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UN projects world population at nearly 10 billion by 2050

A new United Nations report says people over

A new United Nations report says people over 65 are the world's fastest-growing age group. Credit: Linda Rosier

UNITED NATIONS — Despite a declining global fertility rate, the planet's population will hit nearly 10 billion in 30 years, with people over 65 the fastest-growing age group and India on track to edge out China as the world’s most populous nation by 2027.

Those are some of the key findings released Monday in a United Nations agency projection that highlighted world population trends.

Perhaps the most eye-opening factoid in World Population Prospects 2019 was the prediction that while there are 7.7 billion people on Earth now, there will be 9.7 billion by 2050 — and up to 10.9 billion in 2100.

“The population data being released today by the United Nations provide essential information about the world’s people,” said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, assistant secretary-general for policy coordination and interagency affairs at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which prepared the 40-page report.

“How many we are, how long we live, how many children we have and so forth — these data show the progress we’ve made in some aspects of sustainable development while also highlighting the need for further improvement," Spatolisano said. "These data remind us of the demographic megatrends.”

Researchers identified three components of population change: fertility, mortality and international migration, Spatolisano said at a news conference in Manhattan with John Wilmoth, director of DESA’s population division and Patrick Gerland, chief of the Population Estimates and Projections Section of the UN department's population division.

The report notes that global population growth is declining, dropping from a rate of 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 in 2019. What’s more, that number is projected to drop to 2.2 births per woman by 2050.

“The populations of 55 countries or areas are projected to decrease by 1 percent or more between 2019 and 2050,” the report said, citing low fertility and high emigration, with countries such as Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine posting relative reductions of 20 percent or more.

At the same time, sub-Saharan Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050 and account for about one billion more people. As many as 47 countries that UN officials deem “least developed” are the fastest growing nations.

The report noted that such spikes in population pose “challenges” for sustainable development, the global UN-driven set of 17 goals to reduce poverty, hunger, inequality and access to clean drinking water, among others, by the year 2030.

Nine countries in Africa and Asia — but also the United States — are responsible for half of the projected population growth, the report said. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania and the United States will harbor more than half of the two billion new inhabitants.

Seniors are outpacing their younger counterparts, too, the report said. As many as one in every six people will be over 65 by 2050 — up from one in every 11 people in 2019. In fact, 2018 marked the first time in history that people 65 and over outnumbered children aged 5 or under.

“Projections indicate that by 2050 there will be more than twice as many persons above 65 as children under five,” the report said.

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