How has the world’s population grown since 1950?

The number of people in the world has tripled in 70 years. In this visual explainer, we examine where the growth has been – and how it will change in the future

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The world’s population is projected to reach 8 billion people on 15 November – more than three times larger than it was in 1950. Based on current trends, the UN estimates the population could grow to about 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050 and 10.4 billion by the end of the century.


The biggest increases in population took place in the early 1960s, but the pace of growth has slowed as fertility levels decreased with the greater availability of contraception and as countries developed their economies. Increased levels of education, especially among girls, and more job opportunities for women played key roles.

On average, women are now giving birth twice, rather than five times as they were in 1950. Figures vary across regions, however. In sub-Saharan Africa, women are giving birth more than four times and in the Pacific region, or Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand), three times.

As the world's population passes another milestone, our series Beyond 8 billion examines the impact on some of the countries projected to have the greatest growth, as well as those facing the opposite problem: plunging birthrates and rapidly ageing populations.

Part of the reason for the rising population is because we are living longer. In 2019, life expectancy averaged 72 years – an increase of nine years since 1990 – and it is expected to reach 77 by 2050. The average fell to 71 years in 2021 because of the Covid pandemic. However, in the least-developed countries, people live seven years fewer than the average because of high maternal and child mortality levels, conflict and HIV infections.

The share of the global population aged 65 or older is projected to rise from 10% to 16% in 2050.

Population growth in high-income countries in the coming decades is expected to be largely driven by migration.

China v India

More than half the world’s people live in Asia – 29% in east and south-east Asia, and 26% in central and south Asia.

Next year, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country. The UN projects India will continue to see its population grow until 2050, while China’s will continue to fall.


Where will the most growth take place?

Eight countries – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania – will account for more than half the population growth until 2050. DRC and Tanzania are expected to see their populations double over the next three decades, while the population of India is forecast to increase from about 1.4 billion to 1.67 billion by 2050.



The graphics in this article use population data from the UN.

Population figures from 1950 to 2021 are UN estimates from 1 January each year; figures representing 2022-2100 use the UN’s medium-variant population forecast, also for 1 January.

This variant is the medium of multiple projection scenarios and has associated uncertainty that increases over the length of the projection horizon, as it reflects assumptions about the future course of fertility and mortality over multiple generations into the future.

Countries and areas are grouped into eight Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) regions as defined by the United Nations Statistics Division and used for the Sustainable Development Goals Report.


Niels de Hoog, Pablo Gutiérrez, Liz Ford and Theresa Malone

The GuardianTramp

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