Recent declines in fertility have led to a “demographic dividend” in Latin America and the Caribbean as recent United Nations projections suggest that the world population could grow to about 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, before reaching a peak of about 10.4 billion people during the 2080s.
It is said that the population is expected to remain at that level until 2100.
The annual study, released on Monday to coincide with World Population Day (WPD), also notes that the world population is growing at the slowest pace since 1950, after falling to less than one percent in 2020.
Fertility, the report says, has declined markedly for many countries in recent decades: today, two-thirds of the world’s population lives in a country or area where lifelong fertility is below 2.1 births per woman, about the level required for zero growth in the long run, for a population with low mortality.
In 61 countries or territories, the population is expected to decline by at least one percent over the next three decades, due to persistently low fertility levels and, in some cases, increased emigration rates.
The UN notes that in most sub-Saharan African countries, as well as in parts of Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, recent declines in fertility have led to a “demographic dividend”, with an increase in the share of the working age population (25 to 64 years), which provides an opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita.
The report argues that in order to make the most of this opportunity, countries need to invest in the further development of their human capital, by ensuring access to health care and quality education at all ages, and by promoting opportunities for productive work and decent work. .
It said achieving the UN’s goals for sustainable development, especially those related to health, education and gender equality, would contribute to reducing fertility levels and slowing global population growth.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an impact on population change: global life expectancy at birth dropped to 71 years in 2021, down from 72.9 in 2019 and in some countries successive waves of the pandemic could cause short-term reduction in number pregnancies and births.
“Further action by governments aimed at reducing fertility will have little impact on the rate of population growth between now and the middle of the century, due to the youthful age structure of today’s global population,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the UN Population Division. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
“Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of lower fertility, if maintained over several decades, could be a more significant slowdown in world population growth in the second half of the century.”
More than half of the projected increase in world population by 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 increase expected by 2050.
Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, warned that rapid population growth was making the eradication of poverty, the fight against hunger and malnutrition and increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult.
The world should expect to see much more gray hair by 2050: by that time, the number of people aged 65 or older worldwide is expected to be more than twice the number of children under the age of five, and about the same as the number under the age of 12.
Further reductions in deaths are expected to result in an average global longevity of approximately 77.2 years in 2050. Yet, in 2021, life expectancy for the least developed countries remained seven years behind the world average.
The report recommends that countries with aging populations take steps to adapt public programs to the growing numbers of older people, establish universal health and long-term care systems, and by improving the sustainability of social security and pension systems.
“This year’s World Population Day falls during a milestone year, when we expect the birth of the Earth’s eight billionth inhabitant,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in response to the report’s findings.
It is an opportunity to celebrate our diversity, to acknowledge our common humanity and to marvel at advances in health that have extended life expectancy and dramatically reduced the mortality rates for mothers and children, ”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 obligations to each other.”
Guterres called on countries to protect human rights and the ability of all individuals to make informed choices about whether and when to have children.
In his message in celebration of World Population Day, the UN Secretary-General said, “we are still living in a world of great gender inequality – and we are witnessing renewed assaults on women’s rights, including on essential health services”.