World Population Prospects 2022: Summary of Results - World (2023)

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Key messages

The world’s population continues to grow, but the pace of growth is slowing down

  • The world’s population is projected to reach 8 billion on 15 November 2022.

  • The latest projections by the United Nations suggest that the global population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100.

  • Population growth is caused in part by declining levels of mortality, as reflected in increased levels of life expectancy at birth. Globally, life expectancy reached 72.8 years in 2019, an increase of almost 9 years since 1990. Further reductions in mortality are projected to result in an average longevity of around 77.2 years globally in 2050.

  • Life expectancy at birth for women exceeded that for men by 5.4 years globally, with female and male life expectancies standing at 73.8 and 68.4, respectively. A female survival advantage is observed in all regions and countries, ranging from 7 years in Latin America and the Caribbean to 2.9 years in Australia and New Zealand.

  • Following a drop in mortality, population growth continues so long as fertility remains at high levels. When fertility begins to fall, the annual rate of growth starts to drop.

  • In 2021, the average fertility of the world’s population stood at 2.3 births per woman over a lifetime, having fallen from about 5 births per woman in 1950. Global fertility is projected to decline further to 2.1 births per woman by 2050.

  • In 2020, the global growth rate fell under 1 per cent per year for the first time since 1950. The world’s population is projected to reach a peak of around 10.4 billion people during the 2080s and to remain at that level until 2100.

  • Two-thirds of the projected increase in global population through 2050 will be driven by the momentum of past growth that is embedded in the youthful age structure of the current population. Such growth would occur even if childbearing in today's high-fertility countries were to fall immediately to around two births per woman.

  • Given that most population increase until 2050 will be driven by the momentum of past growth, further actions by Governments aimed at reducing fertility would do little to slow the pace of growth between now and mid-century, beyond the gradual slowdown indicated by the projections presented here. Nevertheless, the cumulative impact of such changes could contribute to a more substantial reduction of global population growth in the second half of the century.

  • Sustained high fertility and rapid population growth present challenges to the achievement of sustainable development. The necessity of educating growing numbers of children and young people, for example, draws resources away from efforts to improve the quality of education.

  • For countries with continuing high levels of fertility, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those related to health, education and gender, is likely to hasten the transition towards lower fertility and slower population growth.

Rates of population growth vary significantly across countries and regions

  • In 2022, the two most populous regions were both in Asia: Eastern and South-Eastern Asia with 2.3 billion people (29 per cent of the global population), and Central and Southern Asia with 2.1 billion (26 per cent). China and India, with more than 1.4 billion each, accounted for most of the population in these two regions.

  • More than half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania. Disparate growth rates among the world’s largest countries will re-order their ranking by size.

  • India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country during 2023.

  • Countries of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to continue growing through 2100 and to contribute more than half of the global population increase anticipated through 2050.

  • Whereas the populations of Australia and New Zealand, Northern Africa and Western Asia, and Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand) are expected to experience slower, but still positive, growth through the end of the century, the populations of Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, Central and Southern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Northern America are projected to reach their peak size and to begin to decline before 2100.

  • The 46 least developed countries (LDCs) are among the world’s fastest-growing. Many are projected to double in population between 2022 and 2050, putting additional pressure on resources and posing challenges to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • For many countries and areas, including some small island developing States (SIDS), the challenges posed by rapid growth are compounded by their vulnerability to climate change and sea-level rise.

Levels and patterns of fertility and mortality vary widely around the world

  • The gap in life expectancy at birth between certain groups of countries remains wide. In 2021, life expectancy in the least developed countries lagged 7.0 years behind the global average, due largely to persistently high levels of child and maternal mortality and, in some countries, to violence and conflict or to the continuing impact of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic.

  • In 2021, fertility levels high enough to sustain positive growth were found in sub-Saharan Africa (4.6 births per woman), Oceania excluding Australia and New Zealand (3.1), Northern Africa and Western Asia (2.8), and Central and Southern Asia (2.3).

  • Some countries, including several in sub-Saharan Africa and in Latin America and the Caribbean, continue to experience high levels of adolescent fertility, with potential adverse consequences for the health and well-being of both the young mothers and their children. In 2021, 13.3 million babies, or about 10 per cent of the total worldwide, were born to mothers under 20 years old.

The population of older persons is increasing both in numbers and as a share of the total

  • The share of the global population aged 65 years or above is projected to rise from 10 per cent in 2022 to 16 per cent in 2050.

  • By 2050, the number of persons aged 65 years or over worldwide is projected to be more than twice the number of children under age 5 and about the same as the number of children under age 12.

