World population to reach 9.8 billion in 2050

Some 83 million people being added to the population every year

World population to reach 9.8 billion in 2050

A view of passengers aboard trains connecting the suburbs of Kolkata, India | Image: UN Photo/Kibae Park

The world population is expected to soar in the next decade, according to the United Nations.

The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.

With roughly 83 million people being added to the global population every year, the upward trend is expected to continue - even assuming fertility levels continue to decline.

Source: United Nations

The report from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs includes some interesting findings.

Ireland's population will grow from just over 4.7 million - as of 2017 - to 5.2 million in 2030, 5.8 million by 2050 and peak at 6.38 million in 2100.

This would bring Ireland close to pre-Famine population levels.

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the Irish population stood at just over 6.5 million back in 1841.

The UN projections see China (with 1.4 billion inhabitants) and India (1.3 billion inhabitants) remain the two most populous countries, comprising 19 and 18% of the total global population.

In roughly seven years, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China.

Nigeria to surpass the US

Among the 10 largest countries worldwide, Nigeria is growing the most rapidly.

This will see the population of Nigeria, currently the world's 7th largest, projected to surpass that of the United States and become the third largest country in the world shortly before 2050.

The report also says that most of the global increase is from a small number of countries.

Source: United Nations

From 2017 to 2050, it is expected that half of the world’s population growth will be concentrated in just nine countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States of America, Uganda and Indonesia.

The group of 47 least developed countries (LDCs) continues to have a relatively high level of fertility, which was at 4.3 births per woman in 2010-2015.

As a result, the population of these countries has been growing rapidly, at around 2.4 % per year.

Although this rate of increase is expected to slow over the coming decades, the combined population of the LDCs is projected to increase by 33 % between 2017 and 2030, and to reach 1.9 billion persons in 2050.

Europe bucks the trend

Similarly, Africa continues to experience high rates of population growth. Between 2017 and 2050, the populations of 26 African countries are projected to expand to at least double their current size.

"The concentration of global population growth in the poorest countries presents a considerable challenge to governments in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which seeks to end poverty and hunger, expand and update health and education systems, achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, reduce inequality and ensure that no one is left behind", the UN says.

In recent years, fertility has declined in nearly all regions of the world - but Europe has been an exception to this trend.

Total fertility here has been increasing from 1.4 births per woman in 2000-2005 to 1.6 in 2010-2015.

More and more countries now have fertility rates below the level required for the replacement of successive generations (roughly 2.1 births per woman), and some have been in this situation for several decades.

During 2010-2015, fertility was below the replacement level in 83 countries - making up 46% of the world’s population.

The 10 most populous countries in this group are China, the United States of America, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Japan, Vietnam, Germany, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.

An ageing population

The report also points out that a reduction in fertility level results not only in a slower pace of population growth, but also in an older population.

Compared to 2017, the number of persons aged 60 or above is expected to more than double by 2050 and to more than triple by 2100 - rising from 962 million globally in 2017 to 2.1 billion in 2050 and 3.1 billion in 2100.

In Europe, 25% of the population is already aged 60 years or over. That proportion is projected to reach 35% in 2050, and to remain around that level in the second half of the century.

Source: United Nations

Globally, the number of persons aged 80 or over is projected to triple by 2050, from 137 million in 2017 to 425 million in 2050. By 2100 it is expected to increase to 909 million, nearly seven times its value in 2017.

And the report says substantial improvements in life expectancy have happened in recent years.

Globally, life expectancy at birth has risen from 65 years for men and 69 years for women in 2000-2005 to 69 years for men and 73 years for women in 2010-2015.

But there are large differences across countries.

The greatest gains were for Africa - where life expectancy rose by 6.6 years between 2000-2005 and 2010-2015, after rising by less than two years over the previous decade.