WINDHOEK - The world’s population reached the seven billion mark in 2011 and is likely to rise by another two billion by the middle of this century.
The rapid increase is attributed to people living longer, with healthier children being born and more of them surviving into adulthood.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the world’s population is also much younger, with 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24, viewed the largest youth cohort in human history.
At the same time, the population is also older, with nearly 900 million people over the age of 60.
“The picture of today’s global population is a collage of diverse human experiences, trends, achievements and contradictions,” the UNFPA stated in its 2011 annual report.
Some countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia have population growth rates that are outpacing economic growth, while many European countries and Japan have fertility rates so low that their governments are concerned about possible labour shortages and its impact on economic growth.
Much of the two billion growth foreseen, is expected to come from high-fertility countries, 39 of which are in Africa, nine in Asia, six in Oceania and four in Latin America.
Asia will remain the most populous major area in the world in the 21st century, while Africa is projected to gain ground as its population more than triples.
It is anticipated that Africa will increase from the one billion in 2011 to 3.6 billion people by 2100.
Europe’s population is expected to peak around 2015 at 0.7 billion and decline, thereafter.
At the same time, the characteristics of the global population are shifting. “Today there are 893 million people around the world who are over the age of 60. By the middle of this century, that number will rise to 2.3 billion,” the UNFPA said.
In addition, about one in two people now live in a city and in only about 35 years, two out of three will live in a city, while people under the age of 25 will make up 43 percent of the world’s population, reaching as much as 60 percent in some countries.
“Our record population size may be viewed as a success for humanity but not everyone has benefited from this achievement or the higher quality of life that this implies,” the UNFPA report concluded.
According to UNFPA, great economic and social disparities persist between and within countries, while intractable gaps in rights deny men, women, girls and boys equal opportunities in life.
The UN population agency suggested a new path to development that promotes equality rather than reinforcing inequalities.
The UNFPA charted such a new path in 2011 to ensure that the world is able to meet the challenges arising from the demographically diverse world of seven billion.