Editor's Note, September 2022

Written by Marian Starkey | Published: September 19, 2022

Fellow demography nerds, rejoice! The United Nations Population Division released its long-awaited World Population Prospects 2022 on World Population Day (July 11). These updated estimates and projections are typically published every two years, but Covid-19 caused delays in data collection that pushed publication back by a year. The new data was worth the wait, however, as there are some big reveals in this revision:

  • The world population is projected to cross 8 billion on November 15, 2022.
  • At the time, the 7 billion population milestone was marked on October 31, 2011, but the new estimates show that we reached 7 billion in 2010. Previous milestones were revised to earlier dates as well.
  • The 2050 medium population projection is the same as it was in the 2019 data revision—9.7 billion—but the longer range projection has been revised downward. In 2019, the projection for 2100 was 10.9 billion. In the 2022 revision, the population is projected to peak at 10.4 billion in the 2080s, where it will remain until the end of the century.
  • The world population on July 1, 2021, was 34.3 million higher than the 2019 revision projected it would be on that date (7,909.3 million vs. 7,875.0 million).
  • The global population is growing at the slowest rate since 1950. (If this seems counterintuitive, given that we’re still adding a billion people every 12 years, consider the massive base upon which that lower growth rate is compounding.)
  • China is projected to begin shrinking as early as next year, when India will surpass it as the world’s most populous country. India is projected to continue growing until the 2060s.
  • Two-thirds of people on earth live in countries with below-replacement-rate fertility.
  • Half of the projected population growth between now and 2050 will occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

As the UN Population Division writes in its key messages, “Rapid population growth is both a cause and a consequence of slow progress in development.” Indeed, rapid population growth causes slow progress in development by making it impossible for governments to adequately address the needs of populations that are doubling every two to three decades. And, of course, rapid population growth is a consequence of slow progress in development related to education, employment, and health.

Family planning has, for decades, been a crucial component of sustainable development projects and programs. Why, then, don’t we fund it at the level necessary to eliminate all unmet need? The U.S. is under-funding international family planning by more than a billion dollars a year, and despite proposed increases by House and Senate appropriations leaders, neither chamber is proposing investments anywhere near where they need to be to ensure that everyone who wants to use modern contraception can do so. We must do better. There are 8 billion people on the planet who depend on it.

Marian Starkey