  • Whereas population growth at older ages is driven by lower mortality and increased survival, an upward shift in the population age distribution is caused by a sustained drop in the fertility level.

  • Because of the female advantage in life expectancy, women outnumber men at older ages in almost all populations. Globally, women comprised 55.7 per cent of persons aged 65 or older in 2022, and their share is projected to decline slightly to 54.5 per cent by 2050.

  • Countries with ageing populations should take steps to adapt public programmes to the growing proportion of older persons, including by improving the sustainability of social security and pension systems and by establishing universal health care and long-term care systems.

A sustained drop in fertility leads to an increased concentration of the population at working ages, creating an opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita

  • In most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in parts of Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, the share of population at working ages (between 25 and 64 years) has been increasing in recent years thanks to reductions in fertility. This shift in the age distribution provides a time-bound opportunity for accelerated economic growth known as the “demographic dividend”.

  • To maximize the potential benefits of a favourable age distribution, 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 employment and decent work.

More and more countries have begun to experience population decline

  • The populations of 61 countries or areas are projected to decrease by 1 per cent or more between 2022 and 2050, owing to sustained low levels of fertility and, in some cases, elevated rates of emigration.

  • Total fertility has fallen markedly in recent decades for many countries. Today, two-thirds of the global population lives in a country or area where fertility is below 2.1 births per woman, roughly the level required for zero growth in the long run for a population with low mortality.

  • Among countries with at least half a million people, the largest relative reductions in population size until 2050, with losses of 20 per cent or more, are expected to occur in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine.

International migration is having important impacts on population trends for some countries

  • In some parts of the world, international migration has become a major component of population change.

  • For high-income countries between 2000 and 2020, the contribution of international migration to population growth (net inflow of 80.5 million) exceeded the balance of births over deaths (66.2 million). Over the next few decades, migration will be the sole driver of population growth in high-income countries. By contrast, for the foreseeable future, population increase in low-income and lower-middle-income countries will continue to be driven by an excess of births over deaths.

  • Between 2010 and 2021, 40 countries or areas experienced a net inflow of more than 200,000 migrants each; in each of 17 of them, the net inflow over this period exceeded 1 million people. For several of the top receiving countries, including Jordan, Lebanon and Türkiye, high levels of immigration in this period were driven mostly by refugee movements, in particular from Syrian Arab Republic.

  • For 10 countries, the estimated net outflow of migrants exceeded 1 million over the period from 2010 through 2021. In many of these countries, the outflows were due to temporary labour movements, such as for Pakistan (net flow of -16.5 million), India (-3.5 million), Bangladesh (-2.9 million), Nepal (-1.6 million) and Sri Lanka (-1.0 million). In other countries, including Syrian Arab Republic (-4.6 million), Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) (-4.8 million) and Myanmar (-1.0 million), insecurity and conflict drove the outflow of migrants over this period.

  • All countries, whether experiencing net inflows or outflows of migrants, should take steps to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration, in accordance with SDG target 10.7.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all components of population change, including fertility, mortality and migration

  • Global life expectancy at birth fell to 71.0 years in 2021, down from 72.8 in 2019, due mostly to the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

  • The pandemic’s impact on life expectancy has varied across regions and countries. In Central and Southern Asia and in Latin America and the Caribbean, life expectancy at birth fell by almost three years between 2019 and 2021. By contrast, the combined population of Australia and New Zealand gained 1.2 years due to lower mortality risks during the pandemic for some causes of death. In some countries, the pandemic has been responsible for a significant reduction in life expectancy at birth. For Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Botswana, Lebanon, Mexico, Oman and the Russian Federation, estimates of life expectancy at birth declined by more than 4 years between 2019 and 2021.

  • Available evidence about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on fertility levels remains mixed. In low- and middle-income countries, the availability of and the demand for contraception, as well as reported numbers of unintended pregnancies and births, have remained relatively stable. In high-income countries, successive waves of the pandemic may have generated short-term fluctuations in numbers of pregnancies and births.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted all forms of human mobility, including international migration. The magnitude of the pandemic’s impact on migration trends is difficult to ascertain due to data limitations.

Population data provide critical information for use in development planning

  • The quality of population estimates and projections hinges on the collection of reliable and timely demographic data, including through civil registration and vital statistics systems, population censuses, population registers and household surveys.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many data collection operations worldwide. Countries and development partners should give priority to the ongoing 2020 round of national population censuses, as such data provide critical information to inform development planning and to assess progress towards the achievement of the SDGs.

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