Having stated last week that there is no population explosion problem, it might be useful to look at the various predictions that are being made about the world’s population. There is a large variation between what the UN is predicting to be the world’s population in 2100 and what it was predicting only a few years ago. In 2008, the UN set a global population peak at 2070 and then a falling population after that. It predicted that in 2100 the population of the world would be a touch over 9 billion and falling. Then in 2010 the UN released new predictions, the population was not going to peak, but was going to be at around 10 billion in 2100. Then in 2012, the UN revised its figures again, stating that the population of the world was going to be even higher, at 10.8 billion at 2100. This variation was due to high fertility rates in Africa and Latin America:
“‘What we have been finding, when we have looked at all of the data,’ said Barney Cohen, the chief of the U.N.’s populations studies branch, ‘is that our previous projections were a little too optimistic. Fertility in Africa is not coming down as rapidly as we thought it would.’
Africa accounts for nearly all the increased forecast for 2100 — about 600 million — and Latin America accounts for 100 million more. The U.N. forecasts for Europe and North America were reduced from previous ones.”
However, as we can see, there is a huge difference between the various UN predictions so many years out. And according to Sanjeev Sanyal, the global strategist for Deutsche Bank, global population growth is likely to be much lower that the UN is estimating:
“‘In our view, global fertility will fall to the replacement rate in less than 15 years,’ Mr. Sanyal wrote. ‘Population may keep growing for a few more decades from rising longevity but, reproductively speaking, our species will no longer be expanding.’ He forecasts that world population will peak in around 2055, at 8.7 billion, and decline to 8 billion by the end of the century.”
However, there is agreement between the UN and Sanyal. They both agree that Nigeria’s population will indeed face “explosive growth” – it will have a population of between 521 and 914 million people by the end of the century. They both forecast that populations will be falling in 2100 in China, India, Germany, Japan, Russia and Brazil. Deutsche Bank also predicts that France and the United States will also have a falling population by then, but the UN does not agree with this. For those of you who are visual learners, there is a fantastic series of graphs here that portray the various predictions for the world and for various countries here.
So, despite the uncertainty in the world’s population, there will clearly be certain countries with falling populations. We can say with certainty that for those countries there will be major changes in policy:
“But a world with falling populations in many countries — and with the number of people of working age declining even more rapidly — could lead to major changes. Retirements are likely to occur later, and it is at least conceivable that some countries will even compete for immigrants. ‘Many countries are beginning to welcome skilled immigrants,’ Mr. Sanyal said in an interview, adding that Germany was increasingly open to those whose skills were not as high.
Mr. Sanyal is skeptical about one widespread forecast — that demand for health care will expand rapidly as populations grow. He says many of the older people are likely to be healthy, and notes that with fewer children, there will be less demand for health care from the young.”
Of course, these predictions are extremely important for determining policies today. But when we think about what policies we want to enact, it will be useful to remember that the predictions are not infallible and that those propounding them are fallible humans with fallible human agendas. Sound familiar?