The world before the milestone of 8 billion people

The world population is expected to reach 8 billion by November 15. This milestone marks the world’s proud efforts and achievements in health care and improving people’s lives, but also poses great challenges to the goal of ensuring a sustainable future for all people.
People take part in an aerobics class in Cartago, east of San Jose on July 10, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS)
People take part in an aerobics class in Cartago, east of San Jose on July 10, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, affirmed that the event of the world’s population reaching the milestone of 8 billion people, is an occasion to celebrate the advancements in health, as more people have access to health care services, vaccines, medicines, and others. The unremitting efforts of countries and international organisations over recent years have brought about many achievements.

Maternal and child mortality rates have decreased significantly. The average life expectancy of people is prolonged and is expected to increase to 77.2 years by 2050. Although the annual population growth rate decreases, thanks to the increase in life expectancy and the number of people of childbearing age, the world’s population is expected to reach about 8.5 billion people in 2030, 9.7 billion people in 2050 and reach a peak of 10.4 billion people in 2080.

Besides achievements, the 8 billion population milestone also poses many challenges in terms of economy, society and environment, as well as ensuring the quality of life for people. According to the United Nations, one of the main factors driving global population growth is the increase in life expectancy. The proportion of people over 65 is expected to rise from 10% in 2022 to 16% in 2050.

However, fertility has fallen sharply, from an average of five children per woman in 1950 to a projected 2.1 children per woman by 2050. Life expectancy increases while fertility declines have led to an ageing population. The burden of the ageing population not only leads to a shortage of labour but also poses a difficult problem in maintaining the pension and health care system for the elderly.

World population growth is not evenly distributed across regions. More than 50% of the population growth by 2050, is expected to be concentrated in eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania. According to the United Nations, as the global population grows from 7 billion to 8 billion, about 70% of the additional population lives in low- and middle-income countries. Some analysts believe that rapid population growth partly affects the efforts of countries, in ensuring the quality of life, health, education, and employment of the people.

Welcoming Earth’s 8 billionth citizen is an occasion to reassess the challenges humanity must overcome so that no one is left behind. The world is facing a multi-layered crisis. Conflicts in many regions, climate disasters, lack of trust, division, disagreements, poverty, inequality, discrimination and storms of energy and food prices, make the path to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) increasingly distant.

Director-General of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner, said that a series of unprecedented crises in history threatens to reverse human progress and pull back human development indicators.

Besides, rapid population growth also puts pressure on the environment. According to the United Nations, while the world’s population doubled between 1970 and 2020, global wildlife populations fell by two-thirds. Since 1990, about 420 million ha of forests have been converted to other uses, and the area of primary forest worldwide has decreased by more than 80 million ha.

Therefore, the number of 8 billion people is not only a reminder to the world of efforts, to build a good life for all people but also a responsibility to protect the environment and the common planet.

Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Natalia Kanem once affirmed that, despite many difficulties ahead, the milestone of 8 billion people is still a story of success. Eight billion people is not just a number, but an opportunity. When all people enjoy healthy lives, are empowered and have opportunities, humanity will have the universal key to unlocking the potential of everyone, thereby solving the challenges that are threatening society and other global issues.