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Vital Statistics

One planet, 7 billion human beings

In about a year, world population will pass 7 billion. It’s doubled since 1967. We have added nearly a billion people to our numbers in the past 12 years. Our numbers are increasing at 1.2 per cent, or 78 million, annually.

In many countries, including some of the world’s biggest, women today are having fewer children than in their parents’ generation – about half as many. Population growth is levelling off, and will probably stop altogether by 2045. But numbers will reach 9 billion, and could be higher.

The world today has at the same time the biggest generation of young people in history (1.8 billion), and a growing number of older people – 700 million in 2009.The numbers of people age 60 or older are growing at a rate of 2.6 per cent per year. 1  

Cities are home to half the world’s population, and the world’s cities are growing fast.2 The population of the whole world in 1800 would fit into today’s 100 biggest cities.

Children, Sao Tome e Principe

Children, Sao Tome e Principe
Photo: UNFPA

A nation of migrants, 214 million strong, live in countries other than their own. Nearly three-quarters of them are working-age – 20-64.3


The number of people living under the international poverty line of $1.25 a day is 1.4 billion. It declined from 1.8 billion between 1990 and 2005.
The proportion of people living in extreme poverty in developing regions is 27 per cent, down from 46 per cent.

The economic crisis is expected to push an estimated 64 million more people into extreme poverty in 2010.

About one in four children under the age of five is underweight in the developing world, down from almost one in three in 1990.


884 million people worldwide still do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines.

The world has missed the 2010 target for biodiversity conservation. Based on current trends, the loss of species will continue throughout this century.

Some 828 million people are living in slums today. Though the share of the urban population living in slums is declining, the numbers keep rising.

Women’s human rights6

More than 350,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, almost all of them – 99 per cent – in developing countries. The maternal mortality rate is declining slowly.

The vast majority of maternal deaths are avoidable. In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s lifetime risk of death from maternal causes is 1 in 30, compared to 1 in 5,600 in developed regions.

In 2008, skilled health workers attended 63 per cent of births in the developing world, up from 53 per cent in 1990.7

Every year, more than 1 million children are left motherless. Children who have lost their mothers are up to 10 times more likely to die prematurely than those who have not.

By 2007, 62 per cent of married women were using some form of contraception. However, these increases are lower than in the 1990s.

Family planning makes good economic sense. A dollar spent in family planning can save between $2 and $6 in achieving the MDGs for health, education and environmental sustainability.

In 2008, there were 96 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in primary school, and 95 girls for every 100 boys in secondary school in developing regions.

The share of women employed outside of agriculture remains as low as 20 per cent in Southern Asia, Western Asia and Northern Africa.

The global share of women in parliament continues to rise slowly and reached 19 per cent in 2010. This is far short of gender parity.

1 World Population Ageing, 2009