UNITED NATIONS, Jul 11 2022 (IPS) – India and China, two Asian nuclear powers who are also longstanding rivals embroiled in the geo-politics of the Indian Ocean region, have remained two of the world’s most populous nations accounting for over a billion people each.
But as the world’s population reaches the 8.0 billion mark, come November, India is projected to surpass China.
The current numbers stand at 1.44 billion people in China and 1.39 billion in India. But the numbers are expected to change as India races ahead of China. The US ranks third with over 335 million people. By the end of last yar, the world’s total population was approximately 7.9 billion.
According to a report in the New York Times July 9, China is going through a “demographic crisis”. With abortion and reproductive health heavily centered on the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP now wants women to have multiple children abandoning the country’s longstanding one-child policy.
“With China’s birth rate at a historical low, officials have been doling out tax and housing credits, educational benefits and even cash incentives to encourage women to have more children”.
“Yet the perks are available only to married couples, a pre-requisite that is increasingly unappealing to independent women, who in some cases prefer to parent alone.” the Times said.
Currently, about 61 per cent of the global population lives in Asia (4.7 billion), 17 per cent in Africa (1.3 billion), 10 per cent in Europe (750 million), 8 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean (650 million), and the remaining 5 per cent in Northern America (370 million) and Oceania (43 million).
According to World Population Prospects 2022, released July 11, the global population is growing at its slowest rate since 1950, having fallen under 1.0 per cent in 2020.
The latest projections by the United Nations suggest that the world’s population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050. It is projected to reach a peak of around 10.4 billion people during the 2080s and to remain at that level until 2100.
More than half of the projected increase in the global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania, said the report released by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
And countries of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to contribute more than half of the increase anticipated through 2050.
John Wilmoth, Director, Population Division of the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, told IPS between 2022 and 2050, the population of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to almost double, surpassing 2 billion inhabitants by the late 2040s.
“Today, fertility in sub-Saharan Africa is still high, with 4.6 births per woman on average. By 2050, the average fertility level in the region is projected to remain close to 3 births per woman”.
Coupled with decreasing mortality rates, he said, this comparatively high level of fertility will fuel continuing population increase.
Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to account for more than half of the growth of the world’s population between 2022 and 2050.
In 2022, the population of this region was growing at a rate of 2.5 per cent per year, the highest among major regions and more than three times the global average of 0.8 per cent per year, declared Wilmoth.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this year’s World Population Day falls during a milestone year, when we anticipate the birth of the Earth’s eight billionth inhabitant.
“This is an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity, and marvel at advancements in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates,” he added.
“At the same time, it is a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another,” he added.
According to the UN, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all three components of population change.
Global life expectancy at birth fell to 71.0 years in 2021. In some countries, successive waves of the pandemic may have produced short-term reductions in numbers of pregnancies and births, while for many other countries, there is little evidence of an impact on fertility levels or trends.
The pandemic severely restricted all forms of human mobility, including international migration while it also affected all three components of population change.
Asked about the impact of the three-year-long pandemic, Joseph Chamie, a consulting demographer and former director of the United Nations Population Division, told IPS: “Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted population growth by increased mortality, reduced fertility in many countries, and lower levels of international migration.
Nevertheless, he pointed out, world population is continuing to grow at close to 1.0 percent annually. Even with the pandemic, world population grew by nearly 80 million per year, he said.
Asked about the impact of the recent US supreme court decision to declare abortion illegal in the US, Chamie said: the Supreme Court decision, striking down the 50-year constitutional right of a women to have an abortion, will have an impact on the births for many women in the United States.
As a result of the court’s decision, the US has become a patchwork of abortion laws with a myriad of enforcement regulations, further legal challenges, and the large majority Americans objecting to the decision.
Despite the Supreme Court’s abortion decision, the US fertility rate, which was 1.64 births per woman in 2020, is likely to remain below the replacement level for the foreseeable future, said Chamie, author of numerous publications on population issues, including his book, “Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters
Chamie also said the growth of world population during the 20th and 21st centuries is absolutely historic and unprecedented.
In less than a century, world population quadrupled, increasing from 2 billion in 1927 to 8 billion in 2022, a growth not likely to occur in the future.
The second half of the 20th century had world population’s highest rate of annual growth of 2.1 percent in the late 1960s and the highest annual increase of 93 million in the late 1980s.
In comparison, today’s growth rate is slightly less than 1 percent and the annual increase is nearly 80 million, he noted.
World population is expected to increase by 25 percent, an additional 2,000,000,000 people, reaching 10 billion by around midcentury.
He also warned that the growth of world population is seriously challenging efforts to address climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, and pollution.
Whenever climate change is discussed, written about, or mentioned, the demographic growth of nations can no longer be ignored or dismissed by governments.
The planet with 8 billion humans and continuing to grow must be seriously addressed in climate change negotiations.
The stabilization of human populations is essential for limiting the ever-increasing demographic created demands for energy, water, food, land, resources, housing, heating/cooling, transportation, material goods, etc. (See IPS article: “Climate Change and 8 Billion Humans”
IPS UN Bureau Report