The clock is ticking

The clock is ticking

Mass of people © Lukas Schulze

It is getting tighter and tighter on earth. Although, according to the UN, the global birth rate will decline in the coming years. Nevertheless, more than eleven billion people will live in the world by 2100.

The clock is racing: every second, the luminous number on the world population clock on the homepage of the German Foundation for World Population (DSW) in Hanover, Germany, is getting bigger. An unstoppable momentum, even if the speed of the clock will slow: The world's population grew by about 83 million people in 2017, DSW reported Friday. That's about as many as live in Germany. By the turn of the year, 7.591 billion people are expected to live on Earth. Every second, the number of Earth's citizens grows by 2.6, every minute by 157 and every day by 226.184.

"In 2011, we were still seven billion people; in 2050, we will be 9.8 billion, and in 2100, around 11.2 billion," the population scientists predict. A steeply rising curve on a graph makes the population explosion figurative. Anyone who wants to can enter their own date of birth on the homepage and find out how many people lived on Earth at the time of their own birth.

Strong growth in Africa

If you look at DSW's charts, you see impressive shifts: India to overtake China as world's most populous country by 2024. While China's population is aging and declining from 1.4 billion to 1.36 billion, India's population will increase from 1.34 billion to 1.66 billion. By 2050, Nigeria is expected to displace the U.S. as the country with the third largest population in the world.

Population growth is particularly strong in Africa right now, according to the foundation. There will be 2.53 billion people there in 2050, according to United Nations estimates, more than double the current population (1.26 billion). As recently as 15 years ago, an increase to just 1.8 billion had been amed, says foundation managing director Renate Bahr. However, the fertility rate of women in Africa has not declined as much as previously thought.

"If the world were a village of 100 people" is a DSW thought experiment: in 2017, this would include 60 Asians, 16 Africans, 8 Latin Americans, 10 Europeans, 5 North Americans and 1 Oceanian. The number of village residents would then rise to 131 by 2050: Of these, 70 would be Asians, 34 Africans, 10 each Europeans and Latin Americans, 6 North Americans and 1 Oceanian.

Important factors in population growth are rising life expectancy and higher child survival rates. According to UN estimates, the number of people over the age of 60 will more than triple from just under one billion today to 3.1 billion in 2100. This is possible above all due to medical progress.

Young world population

At the same time, the world's population is young: the largest youth generation of all time is currently growing up. Of the 7.55 billion people currently living in the world, more than a quarter (26 percent) are under the age of 15. In absolute numbers, that's 1.9 billion, or two and a half times as many people as live in all of Europe.

"Population development does not follow any natural law," says DSW Managing Director Renate Bahr. The high population growth is largely due to unwanted pregnancies.

Population researchers and aid organizations are therefore calling for improved offers on sex education and family planning. In addition, there is a need for more equal rights for women in society in Africa and other developing countries, says Bahr.

One in four women in these regions is still unable to use contraception, even though she wants to. If this demand were met, it could be expected that the growth of the population would be reduced by a quarter.

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Christina Cherry
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