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More than 7.8 billion people currently populate the earth and the number is growing. But world population growth is slowing.

Status: 11.11.2020 11:38 a.m.

More than 7.8 billion people will be living on earth in November 2020. According to the current UN population projection in 2019, there will be around 9.7 billion people in 2050 and 10.9 billion people will live on earth in 2100. Today women have fewer children on average worldwide than in the past: In the 1960s, statistically, a woman gave birth to around five children, today there are only 2.4.

Population growth slows development

The number of people on earth is currently growing by around 82 million a year. That roughly corresponds to the number of inhabitants in Germany. Birth rates are particularly high in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The strong population growth there hinders social and political development and pollutes nature and the environment. The people there use far fewer resources on average than in the rich countries of the north. The per capita emissions of climate-damaging gases such as carbon dioxide are therefore negligible in comparison.

In countries such as Bangladesh and Iran, which in the recent past had high population growth rates, this has fallen significantly. This is clear evidence that the fear of an impending population explosion, which has been warned about since the end of the 18th century, is unfounded.

July 11th - World Population Day

On July 11, 1987, there were five billion people on earth. The United Nations took this as an opportunity to introduce International World Population Day. Not for joy, but to slow down further growth as much as possible.

In 2020 there will be around 7.8 billion people on earth, around 2.8 billion more than in 1987. If this growth continued unchecked, it would be around twenty billion people by 2100. But it will not come to that: the growth will be weaker. In the UN population projection for 2019, the number for the year 2100 has already been reduced from 11.2 billion people to 10.9 billion.

When a lot of people and bathing weather come together, things could get pretty tight in China - before the coronavirus pandemic.

The reason for the ever weaker population growth is the falling birth rates. If a woman had five children on average around 1950, in 1990 there were 3.2 children. In 2019 the number of children is 2.4. According to estimates by the United Nations, it will drop to 2.2 children by 2050. With around two children per woman, the so-called "maintenance rate" would be reached. If the birth rate falls below this value as assumed, the world population will slowly decrease again.

Rapid population growth

Population history since 1800

The explosion in the world's population is a recent phenomenon. According to estimates by the independent Population Reference Bureau, only around five million people lived on our planet 8,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. 2,000 years ago it was around 300 million. The increase only became rapid from the middle of the 18th century, after the first billion had been reached. There were two billion people in 1927, three billion 33 years later in 1960. It then only took 14 years to reach the fourth billion (1974). In 1987, only 13 years later, the fifth and 1999 the sixth billion mark was exceeded. The seven billionth person was born on October 31, 2011.

Birth rate significantly higher in developing countries

In many countries the birth rate is already much lower: The number of births per woman in Europe was 1.55 in 2018, in Germany the birth rate was 1.57 in 2019. In Africa, on the other hand, women currently have an average of 4.4 children, significantly more than the global average of 2.4 children per woman.

In the poorest regions of the world in particular, such as sub-Saharan Africa, women have many children. Not only because having a large number of children could supposedly represent a safeguard for old age, but also because women marry very young and become mothers.

Young mothers

  • Every third girl in a developing country is married by the age of 18.
  • One in five girls in a developing country is already a mother by the age of 18.
  • Every day 20,000 girls under 18 have a child.

In addition, according to DSW, every second woman south of the Sahara cannot use contraception even though she wants to. There is a lack of education, affordable contraceptives and good health care. In addition, women have little or no say in family planning. "Every day 20,000 girls under the age of 18 become mothers in developing countries - often without a right to a say," says DSW managing director Renate Bähr. These areas urgently need to be promoted.

Year 2100: Ten billion people in developing countries

Nonetheless, the birth rate is falling in Africa too, but much more slowly than in our country: in 1960 the birth rate in the sub-Saharan countries was 6.6 children per woman, today there are "only" five - as many as there us at the end of the 19th century. As a result, the population there will more than double by the year 2050 from around one billion people today to an expected 2.2 billion people - with a high proportion of young people.

Counter-model: Falling birth rate causes world population to decline

The assumed birth rate is the essential factor if one wants to forecast the development of the world population. In July 2020, a study was published in the specialist magazine The Lancet, which predicts a much lower population growth: Instead of the almost eleven billion people expected by the United Nations in 2100, according to calculations by the scientists around Christopher Murray from Washington University after a peak in 2064 by 2100, Seattle will be "only" 8.8 billion people - about one billion more than today. Murray and his colleagues hypothesize that if women have access to more education and contraception, they don't want more than 1.5 children on average. However, the birth rate in Germany and many European countries is still higher today.

If the world were a village - today and in 2050

If the world were a village with only 100 inhabitants, according to DSW calculations in 2020 59 would come from Asia, 17 from Africa, ten from Europe, eight from Latin America, five from North America and one from Oceania. And in 2050 there would be 128 people living in the village.

2015: A village with 100 inhabitants Almost 7.4 billion people populated our planet in 2015. Calculated down to a village with a hundred inhabitants, ten Europeans live there, almost as many Latin Americans and half as many North Americans. 16 Africans and one Oceanian belong to the world village. The vast majority are sixty Asians. Around a quarter of the villagers are children under 15. The women in the village have an average of 2.5 children in their lifetime. This is how the village continues to grow: by one person every year. What happened to the village in 2050?