Revised UN estimates put world population at over 9 billion by 2050

11 March 2009
Hania Zlotnik

The world’s population will hit 7 billion early in 2012 and top 9 billion in 2050, with the majority of the increase taking place in developing countries, according to revised United Nations estimates released today.

“There have been no big changes for the recent estimates and we have not changed the assumptions for the future,” Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), told reporters in New York.

“We’re still projecting that by 2050 the population of the world will be around 9.1 billion,” she said, as she presented the 2008 Revision of the World Population Prospects.

The Revision also says that nine countries are expected to account for half of the world’s projected increase from 2010 to 2050: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, China and Bangladesh.

Ms. Zlotnik noted that current projections are based on the assumption that fertility is going to decline from the current global level of 2.5 children per woman to 2.1 children per woman from now until 2050.

The population of the 49 least developed countries (LDCs) is still the fastest growing in the world, at 2.3 per cent per year, according to a news release issued by the Population Division.

While the population of developing countries as a whole is projected to rise from 5.6 billion in 2009 to 7.9 billion in 2050, the population of more developed regions is expected to change minimally, passing from 1.23 billion to 1.28 billion.

The latter would have declined to 1.15 billion were it not for the projected net migration from developing to developed countries, which is expected to average 2.4 million persons annually from 2009 to 2050.

The UN adds that projected trends are contingent on fertility declines in developing countries. Without further reductions of fertility, the world population could increase by nearly twice as much as currently expected.

“It is going to be extremely important to continue funding and increasing the funding that has gone down for family planning because, if not, our projections on declining fertility are unlikely to be met,” Ms. Zlotnik stated.

She added that the projected population trends also depend on achieving a major increase in the proportion of AIDS patients who get anti-retroviral therapy to treat the disease and on the success of efforts to control the further spread of HIV.

Among the other findings, she noted that most developing countries are unlikely to meet the goal of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015, one of eight globally agreed targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


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