Heading for 10 billion

The world population is projected to continue increasing over the next few decades, albeit with a steady decline in the actual growth rate due to plateauing birth rates.

The majority of this growth will occur in the developing world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa and India. The developed world will face its own set of challenges, however, including declining and ageing populations, and changing human migration patterns.

Taken as a whole, continuing population growth has significant implications for nearly all aspects of life, 1 including issues related to health and ageing, mass migration and urbanisation, demand for housing, inadequate food supplies and access to safe drinking water. 2

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Current trajectory

  • According to new analysis by the UN, there is an 80% chance that the world’s population, which has already reached 7.2 billion, will continue to grow throughout the twenty-first century, reaching between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100. 1

  • Most of the growth will come from high-fertility countries, predominantly in Africa, and countries that already have large populations, including India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and the US. 2

  • A major reduction of fertility is projected for the group of least developed countries – from 4.53 children per woman today to 2.87 in 2045-2050, and 2.11 in 2095-2100. In the rest of the developing world fertility is expected to drop from today’s level of 2.40 children per woman to 2.09 in 2045-2050, and 1.93 in 2095-2100, thereby matching the levels projected for more developed countries by the end of the century. 3

  • More than 200 million women around the world would like to prevent or delay pregnancy, but lack access to family planning information or effective contraception. 4
  • In Pakistan 185 million people live on the equivalent of 8% of the US land area, a figure that is expected to increase to 271 million by 2050 – which is nearly equal to the total US population today. 5


  • A global population of 9.6 billion will place enormous pressure on agricultural land, water and energy supplies. This will have huge implications for political stability, labour markets, food security and efforts to tackle climate change. Resource management will be a significant challenge, for example, and conflicting plans for land usage (e.g. for food, biofuel, cash crops, etc.) may lead to heightened tensions.

  • A rapidly increasing population could exacerbate transnational crime, economic interdependency, and the spread of pandemics like HIV/AIDS. Increasing urbanisation will also add to the strain on urban resources.

  • However, rapid population growth could also raise the profile of social issues like gender equality, reproductive health, safe motherhood, human rights and emergency situations. 1

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