27 October 1998


27 October 1998

Press Release


19981027 World Population Expected to Reach 6 Billion in 1999 And Likely to Approach 9 Billion by 2050, But Fertility is Declining Globally

NEW YORK, 26 October (Population Division, DESA) -- According to the 1998 revised estimates and projections of the United Nations, the world population currently stands at 5.9 billion persons and is growing at 1.33 per cent per year, an annual net addition of about 78 million people. World population in the mid-twenty-first century is expected to be in the range of 7.3 to 10.7 billion, with a figure of 8.9 billion by the year 2050 considered to be most likely.

Scheduled for release on 28 October, the 1998 Revision of the official United Nations world population estimates and projections, prepared by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), provides standard population figures for use in relevant activities throughout the United Nations system.

World population is expected to reach the 6 billion mark in 1999, according to these United Nations estimates. From 1804, when the world passed the 1 billion mark, it took 123 years to reach 2 billion people in 1927, 33 years to attain 3 billion in 1960, 14 years to reach 4 billion in 1974, 13 years to attain 5 billion in 1987 and 12 years to reach 6 billion in 1999.

Fertility is Declining Globally

At the same time, fertility is now declining in all regions of the world, according to the 1998 Revision. The global average fertility level now stands at 2.7 births per woman. By contrast, during the early 1950s, the average number was 5 births per woman. In the last 25 years, the number of children per couple has fallen from 6.6 to 5.1 in Africa, from 5.1 to 2.6 in Asia, and from 5.0 to 2.7 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

During the period 1995 to 2000, the total fertility rate (TFR) is estimated to be at or below the level of 2.1 children per woman in 61 countries or areas of the world. In nearly all of the more developed countries, fertility is significantly below the level necessary for the replacement of generations (TFR of approximately 2.1). In the 1980s and 1990s, fertility has decreased to levels below replacement in several

countries from less developed regions, including all countries in the populous regions of Eastern Asia except Mongolia.

Devastating Mortality Toll from AIDS Epidemic

The 1998 Revision demonstrates a devastating mortality toll from HIV/AIDS. In the 29 hardest hit African countries, the average life expectancy at birth is estimated at forty-seven years, seven years less than it would have been in the absence of AIDS. The highest prevalence of HIV in the world is currently in Botswana, where one of every four adults is infected. Life expectancy at birth in Botswana is anticipated to fall from sixty-one years in 1990 to 1995 to forty-one years by 2000 to 2005. Based on the United Nations projections, Botswana's population by 2025 may be 23 per cent smaller than it would have been in the absence of AIDS. Nevertheless, because fertility is high, the population of Botswana is still expected to nearly double between 1995 and 2050.

Number of Older Persons Rising Dramatically

The figures in the 1998 Revision shed new light on the global population ageing processes. For the first time, the numbers of octogenarians (eighty to eighty-nine years old), nonagenarians (ninety to ninety-nine years old) and centenarians (one hundred years and over) are estimated and projected for all countries of the world. In 1998, 66 million persons in the world were aged eighty or over, or about one of every 100 persons. This number is expected to increase almost six-fold by 2050 to reach 370 million persons. In addition, in 1998, around 135 thousand persons in the world are estimated to be aged one hundred or over. The number of centenarians is projected to increase sixteen-fold by 2050 to reach 2.2 million persons.

The results of the 1998 Revision will be issued in the form of a wall chart entitled "World Population 1998", and in two publications entitled World Population Prospects; the 1998 Revision (forthcoming in 1999), and The Sex and Age Distribution of the World Population (also in 1999). The results from the 1998 Revision will be available for purchase, by the end of November, in electronic format for IBM-compatible computers.

For additional information and to arrange interviews, contact Bill Hass, Development and Human Rights Section, United Nations Department of Public Information, at tel: (212) 963-0353.

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For information media. Not an official record.