World Population: 8.5 Billion by 2030, a 50 Percent Increase

Released exclusively from Washington, D.C.

Global population will increase during the next 35 years to around 8.5 billion people, with almost 90 percent of the increase occurring in developing countries, according to newly released World Bank projections.

The bulk of the increase in population will occur over the next two decades, with a billion people added approximately every 12 years. Most of this growth will be in cities and in areas of high environmental stress — for example, in coastal areas and river basins.

About 70 percent of the increase will occur in the very poorest developing countries, where the average person’s income is less than $2 per day .

The main concern of development experts is that this rapid population growth will impede efforts to raise global living standards, especially in poor countries.

“Who will feed and house these people? How will they be educated and employed?” asks Lewis T. Preston, President of the World Bank. “The task is daunting, but it can be accomplished.”

The new estimates, published in the World Bank report, World Population Projections 1994-1995, actually show somewhat slower growth rates than in earlier projections. But despite the lower rates, growth in absolute numbers is larger than ever — a result of the population momentum that comes from the high numbers of couples already of reproductive age and from rising global life expectancy. Momentum will ensure large increases in global population for several decades to come, the Bank says.

The Bank reports that declining fertility can slow and eventually stabilize population in poor countries. Fertility declines have already occurred in most of East Asia and Latin America. Even in some of the poorest countries of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where prospects for rapid declines appeared to be dim only a decade ago, fertility declines are under way. In Bangladesh, for example, fertility rates have declined from 7 births per woman in the mid-1970s to just over 4 births in the 1990s. In Kenya, the decline has been from more than 8 births some 20 years ago to closer to 5 births today.

The World Bank is working with other donors and borrower countries to slow rapid population growth in developing countries. Much of the Bank’s support for poverty reduction focuses on the same investments required for a broad approach to accelerating fertility decline. For example, almost $2 billion was committed last year for education — much of it targeted on keeping girls in school.

Over the past five years, the Bank has become one of the largest financiers of family planning and reproductive health services. There are now some 70 projects in the Bank’s portfolio that deal with these issues, representing more than $1 billion in Bank financing.

“The good news is that sound economic policies to promote sustained economic growth combined with investments in the social sector can break the vicious cycle of poverty and rapid population growth,” says Mr. Preston. “The solution to the problem can only come about when couples, mostly in developing countries, decide for themselves that smaller families are in their own best interest. The international community must help to create the conditions which encourage people to make that choice.”

Study after study finds that births decline when family planning, education and health care for women are available. “It is called empowering women,” adds Mr. Preston.

In Africa, for example, current fertility rates mean an average woman will have nearly six births during her reproductive years. Standard projections assume that fertility rates in the region will drop over the next 15 years to 4.5 births. That is the current rate in Zimbabwe, where early efforts to expand education and family planning services have already paid off.

Standard projections result in a more than doubling of Africa’s population over the next 35 years, from 720 million to 1.6 billion. If the fertility decline could be achieved in 10 rather than 15 years, the doubling time would be stretched to 55 years, giving the region more time to increase its economic base and adopt environmentally sustainable technologies, the Bank report notes.

Bank demographers warn, however, that there is no room for complacency, especially in the poorest regions of Africa and South Asia, where birth rates remain high and demographic momentum continues to build.

The World Bank says that action now — providing family planning and education — will have a major impact on the size of the world population in 2050 and beyond.

From 1995 to 2030, world population will grow slightly less than 50 percent, but the growth rates by continent vary widely:

  • Africa’s population will grow 116 percent, from 720 million in 1995 to 1.6 billion in 35 years.
  • Asia’s population will increase 47 percent, from 3.4 billion to 5.1 billion.
  • Central and South America will have a 51 percent population increase, from 475 million in 1995 to 715 million.
  • Oceania will increase its population by 36 percent, from 29 million to 39 million in the same time span.
  • North America will have a 24 percent population increase, from 295 million in 1995 to 368 million in this period.
  • Europe will have the lowest population increase –1 percent over the next 35 years, from 731 million to 742 million.

According to Bank estimates, the five fastest growing countries in the world over the next 35 years will be Oman — a 209 percent increase; Niger — 198 percent; Yemen — 187 percent; Ethiopia — 180 percent; and Angola — 175 percent. The Gaza Strip, already one of the most densely populated regions on the Earth, will grow by 208 percent.

Some countries with declining population from 1995 to 2030 will be:

  • Germany — 81.1 million to 73.5 million, down 9.4 percent.
  • Italy — 57.9 million to 53.2 million, down 8.1 percent.
  • Hungary — 10.2 million to 9.4 million, down 7.9 percent.
  • Spain — 39.1 million to 37.8 million, down 3.6 percent.
  • Belgium — 10.1 million to 9.8 million, down 2.7 percent.
  • Japan — 125.2 million to 122.2 million, down 2.4 percent.
  • Croatia — 4.8 million to 4.7 million, down 1.1 percent.
  • Portugal — 9.9 million to 9.8 million, down 0.8 percent.
  • Greece — 10.5 million to 10.4 million, down 0.1 percent.

Countries with almost no population change in the same time span: Romania (22.8 million); Denmark (5.2 million; Slovenia (2 million) and Estonia (1.5 million).

China is the most populous country in the world now with 1.2 billion people and will remain the population giant in 2030, with 1.5 billion people.

India is the second most populous country now — 934 million people. It will grow to 1.4 billion by 2030.

In 2030, the United States will remain the third most populous country with a population of 328 million, up from 263 million next year.

In 36 years, Indonesia will be the fourth largest country with a population of 274.7 million, increasing from 192.5 million in 1995.

Brazil will grow to 231.5 million people in 2030, making it the world’s fifth most populous country.

Besides fertility rates–how many children women give birth to in their lifetime — another key factor affecting the world and national population estimates is the average length of life. Worldwide, the average person can expect to live to 72 years by 2030. Now the average is 66 years, but life expectancy at birth varies widely by continent:

Life Expectancy at Birth (years)
 1990-19952025-2030
Africa5463
Central and South America7278
North America7782
Asia6573
Europe7479
Oceania7377

In 2030, the countries with the longest life expectancy will be Japan (82.8 years); Switzerland (82.6 years); Canada (82.2 years); Italy (82 years); Sweden and Iceland (81.9 years) U.S and France (81.8 years); Norway and Greece (81.7 years).

Population projections are used by the World Bank for a variety of purposes, including design of education projects, forecasting demand for health services, and planning for expansion of social security systems.

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