Understanding the Population Dynamics

Dr Parveen Kumar
According to the United Nations (UN), world is now home to population which is more than three times larger than it was in the mid-twentieth century. The global human population had peaked up to d 8.0 billion in mid-November 2022 from an estimated 2.5 billion people in 1950, adding 1 billion people since 2010 and 2 billion since 1998. It is expected to increase by nearly 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, from the current 8 billion to 9.7 billion in 2050 and could peak at nearly 10.4 billion in the mid-2080s. If we see the distribution of global population by continent (2023), we see that the major share is of Asia (59.18%) followed by Africa (18.4%), Europe (9.29%), Latin America and Carribean (8.14%), North America (4.68%) and Oceania (0.58%). This dramatic growth has been driven by a number of factors. The main factors include an increase in no. of persons surviving to reproductive age, quality healthcare leading to a gradual increase in human lifespan, increase in food grains production, increasing urbanization and accelerating migration. Major changes in fertility rate have accompanied this growth. According to the World Population Prospects (2022), global fertility is projected to fall from 2.3 children per woman in 2021 to 2.1 in 2050. It is here pertinent to mention that India has now left China behind to achieve the distinction of being the most populous country in the world.
Overall, significant gains in life expectancy have been achieved in recent years. Globally, life expectancy at birth is expected to rise from 72.8 years in 2019 to 77.2 years in 2050. While considerable progress has been made in closing the longevity differential between countries, large gaps remain. In 2021, life expectancy at birth in the least developed countries lags 7 years behind the global average, due largely to persistently high levels of child and maternal mortality, as well as violence, conflict and the continuing impact of the HIV epidemic. Global migration is a much smaller component of population change than births or deaths. However, in some countries and areas that send or receive large numbers of economic migrants and those affected by refugee flows the impact of migration on population size is significant.
If we analyze the population growth in the world, we find that a tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution; whereas it had taken all of human history until around 1800 for world population to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in 30 years (1960), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987). During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion. The rapid recent increase in human population has created concern. The annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at around 2%. The increasing population poses critical challenges to achieve sustainable development, health, and well-being of all. It is a cause of concern for all of us. This is because the planet has also a carrying capacity and the increasing population has put severe pressure on the already scarce resources on this planet. Many social scientists think earth has a maximum carrying capacity of 9 billion to 10 billion people. The eminent Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, bases his estimate on calculations of the Earth’s available resources.
To focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, the ‘World Population Day’ was established by the then Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1989 as an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on 11 July 1987. The ‘Five Billion Day’ on 11th July, 1987 was the day when the world’s population reached 5 billion. This day was suggested by Dr. K. C. Zachariah when population reached five billion and when he worked as Senior Demographer at World Bank. The World Population Day also calls for global attention to the unfinished business of the 1994 ‘International Conference on Population and Development’. It is now almost thirty years since that landmark conference, where 179 governments recognized that reproductive health and gender equality are essential for achieving sustainable development. World population Day obviously reminds us to look at the current population and population issues that influence how peoples live now.
Overpopulation is a major issue given the unsustainable rate at which the world’s resources are being depleted. It is important to understand how population expansion impacts the environment and development. The ever-expanding population also brings with it the attention to be given to health problems that women face during pregnancy and childbirth, highlighting the importance of gender equality, family planning, and maternal health. Another issue is that the strains of population pressure have led to increase in frequency of terrible crimes against human rights and gender equality. Abuses such as child labour and increase in incidences of human trafficking have not yet been totally controlled.
Population issues disproportionately affect people in developing countries. People living in very poor countries have a life expectancy that’s about 20 years shorter than people in rich developed countries. One third of population growth is due to unplanned pregnancies which often happen when peoples are lacking education and family planning services. This day is also a day to set up standards where we can achieve the targets set under Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Our approach towards the fairer sex should be non discriminatory. Nothing should be cramped on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, national origin, age, and economic status, place of residence, disability status, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity. Safeguarding the health and rights particularly of women and girls deserves a special focus. It is essential to ensure that there is no disruption to health services like timely vaccination, availability of contraceptives and health insurance services. It is also necessary that child social evils like child marriage, gender-based violence in all forms and other gender specific social issues are eliminated through legislation, counseling or other means.
Every country should also ensure that the relevant commodities and services are available and accessible to everyone and that these should be acceptable. It also should be binding upon the countries to ensure the active participation of individuals in decisions that affect them including health issues. We should also use this occasion to educate and aware the common masses about the various issues pertaining to the rising population and to mobilize political will and resources to address the problem. For the last so many years, this global day has been instrumental in raising awareness and promoting policies and programs that support sustainable development and the well-being of all individuals. The significance of this day is that it sparks discussions about how rising population and its dynamics impact socio-economic development, environmental sustainability, and individual well-being. It is also a reminder that our growing population presents both challenges and opportunities that require our pro-active measures and the way out to challenges posed by increasing population lies in family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.
(The author writes on agriculture and social issues)