The world’s eight billionth person will be born today, according to projections by the United Nations Population Division.
The world’s population will reach eight billion – three times the size it was in 1950 – and although there will be more people on Earth than ever before because we are living longer, population growth is at its slowest rate for over 70 years.
In 2020, the world population growth rate fell below 1%. This is largely due to a reduced birth rate, women having fewer children due to widespread contraception, and better education and mobility for women and girls.
The world’s population is also aging – 10% are over 65, and this figure will rise to 16% by 2050.
By 2050, the number of over-65s will be double that of under-fives.
Where is it growing fastest?
The two fastest growing regions of the world are East and Southeast Asia, home to 2.3 billion people; and Central and South Asia, which has a population of 2.1 billion.
Currently, China and India are the most populous countries in the world, with 1.4 billion people each.
But according to UN projections, India will overtake China for the first time in 2023.
More than half of the projected increase in world population 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.
Sub-Saharan African countries are expected to contribute more than half of the projected increase through 2050.
The biggest increases in growth will come specifically from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, both of which will see their populations double over the next 30 years.
Elsewhere in Africa, the biggest growth spurts will occur in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt.
In Asia outside of India and China, the strongest growth will occur in Pakistan and the Philippines.
More generally, 46 of the world’s least developed countries will experience the fastest population growth by 2050.
Most of this growth (two-thirds) will be driven by what has already happened – and the youthful structure of the current population.
Where is the population decreasing?
The world’s population is growing more slowly than it has for decades due to long periods of low fertility.
More than two-thirds of people live in countries where women have 2.1 or fewer children.
This is roughly the level that would produce zero growth in the world.
Some 61 countries will see their populations decline by 1% or more by 2050, either due to falling birth rates or increasing levels of migration.
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COVID reduces life expectancy
Overall life expectancy has fallen from 72.8 years before the pandemic in 2019 to 71 years in 2021.
However, the impact of COVID was not the same for all regions.
Central and South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean have been hardest hit – with life expectancies falling by around three years.
But in Australia and New Zealand, which have both closed their borders and pursued a “zero COVID” policy for most of the pandemic, life expectancy has increased by 1.2 years due to a decrease the risk of dying from other causes during successive closures.
The coronavirus may have led to a short-term reduction in the number of pregnancies, but there is no evidence of an overall decline, UN experts have said.
The world’s population will continue to grow – reaching around 8.5 billion people by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050.
It will begin to peak at around 10.4 billion people in the 2080s and will remain at this level until 2100.
After that, trends are uncertain.
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Australia, New Zealand, the rest of Oceania, North Africa and Western Asia will continue to see their populations grow by the end of this century.
But the rest of the world, including Europe and North America, will have peaked and started to decline before the year 2100.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said of the eight billion milestone: “It’s a time to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity and marvel at the advances in health that have extended lifespan and significantly reduced maternal and infant mortality rates”.
But he added: “At the same time, it’s 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 each other.”