The world’s poorest countries have been driving rapid population growth. More global challenges await us.
Until 1804, our planet had a population of less than one billion people. We passed the two billion mark in 1927, more than a century later. Since then, the world’s population has grown in the shape of a hockey stick, thanks to advances in modern medicine and public health.
The United Nations announced on Tuesday that the world population means had reached eight billion, just 11 years after it had reached seven billion. (Although there is no official count, the international organisation said its projections crossed the line on Tuesday.)
The global growth rate, which is expected to slow in the coming decades, has been uneven. Slowing growth rates in populous countries such as China and the United States have sparked concern, threatening to upend their societies. Rising birth rates in poorer countries threaten to strain already stressed systems.
The poorest countries, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, account for the majority of population growth
According to the United Nations, low- and lower-middle-income countries, the majority of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa, accounted for roughly 70% of the increase to eight billion from seven billion. The trend is expected to intensify further in the coming years.
“When the next billion is added between 2022 and 2037,” the organisation said, “these two groups of countries are expected to account for more than 90% of global growth.”
The global fertility rate has declined. And the number of people under 65 in high-income countries is expected to decline in the coming years. According to the United Nations. However, in poorer countries, where more women and girls lack access to sexual and reproductive health care. Including contraception, the fertility rate has remained stubbornly high.
Meeting the needs created by that growth, including education, public health, employment. And water and sanitation, will necessitate “a significant increase in public expenditures,” according to the organization.