World Population Day 2017: Here’s what to expect

Within the past 200 years or so, the world population has increased sevenfold to 7.6 billion. How will it change in the next few years and decades to come?


World Population Day has been observed on July 11 every year since 1990 to increase awareness on population issues.

With roughly 83 million people being added to the world’s population annually, population size is expected to grow even if fertility rates decline. The world’s population is estimated to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100.

These increases will have large implications for future generations. We’ve taken a look at the latest World Population Prospects report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs to see where the biggest changes will take place and what’s in store for Singapore.

Country population rankings will shift

China and India will remain the two most populous countries with roughly 1.44 billion people each in 2024.

Thereafter, India’s population is expected to exceed China’s population. The former’s population is likely to grow for several decades while China’s population is likely to decline after 2030.

Nigeria, which currently has the world’s 7th largest population, is projected to surpass the United States to become the world’s third largest country before 2050.

As for Singapore, its population is expected to increase from 5.7 million in 2017 to 6.3 million in 2030 due to higher fertility rates and life expectancy.

Global population growth will be driven by a small number of countries

From 2017 to 2050, it is projected that half of the world’s population growth will come from just nine countries which are India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the United States, Uganda and Indonesia.

Rapid population growth is expected in the group of 47 countries designated by the United Nations as the least developed countries, including 33 countries in Africa.

The tremendous population growth in the poorest countries will be a challenge to governments in implementing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to end poverty and hunger, reduce inequality, improve health and education, and achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Population by region estimates for 1950-2015 and projections for 2015-2100

Lower fertility rates will cause populations in some countries to decline

Global fertility is projected to decline from over 2.5 births per woman in 2015-2020 to 2.2 in 2045-2050.

The populations of 51 countries are expected to decline between 2017 and 2050 due to lower fertility rates. Most of these countries are concentrated in Europe.

In contrast to the global trend, Singapore’s fertility rate is expected to increase from 1.3 in 2015-2020 to 1.4 in 2045-2050.

People are expected to live longer across all regions

Globally, life expectancy will increase from 72 years in 2015-2020 to 77 years in 2045-2050. The biggest gains are in Africa which is expected to gain nearly 9 years of life expectancy from 2015 to 2050.

Singapore is also expected to increase its life expectancy from 83 years in 2015-2020 to 88 years in 2045-2050.

Life expectancy at birth (years) by region

Populations aged 60 or above are growing faster than younger age groups

Declines in fertility rates and increases in life expectancy will lead to population ageing. The world’s older population is expected to reach 1.4 billion in 2030 and 2.1 billion in 2050.

By 2050, all regions in the world, except Africa, will have nearly 25 percent or more of their populations aged 60 or over.

Population ageing will affect support ratios and put pressure on healthcare systems as well as pensions and social protection for older people.

The current support ratio for Asia is 7.4, which means that there are 7.4 persons aged 20-64 for each person aged 65 and above. As of 2016, the support ratio for Singapore is 5.4.

The World Population Day theme this year is family planning. The Family Planning Summit will also be held on July 11 and seeks to expand voluntary family planning access to an additional 120 million women, with a focus on the most marginalized and vulnerable groups.

The projected declines in global fertility will also depend on the access to family planning resources to help women and couples plan their desired family sizes.

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