World population has grown by less than 1 percent a year for the first time since the end of World War II in 2020 and 2021, according to a UN report, with Europe’s total population actually shrinking during the coronavirus pandemic.
population Birth rates in 61 countries are projected to fall by at least 1 percent between 2022 and 2050, and the associated low birth rates will also be coupled with better health care, accelerating the aging of societies.
These figures were published in the United Nations World Population Prospects report. António GuterresSecretary-General of the United Nations, focused on health benefits rather than declining birth rates, and hailed “health advances that have increased life expectancy and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality.”
However, the rising proportion of older people in many countries is projected to hurt economic growth and public finances, and is already creating growing political challenges.
Despite slowing growth, the world’s population is still poised to hit the 8 billion milestone this year, and India is projected to surpass China as the most populous country next year. The world population is expected to peak in the 2080s at 10.4 billion and then begin to decline – the first decline projected in the UN’s annual report.
Europe’s population fell by 744,000 people in 2020 and by 1.4 million last year — the biggest drop on any continent since records began in 1950, reflecting a spike in deaths, declining births and a decline in net migration associated with the pandemic.
However, the pandemic “is not the main factor,” said John Wilmot, director of the population division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. According to him, the birth rate “in almost all European countries has been quite low for many decades, which means that there are not so many young people.”
Europe’s population is expected to continue to decline until 2100, with Germany and other countries joining the trend already established in Eastern and Southern European countries such as Poland and Italy.
Two-thirds of the world’s citizens live in a country with a fertility rate of less than 2.1 births per woman, about the level needed to keep the population stable with a low death rate.
In countries with declining populations, “unless there is a productivity miracle, overall economic growth will fall,” said Charles Goodhart, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics and co-author of the study. Great demographic upheaval.
In Asia, Japan’s population has been declining since 2010, South Korea’s in 2020, and China is projected to do the same this year. China’s population is projected to decline by about 6 million people a year in the mid-2040s and 12 million people a year by the end of the 2050s – the largest decline in the world on record.
“If you look at the world map of the countries that are going to be depopulated, you will see that it basically starts in Central Europe and goes east to Japan through Russia and China,” Wilmot said.
Africa has overtaken Asia in 2020 as the main contributor to population growth. The UN says more than half of projected growth through 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries, mostly in Africa, whose rapid growth threatens their development goals. By mid-century, Nigeria is projected to be as densely populated as the United States, closing the current gap of 121 million people between countries.
According to Goodhart, more production “can and should” move to Africa “because the alternative of mass emigration to other countries where the population is declining is not politically viable.”
“The country’s economic development is primarily affected by the aging and shrinking working-age population,” said Martina Lizarasso Lopez of the German think tank Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Increasing productivity, automation and longer working lives can help reduce the impact of an aging population, experts say.
In 2030, there will be more than 1 billion people over the age of 65 worldwide, with 210 million over the age of 80, roughly double the number in 2010. Older people already make up about a quarter of the population in many countries, including Japan, Italy and Germany.
Joshua Wilde, a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, said that if the birth rate drops to a level where the population is declining, “that’s actually great, because you have a higher proportion of the population in working-age groups.” But “in the long run,” he pointed out, “all those workers who drive per capita income growth will retire, they’ll need pensions, they’ll need health care.”