The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) recently released its 2018 World Population Data Sheet, providing its latest population data.  The report estimates that the 2018 worldwide total fertility rate (average births per woman over their lifetime) is 2.4, a figure that has been declining for the past few decades.

The three countries with the highest total fertility rates are Niger (7.2), Chad (6.4), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (6.3), while the lowest are in South Korea (1.1), Singapore (1.2) and Taiwan (1.2).  Marcus recently discussed the disappearing South Korean baby.  This Nigerian engineer also has something interesting to say about high fertility rates.

The report projects that world population will reach 9.9 billion by 2050, an increase of 2.3 billion (29%) from the current world population of 7.6 billion people.  Though, bear in mind that long range population forecasts are based a range of variable factors.  Also bear in mind that world population is expected to either stabilize or even start to decrease by 2100 according to some projection models, so we are not looking at continuing increases of this level.

According to the projections used, Africa’s population will more than double by 2050, reaching 2.6 billion people and accounting for 58% of the global population increase by that date. The population of Asia is projected to rise by 717 million, reaching 5.3 billion people.

In contrast, the population of Europe (which includes all of Russia) is projected to decline from 746 million to 730 million by 2050. The population in the Americas is projected to increase from 1 billion to 1.2 billion. The population of Oceania (which includes Australia and New Zealand) is projected to increase from 41 million to 64 million.

A total of 38 countries will have smaller populations in 2050 than in 2018. China will register the largest numerical population decrease―about 50 million―followed by Japan at 25 million and Russia at 9.4 million. Romania will see the largest percentage decline in population (23 percent).

The world population will also continue to age as fewer babies are born and we live longer, and age structures were the special focus of the report in 2018.  By midcentury, projections indicate that 16 percent of the world population will be ages 65 and older, up from 9 percent now.  In fact, by 2050, 82 countries are projected to have at least 20% of their population ages 65 and over. In 2018, only 13 countries fall into this category.

This means that many countries must continue to address the medical and long-term care needs of an elderly population while also investing in the well-being of and future opportunities for younger generations and dealing with a declining workforce.  An aging population influences a country’s economy in a number of ways. Japan is one of the world’s oldest societies, and 36% of the population is projected to be age 65 or older by 2050, compared with 28% in 2018.

The population aged 65 and older in the US is projected to increase from 15% to 22% from 2018 to 2050. At the same time, the percentage of the population in the US that is under age 15 is projected to decrease from 19% in 2018 to 17% by 2050.  

Conversely, countries with high fertility and child dependency are challenged to fully develop and utilise their young people’s human capital, making the most of their ‘demographic dividend’ and decreasing poverty.  Africa falls into this category.  We may also see increased migration from these countries to prop up the declining workforce's of other countries; a hot topic at the moment for many.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...