According to a new study, the world’s population will be approximately 9.7 billion in 44 years and then will drop to 8.8 billion in 2100.
A study by the University of Washington in the United States predicts that the world’s population is likely to peak in 2064, reaching approximately 9.7 billion people. Thereafter, the number of human beings on the planet is expected to drop, reaching 8.8 billion in 2100. The study, published on Tuesday (14) in The Lancet, predicts 2 billion fewer people than previous research.
“Continued global population growth through the century is no longer the most likely trajectory for the world’s population,” said Christopher Murray, who led the research, in a statement to the press. “This study provides governments of all countries an opportunity to start rethinking their policies on migration, workforces and economic development to address the challenges presented by demographic change.”
The new study also predicts major changes in the global age structure: 2.37 billion people will be over 65 in 2100, while only 1.7 billion will be under 20. “The societal, economic, and geopolitical power implications of our predictions are substantial. In particular, our findings suggest that the decline in the numbers of working-age adults alone will reduce GDP growth rates that could result in major shifts in global economic power by the century’s end,” said Stein Emil Vollset, co-author of the article.
It is predicted that by 2100 the total fertility rate (TFR), which represents the average number of children a woman has in her lifetime, will be below 2.1 in 183 of the 195 countries analyzed. This indicates a drop in the population, as the rate of 2.1 is considered the “replacement level” to keep the population unchanged.
Much of this decline will occur in high fertility countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where rates are expected to fall below the replacement level for the first time – from an average of 4.6 births per woman in 2017 to just 1.7 in 2100. In Niger, for example, where the fertility rate was the highest in the world in 2017 (approximately 7), it should be 1.8 in 2100.
The drop in the world population is directly related to the decrease in the TFR. The TFR drop, in turn, is linked to better access to education and contraception worldwide.
“While population decline is potentially good news for reducing carbon emissions and stress on food systems, with more old people and fewer young people, economic challenges will arise as societies struggle to grow with fewer workers and taxpayers,” Vollset said.
The study also suggests that the population decline could be offset by immigration. According to the scientists, countries that promote the movement of people will be able to keep their population steady, supporting their economic growth.
“Ultimately, if Murray and colleagues’ predictions are even half accurate, migration will become a necessity for all nations and not an option,” argued Ibrahim Abubakar, from University College London, England, who was not involved in the research. “The distribution of working-age populations will be crucial to whether humanity prospers or withers.”
The researchers note that the study adds to the debate about radical changes in geopolitical power. For them, the 21st century will lead to a revolution in the history of human civilization, as the populations of Africa and the Arab world will shape the future, while Europe and Asia will retreat in their influence.
These changes, however, should not limit investment in education and contraception. “A very real danger exists that, in the face of declining population, some countries might consider policies that restrict access to reproductive health services, with potentially devastating consequences,” explained Murray. “It is imperative that women’s freedom and rights are at the top of every government’s development agenda.”