Our world is approaching a landmark moment in human history. On 15 November 2022, the global population is projected to reach 8 billion people. Thanks to science, technology, and groundbreaking innovations, we now live longer and healthier. It took the human family 125 years to get from 1 billion to 2 billion. But only 12 years to grow from 7 to 8 billion.
Even though the growth rate has fallen in the past few decades, the global population is projected to surpass 9 billion around 2037 and 10 billion around 2058, according to the latest World Population Prospects 2022 report released by UN DESA earlier this year.
Countries with high levels of fertility tend to be those with relatively low incomes per capita. Between now and 2050, almost all of the global increase in numbers of children and youth and of adults under age 65 will occur in low-income and lower-middle-income countries.
For high-income and upper-middle-income countries on the other hand, projections indicate that the number aged under 65 years will decline and that future growth will occur entirely among the population aged 65 years or over.
Rapid population growth poses various challenges in efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example, when it comes to schooling, public health, housing, water and sanitation and the environment. However, even though population growth impacts the environment, rising per capita incomes are the main driver of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.
This means that wealthier countries should take the lead in moving rapidly to achieve net-zero emissions and in implementing strategies to decouple human economic activity from environmental degradation. They can also help support low-income and lower-middle-income countries in making a transition towards sustainable economic growth.
“Reaching a global population of eight billion is a numerical landmark, but our focus must always be on people,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “In the world we strive to build, 8 billion people mean 8 billion opportunities to live dignified and fulfilled lives. When we act on our shared values, we contribute to our common future.”