World population set to reach 7 billion in two years

Jeremy Hance
August 13, 2009

Despite declining birth rates in some developed countries, the world population is still growing—and fast. A new study by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) finds that the human population will hit a new milestone of seven billion people by 2011.

The number will be reached just twelve years after the planet hit 6 billion people in 1999.

"Even with declining fertility rates in many countries, world population is still growing at a rapid rate,” said Bill Butz, PRB's president. "The increase from 6 billion to 7 billion is likely to take 12 years, as did the increase from 5 billion to 6 billion. Both events are unprecedented in world history."

Children in Madagascar. Half of the children under five in Madagascar are malnourished and two-thirds of the population live on less than 1.25 dollars US a day. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Population growth is being driven almost entirely by developing countries. In fact, the human population of Africa has just passed one billion and if birth rates remain steady the continent will reach two billion by 2050. Countries in Africa, and other parts of the developed world, are also seeing a youth boom (ages 15-24).

"The great bulk of today’s 1.2 billion youth—nearly 90 percent—are in developing countries," said Carl Haub, PRB senior demographer and co-author of the data sheet. "During the next few decades, these young people will most likely continue the current trend of moving from rural areas to cities in search of education and training opportunities, gainful employment, and adequate health care."

But will these young people—of which 8 out of 10 are in Africa and Asia—find what they are looking for?

Despite decades of work on abolishing poverty, half of the world’s people still live in below the poverty line, surviving on less than 2 dollars US a day.

According to estimates, world population has been growing consistently since after the Black Death swept Europe and Asia in the 14th Century. At that time global population has been estimated at 350 million people. By 2011, there will be twenty times that number on Earth.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (August 13, 2009).

World population set to reach 7 billion in two years.