World’s Population Projected to Reach 8 Billion Today

From a Wall Street Journal story by Joanna Sugden headlined “World’s Population Projected to Reach 8 Billion Today”:

The population of the planet is set to hit eight billion Tuesday, according to projections from the United Nations that forecast the number will grow to 8.5 billion by 2030 as life expectancy rises.

Globally, life expectancy reached 72.8 years in 2019, an increase of almost nine years since 1990, the U.N.’s population division said, though it fell to 71.0 years in 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the least developed nations, life expectancy lagged behind the global average by seven years in 2021, driven by high levels of maternal and child mortality, violence, conflict and AIDS.

Since the 1960s, when the global number of people first hit three billion, it has taken a little over a decade to cross each new billion-person milestone. The U.N.’s latest projection is that the eight billionth living person will be born on Nov. 15.

The rate of population expansion will only continue to rise if fertility rates remain high, the U.N. said. In 2021, the average fertility worldwide stood at 2.3 births a woman over a lifetime, having fallen from about five births a woman in 1950, it said. In 2020, the global population growth rate fell under 1% a year for the first time since 1950.

Two-thirds of the global population lives in a country or area where fertility is below 2.1 births a woman, the U.N. said, roughly the level required for a steady-state population in the long term in situations where mortality is low.

The U.N. predicts that the global population will peak at around 10.4 billion during the 2080s and remain around that level until the start of the next century. Another forecast has it peaking at 9.67 billion in 2070, before a slow decline.

The most populous regions are in Asia, the U.N. said, with China and India—each more than 1.4 billion strong—the main contributors to the populace. India’s population is expected to surpass China’s at some point next year, according to the U.N.

Beyond the balance of births and deaths, a significant driver of population growth is immigration. Over the next few decades, the U.N. forecasts, migration will be the sole driver of population growth in high-income countries.

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