It’s interesting to look at some long-term world trends at the end of 2013. The graphs appear more normalized, for instance with the population growth rate above. Countries like Nigeria (see population chart below) are unfortunate exceptions. How will the world really look like in 2050? Trends are extrapolations from current and past data, enhanced with some mathematical modeling. Forecasts cannot account for unforeseeable events. We’ll see in 5 or 10 years from now, looking back, how good these numbers were. Nobody can look very far into the future, because it is really unknowable, even if we try hard to calculate it. What would have been the population forecast for the next 300 years in 1700? Or, if a demographer in 1900 would have made a 100 year projection, how accurate could it possibly have been? Similarly, if we forecast today for 2050, 2075, or 2100, it is only a guess based on existing trends.

World Population Growth Rate

  • Population in the world is currently growing at a rate of around 1.14% per year. The average population change is currently estimated at around 80 million per year.
  • Annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at 2% and above. The rate of increase has therefore almost halved since its peak of 2.19 percent, which was reached in 1963.
  • The annual growth rate is currently declining and is projected to continue to decline in the coming years. Currently, it is estimated that it will become less than 1% by 2020 and less than 0.5% by 2050.
  • This means that world population will continue to grow in the 21st century, but at a slower rate compared to the recent past. World population has doubled (100% increase) in 40 years from 1959 (3 billion) to 1999 (6 billion). It is now estimated that it will take a further 43 years to increase by another 50%, to become 9 billion by 2042.
  • The latest United Nations projections indicate that world population will nearly stabilize at just above 10 billion persons after 2062.

World Population Milestones

  • 8 Billion (2024):  According to the most recent United Nations estimates, the human population of the world is expected to reach 8 billion people in the spring of 2024.
  • 7 Billion (2011): According to the United Nations, world population reached 7 Billion on October 31, 2011.
  • 6 Billion (1999): According to the United Nations, the 6 billion figure was reached on October 12, 1999 (celebrated as the Day of 6 Billion).

Previous Milestones:

  • 5 Billion: 1987
  • 4 Billion: 1974
  • 3 Billion: 1960
  • 2 Billion: 1927
  • 1 Billion: 1804

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World Population by Religion

According to a recent study (based on the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion) by The Pew Forum, there are:

  • 2,173,180,000 Christians (31% of world population), of which 50% are Catholic, 37% Protestant, 12% Orthodox, and 1% other.
  • 1,598,510,000 Muslims (23%), of which 87-90% are Sunnis, 10-13% Shia.
  • 1,126,500,000 No Religion affiliation (16%): atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion. One-in-five people (20%) in the United States are religiously unaffiliated.
  • 1,033,080,000 Hindus (15%), the overwhelming majority (94%) of which live in India.
  • 487,540,000 Buddhists (7%), of which half live in China.
  • 405,120,000 Folk Religionists (6%): faiths that are closely associated with a particular group of people, ethnicity or tribe.
  • 58,110,000 Other Religions (1%): Baha’i faith, Taoism, Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Tenrikyo, Wicca, Zoroastrianism and many others.
  • 13,850,000 Jews (0.2%), four-fifths of which live in two countries: United States (41%) and Israel (41%).

World Population by Country

The numbers below show population growth from now to 2050 by country. The biggest increase is in India, which will add a staggering 370 million people in 36 years, more than the current population of the US. Nigeria is also worth mentioning, because it will add around 270 million people, and surpass the US population.

The question is how these countries will cope with the enormous increase in people. Other countries have the opposite problem: Russia and Japan will both loose about 20 million people, and Germany’s population will decrease by 10 million. population decreases are also difficult to cope with, because it means there will be much  fewer people to support the growing number of old people.

World population by country

Source: World Population Prospect: the 2012 Revision – United Nations Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, June 13, 2013

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