Published 14th May 2015 by The Times Atlas
The world’s population is currently undergoing the biggest transformation that it has ever seen. While overall numbers have been growing extremely rapidly since the 1950s, almost nine-tenths of the increase has taken place in the less developed regions of the world, especially southern and eastern Asia. In contrast Europe’s population is now estimated to be in overall decline and ageing rapidly.
The world population stands at 7,162,119,000 (2013). It reached 6 billion in 1999 and 7 billion in Oct 2011. The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has 205 million inhabitants (2.9% of world population), which reflects the dominant position of India and China in the list of the world’s most populous countries, with 1.3 billion and 1.4 billion inhabitants respectively.
Meanwhile, population growth in the west is declining, with Europe’s total fertility rate now down to 1.6 (average number of children a woman will bear), well below the replacement rate of 2.1 need to maintain a constant population in the long term. By contrast the average for less developed regions excluding China is 2.9, and as high as 5.1 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Whilst fertility is above the constant population threshold in these regions, improved healthcare also means that people are living longer, all around the world. In 2010, 11% of the world’s population were aged 60 or over - this is predicted to rise to 22% in 2050.
However, infant mortality remains a major challenge in the less developed regions of the world, where an average of 40 out of every thousand babies die before their first birthday. This is compared to 6 in every thousand in the more developed areas.
The world’s population is urbanizing rapidly. The main feature of the past half century has been the massive growth in the number of urban dwellers in the less developed regions. This is reflected most starkly in the explosion of very large cities, or ‘megacities’.
The world’s biggest city, Tokyo has reached 38.2 million inhabitants. The population was 26.8 million when the 11th edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World was published, representing almost 50% growth in just 11 years.
Asia in particular has seen the largest growth in cities. In 2005 China had 77 cities with over 1 million inhabitants. This number has now reached over 160. Naturally, this is also having an effect on rural populations. According to UN data, urban dwellers outnumbered those living in traditionally rural areas for the first time in 2009.
The process of population growth is impacting differing areas of the world very unevenly.
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