Countdown to 7 Billion Population

Economic Review, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Countdown to 7 Billion Population


"This year, world population will reach 6 billion and begin its fast ascent to 7 billion -- a number that may be reached in record time," according to Carl Haub, co-author with Diana Cornelius of the 1999 World Population Data Sheet. This annual report on the status of world population, which contains demographic indicators such as infant mortality rates and life expectancies for 200 countries, was released recently by the Washington, DC-based Population Reference Bureau.

The United Nations Population Fund will observe the "Day of 6 billion" on October 12, 1999 -- a day symbolizing the birth of the child who brings world population to 6 billion. "World population increased from 5 billion to 6 billion in an astonishingly short period of time -- just 12 years," Haub said.

When will child 7 billion be born? "That depends almost entirely on the number of children women in less developed countries will have, especially women in Africa and Asia," Haub said. "Today, about 98 per cent of world population increase takes place in less developed countries, even as some European countries are experiencing population declines. The decision of many couples in less developed countries to limit the number of children they have has greatly altered the outlook for population growth. But rapid population growth will continue unless there are further significant reductions in the birth rate."

Among less developed countries, there will be dramatic shifts in where the greatest population growth occurs. Africa, which now accounts for only 13 per cent of global population growth, will account for about 34 per cent of world population growth during the first half of the next century. In May 2000 India will become the second country in the world to reach a population of billion, joining China.

Never before have so many people lived for so long. Life expectancy at birth is now 75 years in more developed countries and 64 years in less developed countries. Life expectancy at birth for men in India, for example, is now 60 years, compared to 23 years at the century's beginning. US life expectancy rose from 47 years in 1900 to 77 years today. The increases in life expectancy in the 20th century are the main reason world population grew so quickly in the 20th century.

Women in sub-Saharan Africa have the highest total fertility rate (TFR) -- an average of 6 children per woman. Southern European women have the lowest TFR, 1.3 children per woman.

Fifty per cent of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2006. In 1900, a vast majority of the population lived in rural areas.

Forty-nine per cent of married women in less developed countries now use modern contraception methods. Contraception usage was 10 per cent in the 1960s.

As the century ends, there are more young people than ever before - nearly 2 billion below age 20 in less developed countries. These youngpeople will need education, health care, and eventually jobs. Because such a high concentration of young people will be reaching their child-bearing ages in the future, increases in population growth are guaranteed.

World population grew 4.4 billion in the 20th century - by far the greatest increase of any century. In the 19th century, for example, the population grew by only about 600 million.

                      Countries With the Highest and
                       Lowest Infant Mortality Rates
           (deaths to infants under age 1 per 1000 live births)
    30 HIGHEST:
 1. Afghanistan              150
 2. Malawi                   137
 3. Sierra Leone             136
 4. Guinea-Bissau            136
 5. Guinea                   134
 6. Mozamblque               134
 7. Gambia                   130
 8. Ethipia                  128
 9. Iraq                     127
10. Somalia                  126
11. Angola                   125
12. Niger                    123
13. Mali                     123
14. … 

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