Sometime around now, the 8 billionth living person will be born. It might already have happened – the United Nations estimates it will happen on 15 November. Other experts think it might happen later. We’ll never know for sure when or where the 8 billionth person was born, but one thing is certain, Earth’s population is growing.
About 12 years ago, in 2010, the population reached 7 billion. Around 12 years before that, in 1998, the population reached 6 billion. Roughly 11 years before it reached 5 billion, and 13 years before that 4 billion. The world’s population has been growing fast, but at a steady rate.
As the world’s population increases, the number of people having children increases – which means even more children. Over time, you might expect the population to grow faster and faster. At times in the past this has happened. However, things have been changing during the past 70 years.
Since the 1950s, women have been having fewer and fewer children on average. In 1950, women had an average of 5 children each. Recent figures suggest women are now averaging 2.3 children each. If this number drops below 2, then the world’s population will eventually start to fall.
There’s one more thing driving up the world’s population. People are living much longer. Back in 1990, life expectancy was about 64 years, on average. Now, it’s almost 73, and it’s still rising. The world population is getting older – in 2018, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, children under 5 were outnumbered by people over 65.
Current estimates suggest that population growth will now start to slow. The 9 billionth person on Earth is expected to be born in 15 years time, and the world’s population will reach 10.4 billion around 2080. Some estimates even have the world’s population reaching a peak around 2050 and declining to 7 billion before the end of the century.
No matter how it unfolds, Earth has a lot of people to support. That means we need to look after our planet too!