Earth prepares for 7 billion inhabitants

Published on China Daily /Europe, by Cui Jia and Jiang Xueqing, October 27, 2011.

The world’s population is expected to reach 7 billion on Monday, four years later than once predicted largely thanks to China’s family planning policy, according to the country’s top population experts … //

… World fertility:  

  • Despite the problems the world faces, the 7 billionth child has a better chance of surviving past age 5 than a decade ago, said Noeleen Heyzer, undersecretary-general of the UN and executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
  • Yuan said that one-third of the world’s countries, largely developed ones, have fertility rates below 2.1. That is the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime, and it’s the minimum rate to renew the population.
  • “Most developed countries, usually with lower fertility rates, are expecting a diminishing and aging population while the developing ones would instead see a stable rise in population, less aging,” he said.
  • The world’s fertility rate has been decreasing since the 1960s, easing global population pressure, Yuan said. On the other hand, population numbers keep rising. The UN has forecast that world population will reach 9.3 billion by the middle of this century.
  • China has succeeded in reining in its fast growth of population. In the 1990s, about 25 million people were born each year. The average today is 16 million.
  • Chinese statistics indicate the population, currently 1.34 billion, will peak at 1.45 billion in 2030 and will account for one-sixth of the world’s population. That’s a significant decrease from the one-third share of population held by China in the late 1660s and early 1700s, Yuan said.
  • According to the UN, India will overtake China as the most populous country in the world by 2050. The United States will be the only developed nation among the 10 most populated.

(see graphic)

Labor migration:

  • The population divide between developed countries and developing countries also will produce significant changes.
  • According to the UN forecast, among the 2.3 billion people to be added to the world by mid-century, 97 percent will come from developing countries. Developed countries will suffer a severe labor shortage, and labor will migrate to them from developing countries, which are vigorous in economic growth.
  • The global issue of aging populations is set to affect China, too, by increasing pressure on pension and healthcare systems. China will experience dramatic population changes, especially in terms of aging and gender balance.
  • “By 2050, some 25 percent of the world’s gray population will be from China, compared with 20 percent now,” Yuan said.
  • China’s labor population – people 15 to 59 years old – will fall from today’s 940 million to 750 million. Meanwhile, senior citizens will increase from 178 million to 480 million, from 13.3 percent of the total population to 34 percent.
  • Despite the shift in its labor population, China will still have more than 900 million people available to work in 2025, Yuan said, so pressure in the job market will remain high.
  • “We’ll still have a huge base of labor for a long time, just a little bit older,” he said. “Given improved life and medical services, the old could still be physically active”

… (full long text and graphics).

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