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Adding Billions to the World’s Population

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 14 2013 (IPS) - A report released Thursday by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) predicts that the current world population will increase from 7.2 billion to 8.1 billion in 2025—an increase of almost one billion in 12 years.

A little over two billion people will be added by 2050, pushing the population to 9.6 billion.

The report, entitled ‘World Population Prospects’, stated that Africa particularly is expected to witness a significant increase in population, contributing to more than 50 percent of the global population by 2050.

In a statement released Thursday, Wu Hongbo, the U.N. under-secretary-general for UN DESA, said, “Although population growth has slowed for the world as a whole, this report reminds us that some developing countries, especially in Africa, are still growing rapidly.”

Significant growth in population will also be seen in other countries where the fertility rate is very high, such as India, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Higher life expectancy rates, reductions in child mortality and migration no doubt play important roles in shaping population growth rates, but John Wilmoth, director of the population division at UN DESA, told IPS that in countries where growth is very rapid, “fertility is the real driver.”

While many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have high birth rates, the situation outside of that region is quite the reverse, Carl Haub, senior demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, pointed out.

For instance, birth rates are relatively low in Europe, as well as in countries like Japan, South Korea and China, Haub told IPS. This, coupled with a rising life expectancy rate, points to what experts call “a worrying trend”.

The problem is particularly stark in China, where the 1979 one-child policy could soon result in an “aging China”.

The report, which uses national census data and the results of national surveys to arrive at its conclusions, further states that India is expected to become the world’s largest country, surpassing China in terms of population by 2018.

Nigeria is expected to surpass the United States by 2050.

According to the report, 48 percent of the world’s population lives in “low‑fertility” countries, where women have fewer than 2.1 children on average over their lifetimes.

With rapidly shifting demographics and a continuous flow of migration, experts say that census figures in countries like India and China are inaccurate, with many migrants escaping the census radar.

Because censuses tend to “undercount rather than overcount”, according to Haub, the actual number of people in the world is most likely higher than national data suggest.

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