risen to 68 years for men and 73 years for women in 2010-15, from 65 years for men and 69 years for women in 2000-5. The highest levels of life expectancy in 2010-15 are in Hong Kong, followed by Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Singapore, Iceland, Spain, Australia and Israel. The report projects global life expectancy will rise from 70 years in 2010-15 to 77 years in 2045-50 and 83 years in 2095-2100. doclink

Still Growing: Latest World Population Projections

   July 29, 2015, Huffington Post   By: Robert Walker

Note: This article references the same U.N. revised population projection discussed in another article recently summarized on this site, so we will note only the highlight information.

Fifteen years ago, some demographers saw an end to world population growth, and some anticipated a global "birth dearth." But a new July estimate by the U.N.'s World Population Division shows world population growing faster than previously projected - reaching 9.7 billion by 2050 and 11.3 billion by 2100 (up from the recently published figures of 9.1 and 10.9 billion, respectively).

While fertility rates are mostly declining, child marriage customs in some developing countries steer millions of women into early and frequent child bearing. Fertility rates in these nations have not followed world trends and growth rates exceed the anticipated benchmarks. In fact, the populations of most developing countries are on course to double by 2050, with South Sudan, Niger, and Zambia possibly tripling in population by 2050. 33 developing nations are on course to triple their population by 2100. Spiraling growth will make it more difficult for these nations to address poverty, hunger, sanitation, water scarcity, environmental degradation, conflict, and other development challenges.

The Population Institute recently issued a report called "Demographic Vulnerability: Where population growth poses the greatest challenges." It identified and ranked 20 nations that face the greatest challenges with respect to hunger, poverty, water, environment and political instability. The report considered corruption, resource scarcity, climate change and other factors affecting a nation's ability to accommodate projected population growth. It ranked South Sudan as the world's most vulnerable nation, with Somalia, Niger, Burundi, Eritrea, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Yemen and Sudan in the top ten. Niger ranks #1 for poverty. The Population Reference Bureau predicts that in the next 35 years Niger's population will rise from 18.2 million to 68 million. Burundi ranks #1 on the Global Hunger Index. Its population is projected to increase from 10.5 million in 2014 to 26.7 million by 2050. Unless child marriage and related customs change in these nations, the path out of poverty will remain a daunting challenge.

Demographic projections predict but do not determine the future. The U.N.'s population report indicates that even relatively small reductions in fertility rates can significantly shrink the population projections for 2050 and 2100. doclink

Art says: Donation-supported NGOs sometimes tell us that less than half a billion women lack access to family planning, and they imply that if donors would help to close that gap the overpopulation problem would be solved. For a while U.N. population experts quoted the same statistics. Recent findings show that the solution is not that simple. Before many of the world's people will use family planning, they must first change the customs and religious values that shape their views on desired family size. In several nations or regions, westerners interested in aiding the change process face restrictions, threats and a genuine risk of death if they publicly advocate family planning.

The Amazing, Surprising, Africa-Driven Demographic Future of the Earth, in 9 Charts

   July 16, 2015, Washington Post   By: Max Fisher

The United Nations Population Division has dramatically revised its projections for the next 90 years. The new statistics, based on in-depth survey data from sub-Saharan Africa, tell the story of a world poised to change drastically over the next several decades. Most rich countries will shrink and age, poorer countries will expand rapidly and Africa will see a population explosion nearly unprecedented in human history.

Here is the story of the next 90 years as predicted by UN demographic data and explained in nine charts. The charts are interactive. Click on the link in the headline to see the charts.

In 2100 today's dominant, developed economies will be increasingly focused on supporting the elderly and Africa, for better or worse, will be more important than ever.

In Africa there will four times the workforce, four times the resource burden, four times as many voters. The rapid growth itself will likely transform political and social dynamics within African countries and thus their relationship with the rest of the world.

Nigeria will have almost a billion people by 2100 and will be within range of surpassing China in population. Nigeria is only about the area of Texas and the country is already troubled by corruption, poverty and religious conflict. The government that can barely serve its population right now. How will it respond when the demand on resources, social services, schools and roads increases by a factor of eight. The country's vast oil reserves could certainly help - the rapidly growing workforce could theoretically deliver an African miracle akin to, say, China's.

Right now, many African countries aren't particularly adept at either governance or resource management. If they don't improve, exploding population growth could only worsen resource competition -- and we're talking here about basics like food, water and electricity -- which in turn makes political instability and conflict more likely. The fact that there will be a "youth bulge" of young people makes that instability and conflict more likely.

Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in the world, went from 34 million people in 2000 to 45 million today. By 2100 it is projected to reach 276 million. Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have similar projections.

If Tanzania remains as poor and troubled as it is today, water and food resources will only get scarcer as it's divided among more and more people, as will whatever money the government makes exporting natural resources. That typically leads to instability and a higher risk of conflict. But if Tanzania puts its growing population to work building the economy, its future in 2100 could be promising.

The "dependency ratio" is the ratio of people under age 15 or over age 64 to the number of people age 15 to 64. The idea is that people who are very young or very old are dependent on others to provide for them. In Africa only 56% Africans are working-age, and the dependency ratio is 80%. That's a huge burden on society and a big contributor to poverty. But as the birth rate slows and those young dependents enter the work force, the dependency ratio is going to fall, dropping to 60% by 2055. There will be a lot of young men who could be employed, (creating a 'demographic dividend') but if resources are scarce, this can create political instability.

Europe, as it continues to shrink, will get the worst of the economic problems, with the average dependency ratio hitting an Africa-style 76% in 2055.

South America is expected to reach a deeply worrying 82% dependency ratio by 2100. Its population will rise until about 2050, at which point it will begin its own gradual population decline.

Asia's population growth, already slowing, is expected to peak about 50 years from now then start declining. Its dependency ratio, currently low, will stay low until it starts to rise around 2050.

In China, when the current generation retires, there will be a rapidly growing pool of retirees just as the workforce starts to shrink. Those aging retirees will be an enormous burden on the Chinese economy, which is just beginning to slow down.

North America continue to grow at a slow, sustainable rate, surpassing South America's overall population around 2070.

Because the United States can expect healthy, sustained growth, mostly due to immigration, it will continue to be a leader economically. Immigration helps the U.S. to do what very few other countries, including China, has yet figured out: how to be a rich country with a growing population. doclink

Art says: The article text concludes that population growth is the best assurance of economic growth. It never suggests that nearly doubling our existing population might have any bad consequences - only that some African nations might have adjustment problems due to population increases. It strongly advocates the dependency ratio theory which says that low fertility rates lead to economic decline.

However, the Washington Post author may not be representing the UN data correctly. His twist that dependency ratio is the major problem of concern when the population nearly doubles may not represent the views of UN demographers who gathered the data.

Karen says: The author seems to think that improved governance or resource management are going to be enough to overcome resource depletion, which, if you do the math, means that by 2100 the resources per person are going to be 1/8 of what they are today, unless something is done. This something has got to be very miraculous, such as pul