Population growth: how mankind developed

The world’s population is growing: by almost three people every second. Photo: Benny Jackson on Unsplash

Today more than seven billion people live on earth. In the middle of 2017 there were 7.55 billion. And the population growth continues: around 83 million people are added every year. That roughly corresponds to the population size of Germany. But how has the world’s population developed historically??

If you look at our world population clock, you need to have a quick eye to keep up with the current number of the world population. Because almost three Earth dwellers are added every second.

Population growth has not always been so rapid. It took around 1800 until humanity passed the billion mark. The second billion was not reached until 1927. Then the distances between the other billion-dollar brands became shorter, as can be seen from the graphic. In the end it only had twelve years took until the world’s population grew by another billion.

Why has there been such rapid population growth in the last century?

After World War II, medical care improved and food production (the so-called Green Revolution) increased. This increased life expectancy and reduced infant mortality. At the same time, the desire for large families remained in many places. And: Millions of women were missing – and missing whatever yet! – access to education and contraception, which has resulted in numerous unwanted pregnancies. In developing countries alone, there are around 74 million unwanted pregnancies – every year!

As a result, population growth continued to accelerate. The proportion of people in developing countries in the world population continued to increase: in 1950 the proportion was still 68 percent, in 2014 it was 83 percent. The population grew particularly in those countries where poverty is particularly high and the lack of voluntary family planning is extremely high.

Much would be achieved in poverty alleviation in developing countries if all women who wanted to use contraception had the opportunity to do so. Because: Smaller families are better off!

After all, the average number of children per woman worldwide has dropped significantly from around five children in the 1960s to 2.5 children today. This means that although there is still global population growth today, growth rates have slowed.

We updated this article on June 26, 2017 and adapted it to the new United Nations figures (World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision). This article was first published on September 8, 262014.

Are you curious? More information on population growth in part 2 and part 3 of our series.

Dear Sir or Madam!
In the reports on population growth that you have published, population growth, as is common practice, is presented as a natural event caused by an unintentionally large number of children. This is certainly partly true.
Another reason is the belief, for religious or other reasons, that a high individual number of children is positive. Would it be appropriate for your or comparable organizations to disseminate the information that a large number of children contributes to the destruction of human livelihood? Does the fear of reprisals by religious representatives keep you from this? Stopping population growth would be a very effective measure to limit global warming. Since you are aware of the expected consequences of population growth, you have a responsibility.
Sincerely yours
Johannes Becker

Dear Mr. Becker,
thank you for your exciting demand. You are right that various aspects contribute to the growth of the world population – also that we as an organization start with the individual decision about the number of children. However, we do not understand it as a natural event. A natural event would imply immutability, but that would be wrong.

That people choose many children for cultural or religious reasons is certainly also an aspect (which we also do not hide). In our work on site, we also work with the influential people in communities. These are often religious opinion leaders. We rely on cooperation here and not on the raised index finger.

Information about population dynamics is certainly exciting, but unfortunately not very helpful as an approach to project work. It is too abstract. To understand that, have to we don’t look far: we know that exhaust fumes harm the environment, but how difficult it is to leave the car behind. Driving is not even about a deep-seated spiritual belief. We work holistically with communities, provide educational work and promote medical care – because first and foremost it is about the free decision.

Dear Ms. Düring, your answer shows how honorable your intentions are and how little you promise success. The Chinese only managed to curb their population growth with a rigid one-child policy. As long as the clan bosses have influence, everything is pointless. Because they are interested in making their clan bigger and more powerful


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