According to the report, rapid population growth presents challenges for sustainable development.
The report highlights the importance of population data collection “as such data provide critical information to inform development planning and to assess progress towards the achievement of the SDGs”.
The report will inform the calculation of many development indicators used by the UN system, including about one-quarter of indicators to monitor progress towards the SDGs.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) published a 2022 revision of ‘World Population Prospects,’ which presents the latest global population estimates and projections. The report’s key messages indicate that “rapid population growth is both a cause and a consequence of slow progress in development” and that population data are critical for development planning.
In a press release about the report, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin described the relationship between population growth and sustainable development as “complex and multidimensional.” According to the report, rapid population growth presents challenges for sustainable development as “educating growing numbers of children and young people, for example, draws resources away from efforts to improve the quality of education.” Conversely, achieving the SDGs on good health and well-being, quality education, and gender equality, among others, “is likely to hasten the transition towards lower fertility in countries with continuing high levels.”
The report highlights the importance of population data collection, and urges countries and development partners to prioritize national population censuses, “as such data provide critical information to inform development planning and to assess progress towards the achievement of the SDGs.”
Other key messages include:
- The world’s population continues to grow, but the pace of growth is slowing down. While the “global population is projected to reach 8 billion on 15 November 2022,” it is now growing at its slowest rate since 1950. The world’s population is projected to peak during the 2080s at around 10.4 billion “and to remain at that level until 2100.” The report projects that India will surpass China as the world’s most populous country already in 2023, when China is expected to experience an absolute decline in its population.
- Policies aimed at reducing fertility would have little immediate impact on the pace of global growth. The report recognizes that, if maintained over several decades, cumulative effects of lower fertility, could lead to “a more substantial reduction of global population growth in the second half of the century.” However, it chalks up as much as two-thirds of the projected global population increase through 2050 to the momentum of past growth.
- While life expectancy continues to increase globally, large disparities remain. The report finds that global life expectancy at birth has improved by nine years since 1990, reaching 72.8 years in 2019, and anticipates a further increase up to around 77.2 years by 2050. However, it finds that life expectancy in least developed countries (LDCs) lagged seven years behind the global average in 2021. The report also flags “a male disadvantage in life expectancy” in all regions and countries, “ranging from 7 years in Latin America and the Caribbean to 2.9 years in Australia and New Zealand.”
- A rising share of working-age population can help boost economic growth per capita. In most of sub-Saharan Africa and in parts of Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the share of working-age population has been on the rise, representing a significant “demographic dividend,” or “a time-bound opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita.” The report recommends that countries “maximize the potential benefits of a favourable age distribution” by investing in the further development of their human capital by ensuring access to healthcare (SDG 3), quality education (SDG 4), and opportunities for decent work (SDG 8).
- The population of older persons is increasing both in numbers and as a share of the total. The report warns that the proportion of global population aged 65 and older is projected to jump six percentage points, from 10% in 2022 to 16% in 2050 – more than double the share made up by children under five. The report recommends that countries with ageing populations “adapt public programmes to the growing numbers of older persons,” by improving healthcare, social security, and pension systems, among other measures.
- More countries have begun to experience population decline. Two-thirds of the world’s population “lives in a country or area where lifetime fertility is below 2.1 births per woman” – the level required for zero growth, the report finds. It projects that the populations of 61 countries or areas will decrease by at least 1% in the period from 2022-2050.
- International migration is having impacts on population trends for some countries. The report finds that from 2000-2020, the contribution of international migration to population growth “exceeded the balance of births over deaths” in high-income countries, where it is expected to be the “sole driver of population growth” in the coming decades. It also finds that an excess of births over deaths will continue to drive population growth in low- and lower-middle-income countries. The report urges all countries to facilitate orderly, safe, regular, and responsible migration (SDG target 10.7).
- The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all three components of population change, increasing mortality and restricting migration, with mixed evidence on fertility.
Prepared by DESA’s Population Division, the report was released on World Population Day on 11 July, during the second week of the 2022 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
‘World Population Prospects’ is in its 27th edition. It presents population estimates for 237 countries or areas, based on historical demographic trends from 1950 until now. The 2022 revision includes population projections to 2100, reflecting “a range of plausible outcomes at the global, regional and national levels.” For the first time, the report includes estimates and projections by single age and calendar year instead of the five-year intervals used until now.
According to DESA, the report will inform the calculation of many development indicators used by the UN system, including about one-quarter of indicators to monitor progress towards the SDGs. [Publication: World Population Prospects 2022: Summary of Results] [Key Messages] [Publication Landing Page] [Press Release on the Launch] [Things You Need to Know]