The world population is expected to increase from 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion in 2050. But the population growth rate is tempering down as the fertility level is gradually decreasing. How will the world at large adapt to the consequences of the increasing population?
The total world population crossed the threshold of 1 billion people for the first time in the 19th century, and the average life span began to improve. For example, vaccination against smallpox led to an eradication of the disease. While most people imagine medical advancements to be the reason for this increase, the most significant gain in life expectancy occurred due to public health improvements such as control of infectious diseases, more abundant and safer foods, cleaner water, and other nonmedical social enhancements.
By the middle of the 20th century, the middle-class ideal of a two children household had gained enormous popularity and influence. As a consequence of widespread family planning, the birth rate started declining as well, and the population tended back towards zero growth.
“The World Population Prospects 2019”, estimates that the next 30 years will witness global population add an extra 2 billion people to today’s count of 7.7 billion, and, by the end of the century, the planet will have to sustain around 11 billion.
The new population projections indicate that nine countries will be responsible for more than half the projected population growth between now and 2050. In descending order of the expected increase, they are India on the top followed by Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States. In sub-Saharan Africa, the population is projected to double by 2050 nearly, the report said.
The report has also deduced that since 2010, 27 countries or areas have lost one per cent or more of their population. The global fertility rate fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 births in 2019 and is projected to decline further to 2.2 births by 2050. A fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman is needed to ensure population replacement and avoid declines. That decrease usually follows a reduction in the mortality level that initially instigated growth.
There will be one in six people over 65 by 2050, up from the current figure of one in 11. Some regions will see the share of older people double in the next 30 years, including Northern Africa, Asia and Latin America. By 2050, a quarter of the population in European and Northern America could be 65 or over.
According to the “World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights” report, migration is also a significant component of population growth or loss in some countries. Between 2010 and 2020, it said 14 countries or areas would see a net inflow of more than one million migrants while 10 countries will experience a similar loss. For example, some of the largest outflows of people — including from Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines — are driven by the demand for migrant workers, the report said. But some migrants are driven from their home countries by violence, insecurity and conflict, including from Myanmar, Syria and Venezuela. The U.N. said countries experiencing a net inflow of migrants over the decade include Belarus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.
Our assessment is that the higher proportion and number of older people is expected to put increased financial pressure on countries with the higher cost of public health, pensions and social protection systems. In order to counter this, we feel that policymakers have encouraged the growth of robotics and artificial intelligence to deal with a smaller workforce. Another way to fix the shrinking workforce is to add more legal immigrants.
We feel that the following issues have to also be tackled:
Global demand for food, feed and fibre is expected to grow by 70 per cent. Annual cereal production will need to rise to about 3 billion tonnes from 2.1 billion today, and annual meat production will need to increase by over 200 million tonnes to reach 470 million tonnes. We reckon that many countries will continue depending on international trade to ensure their food security. Most of the future population growth will occur in developing countries, those with limited ability to feed their growing populations or import food
Fertilizer use to increase production and maintain soil fertility has been essential to increasing food production. The amount of fertilizer use will need to increase from 123 million tonnes of nutrients in 1994/95 to over 300 million tonnes in 2020. We feel that this requires a substantial increase in fertilizer production capacity, which is likely to occur if relatively stable agricultural markets are established in the countries with expanding populations. While agriculture will be forced to compete for land and water with sprawling urban settlements, it will also be required to serve on other major fronts: adapting to and contributing to the mitigation of climate change, helping preserve natural habitats and maintaining biodiversity. We believe that in order to respond to these demands, it is likely that the farmers will need new technologies to produce more from less land, with fewer hands. The growing market demand for commodities is a significant driver of rapid and widespread primate habitat loss and degradation.
Population growth also means that we are becoming more land constrained. It means that governments will need to accelerate the time it takes to go from development to delivery to get infrastructure to market faster. By 2050, it is projected that India will have added 416 million urban dwellers, China 255 million and Nigeria 189 million. Also, the rising sea is likely to claim coastal lands.
90% of the 3 billion people who are expected to be added to the population by 2050 will be in countries that are already experiencing water stress and in areas where the current population does not have sustainable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. It is likely that when water-stressed countries lack surface water supplies, they will resort to overpumping underground aquifers, drawing down wells faster than they can be replenished.
We feel that the cities across the world are slowing down as they grow. By 2050 more than two-thirds of the global population are expected to be living in cities, many of them megacities of more than 10m people. We realize that that companies like Uber and Lilium are planning fleets of flying taxis, electric jets which could take off and land vertically from landing pods dotted around the city. Flying taxis are a potentially cheaper alternative to traditional infrastructures, such as bridges, bypasses and railways an estimated.