World population to top 9 billion by 2050

Posted: 19 May 2009

World population is projected to reach 7 billion early in 2012, up from the current 6.8 billion, and surpass 9 billion people by 2050, reveals the 2008 Revision of the official United Nations population estimates and projections.

In July 2009, the world population will reach 6.8 billion, 313 million more than in 2005 or a gain of 78 million persons annually. Assuming that fertility levels continue to decline, the world population is expected to reach 9.1 billion in 2050 and to be increasing by about 33 million persons annually at that time, according to the medium variant.

Young children, Ghana
Young children, Ghana
Young children, Ghana. Photo © Nancy Durrell McKenna
Most of the additional 2.3 billion people will enlarge the population of developing countries, which is projected to rise from 5.6 billion in 2009 to 7.9 billion in 2050, and will be distributed among the population aged 15-59 (1.2 billion) and 60 or over (1.1 billion) because the number of children under age 15 in developing countries will decrease.

In contrast, the population of the more developed regions is expected to change minimally, passing from 1.23 billion to 1.28 billion, and would have declined to 1.15 billion were it not for the projected net migration from developing to developed countries, which is projected to average2.4 million persons annually from 2009 to 2050.

The results of the 2008 Revision incorporate the findings of the most recent national population censuses and of numerous specialized population surveys carried out around the world. The 2008 Revision provides the demographic data and indicators to assess trends at the global, regional and national levels and to calculate many other key indicators commonly used by the United Nations system.

Under-five mortality
Under-five mortality
Under-five mortality for the world and selected regions, 1950-2050
Another recent UN report, World Population Policies 2007, says that many governments continue to be concerned about the consequences of excessive population growth for economic growth and sustainable development.

High population growth remains a salient concern in the developing world. Half of the developing countries viewed their population growth as too high in 2007 although rates of population growth in developing countries continue to decline, from an average annual rate of 2.4 per cent in 1970-1975 to 1.4 per cent in 2000-2005.

Among the 50 least developed countries, the percentage of countries that viewed population growth as too high rose from 50 per cent in 1986 to 78 per cent in 2007. Many developing countries have realized the importance of reducing high rates of population growth in order to ease mounting pressure on renewable and non-renewable resources, combat climate change, prevent food insufficiency and provide decent employment and basic social services to all their people.

Africa is the region with the highest percentage of countries viewing population growth as too high: 66 per cent of countries did so in 2007, up from 35 per cent in 1976. In Asia, which has experienced substantial declines in fertility, 45 per cent of countries viewed population growth as too high.