World Population: Trends and Forecasts

What is the big picture of the world population? How are its past trends look like? What is the probable future trend of it? How significant the relative contribution of the major regions in shaping the profile of the world population in the past and in the coming years throughout the 21st century? These all part of the questions that this article is aimed at dealing with. The term of the past trend as used in this article is initiated from the 1950s, the era when the majority of the nations in Asia and Africa liberated themselves from European colonialism. Asia and Africa are of special interest here as the population of these two major regions– as will be clearer later– had shaped the past trends significantly and will probably determine crucially the future profile of the world population.

With regard to the past trends, Graph 1 shows that along the second half of the 20th century, Asia’s population strikingly outnumbered the population of other regions[1]. In addition, the pace of increase of the first as suggested by the graph was more rapid than that of its counterpart. This was implying the increasing share of Asia’s population to the world population: 55.4% in 1945 and 60.1% in 2018.

Graph 1: World population by Region 1950-2000 (000)

As obviously shown by the graph, the second most important region in shaping the world population was Europe. However, its position surpassed by Africa in 1996. In fact, the increasing share of Africa’s population between 1995 and 2000 was more striking than that of Asia: 9.0% in 1950 and 13.2% in 2000.

As also suggested by the graph, the share of the overall regions other than Asia and Africa during the 1995-2000 period was relatively small. However, the graph shows no clear picture of the share of the individual regions other than Asia. Graph 2 shows a clearer picture of it.

Graph 2: World population by Region 1950-2000 (000) (Asia is excluded)

Graph 2 shows clearly the year when Africa’s population exceed Europe’s population; that was in 1996. The graph also shows (but perhaps not very clear) that Europe’s population reached its peak in 1995 with a total population of about 727 million. Following the year, Europe’s declining until 2000 and even until the end of the 21st century. In line with this trend, the share of Europe’s population to the world population respectively in 1995, 2000 and 2100 were (or forecasted) 21.7%. 11.8 and 9.6%.

…. Europe’s population reached its peak in 1995 with a total population of about 727 million

Graph 3 suggests that Asia’s population is forecasted to reach its peak in 2055 when its total population will be about 5.3 billion. On Africa’s population growth, the graph also shows, as PEW Research Center[2] describes it, “is projected to remain strong throughout this century”. Based on the graph, it is apparently sensible to expect that Africa’s population would be the only population that will have sufficient momentum to grow positively, at least until the first decades of the 22nd century.

…. Asia’s population is forecasted to reach its peak in 2055 when its total population will be about 5.3 billion

Graph 3: World population by Region 1950-2100 (billion)



According to a UN estimate (see footnote 1), the world population is estimated increasing from about 7.8 billion in 2020 to 10.9 billion in 2100. This means an annual increase of growth of 0.42%, r=0.42%[3]. This means also the additional population of about 33 million in a year. The question is what the impact of that upon the carrying capacity of the planet to support human lives living on the environment where soil for agriculture has been continuously lacking and increasingly less fertile? And or on already highly competitive labour market especially for the young amid the increasing labour supply due to natural demographic transition notably in the developing nations?


[1] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, “World Population Prospects 2019”. This data source is used throughout this article unless stated otherwise.


[3] This number comes from this formula: r=(1/80)*ln (10.9/7.8)*100

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