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Population Trends

The UN has released its latest "World Demographic Trends" report, including information from 2004. The press release summing up the findings is here, and you can download the document itself (in all of the UN official languages) here. It's only 22 pages (at least in English), and is worth checking out.

Read on for a few of the tidbits, including how soon we'll hit 7 billion, what the population should be in 2050, and the explosion of mega-cities around the world...

The highlights:

  • Current world population stands at 6.5 billion people, and should reach 7 billion by 2012.
  • Population should peak at 8.9 billion in 2050, assuming both that fertility rates continue to fall slowly in the developing world, and that efforts to stem the growth of the HIV/AIDS epidemic are successful.
  • Of that 8.9 billion, 7.7 billion will be residents of what is now the developing world. The question of how many of those nations will still be considered part of the "less developed region" is unasked.
  • Globally, about 175 million people currently reside in a country other than the one in which they were born. 60 percent of these migrants now live in the more developed regions.
  • The proportion of the world's population 60 years old or older was 8 percent in 1950, is 10 percent in 2005, and is projected to be 21 percent in 2050. This is absent any radical shifts in longevity-related medical technologies.
  • This is a bit tricky, so is worth quoting directly:

    Marked differences exist between regions in the number and proportion of older persons. In the more developed regions, one fifth of the population was aged 60 years or over in the year 2005; by 2050, that proportion is expected to reach one third. In the less developed regions, 8 per cent of the population is currently over age 60; however, by 2050, older persons will make up one fifth of the population.

    As the pace of population ageing is much faster in the developing countries than in the developed ones, developing countries will have less time to adjust to the consequences of population ageing. Moreover, population ageing in the developing countries is taking place at much lower levels of socio-economic development than has been the case in the developed countries.

    That is to say, the focus on the youthful demographic bulge in the developing world masks the more subtle -- and potentially just as important -- increasing rate at which the population is getting older. Issues of medical support for late-life health, retirement and pensions, demographic distribution of wealth, and access to national resources, all of which are playing out now in the West, will hit the developing world faster and possibly harder than most might expect.

  • Some of the most interesting bits come from the section on urban demographics. Just under half the world's population now lives in cities, a percentage expected to climb to over 60% by 2030. The bulk of that growth is expected to happen in the current "less developed regions;" the urban population increase in the developed world is projected to be 0.46 percent annually, compared to 2.20 percent annually in the developing world. Latin America and the Caribbean are currently more urbanized than Asia and Africa; that is projected to change substantially.

    We see that in what I found to be the most compelling bit of information in the document: the table charting the number of cities, worldwide, with 10 million or more inhabitants, projected to 2015. Pulling a formatted table from a PDF is difficult, and in the interest of getting this posted I've just done a screen-grab:


    Some of those 2005-2015 growth rates are surreal: Karachi, 11.8 million to 16.2 million; Dhaka, 12.6 million to 17.9 million; Lagos, 11.1 million to 17.0 million.

    When we write about sustainable leapfrog mega-cities, these are the places we mean. This century, these rapid-growth urban centers will be most in need of good leadership and foresight.

  • Comments (4)

    There is a lot of good news in this report.

    First the continued slowdown in population growth for developing countries. I personally believe that the UN will have to lower estimates of growth further in the near future.

    Second, the migration of people to developed countries has helped provide a great source of funding (remittances) for poorer countries.

    Finally, the trend toward urbanization is definitely positive. People living in or near cities have higher incomes, better access to safe water and other utilities, less impact on the environment etc...

    I developed this visualization to get a sense of the space/time scale of population and urban growth over the last 200 years. Primarily based on Chandler's historical work on the population of cities.

    "History of Urbanization: temporal GIS in worldKit"
    [ http://brainoff.com/worldkit/population/ ]

    Only had data available to 1975. The last 30 years has seen many more (doubled?) 1 million+ cities.

    John Laumer:

    Good news and bad. Mega cities need mega-infrastructure. New citizens will live in outer rings, which will intersect increasingly with high slopes (flash floods/mudslides) or lowlying areas traditionally avoided (sewerage conveying floodplains). Mass transit options not likely to follow, reslting in gridlock. And like everywhere else that sprawl has gone, the loss of local truck gardens to housing means that industrial agricultural dependency will rise. These happen especially when rate of urban growth exceeds overall national population growth rate due to in-migration.


    fewer japanese :D


    "The future has arrived slightly quicker than expected in Japan, with the news that last year, for the first time since records started in 1950, the country's male population fell. The decline was fractional, and could be totally attributed to more men moving out of, rather than into, Japan, probably because of company transfers. Nonetheless, this was a demographic outcome waiting to happen because of the country's falling birth rate, which set a record low in population growth of only 0.05 per cent last year. Japanese experts are now predicting that next year will see the first decline in the country's overall population.

    "The shrinking of the workforce and the swelling number of pensioners is a trend occurring across many developed, and some developing, countries. Indeed, thanks to its one-child policy, China is forecast to see the ratio of working age people to pensioners collapse from more than 6:1 in 2000 to fewer than 2:1 in 2050 as that country ages faster than any other in history."

    also see http://www.zpluspartners.com/zblog/archive/2005_01_24_zblogarchive.html and http://www.plastic.com/article.html;sid=05/02/10/16531567



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