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A breakdown of the United nation’s world population prospects 2022 Report

Joseph J. Bish, MS Jul 14, 2022

The Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has issued its World Population Prospects 2022. You can find the datasets here and the Summary of Results here.

At a Glance

The newest medium variant dataset, considered the flagship of the multifaceted set of projections, now projects that global population will peak in the year 2086 at 10.4 billion people and start decreasing thereafter. This contrasts significantly with the 2019 projections, which saw global population continuing to increase through the year 2100 and reaching 10.8 billion people by that time. The 2022 projections also show a total global population in 2100 that is over half a billion smaller than the 2019 projections (10,875,394,000 vs 10,355,002,000).

The 2022 projections see a 332 million-person difference in total population by the time of the projected peak in 2086. In other words, the 2019 projections saw the world’s 2086 population at 10,763,874,000 while the 2022 projections see the 2086 global population at 10,431,046,000. This is a 3% difference. That may not sound like much on a percentage basis, but because of the enormity of the numbers in question, is roughly equivalent to the total population of the United States, circa 2022.

It may be relieving to imagine avoiding an additional 332 million in 2086, but on the other hand, even these relatively lower 2022 projections mean adding 7 times that amount (2.45 billion) by 2086. For reference, 2.45 billion people is equal to the total populations of South America, Latin America, and North America — plus every country in Europe.

Another surprise is that the UN has determined that global population will pass 8 billion on November 15 of this year – 2022! When the 2019 projections were issued, the 8 billion threshold appeared likely to occur in the first half of 2023. Interestingly, November 15 happens to occur during the International Family Planning Conference in Thailand.

A Closer Look

Here are some especially interesting points made in The Summary of Results:

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. (PMC notes: Global fertility remains 9.5% above replacement level, or the point at which population would stop growing once population momentum became neutral).

In 2020, the global growth rate fell under 1% per year for the first time since 1950. (PMC notes: A decrease in the growth is rate is certainly welcome. However, it is worth pointing out that in 1950 the growth rate of 1% was acting on a total population of only 2.5 billion people. This makes it important to understand the difference between growth rates and volumes of growth.)

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.

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. (PMC notes: Population Media Center currently has operations in Ethiopia and Nigeria. Previously, we have worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Philippines. Please support us with a donation to help us contribute to the transition towards lower fertility and slower population growth in these countries.)

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).

The relationship between population and sustainable development should be considered within the context of climate change and other global environmental challenges that have a direct impact on sustainable development. The growth of the population itself may not be the direct cause of environmental damage; it may nevertheless exacerbate the problem or accelerate the timing of its emergence, depending on the problem in question, the timeframe considered, the available technology and the demographic, social and economic context.