I was looking at a reading of the latest world population data sheet published annually by the Population Reference Bureau, an organization that has been meticulously gathering demographic data since 1929. Any figures used here referring to this data, come from the data sheet.
One set of facts that can be derived from this data, show clearly the differences in population growth between the developed and relatively underdeveloped world economies. While the world has, as of this summer, 7.8 billion people, the developed world has roughly 1.27 billion people and the less developed world has over 6.5 billion people. The trend in world population points to significant increases in the population of the already large underdeveloped world. Their rate of natural increase, the difference between the crude birth rate and the crude death rate, is 1.4 percent compared to a rate of 0 percent for the developed world. This has not deterred parts of the less developed world from adding significant amounts of population.
Africa is a good example of these additions. Its rate of natural increase is 2.6 percent. The projection for its population is rapid growth – increasing 41 percent from 1.34 billion to 1.89 billion by mid-2035. Therefore, the pattern that is easily discernible in the growth of world population persists: nations that are relatively poor continue to have significant population growth. Those countries that do experience this growth are faced with the task of housing, educating, employing and providing healthcare for their populations. So far, the solutions to these problems have generally escaped the underdeveloped countries, and the suffering will continue.
One of the things that can be done now is to improve and make more efficient the family planning methods used by low-income countries. In order to do that, the relatively poor countries have to allocate more resources towards developing these solutions, helping those who want to have fewer children realize that goal. This is no easy task. Underdeveloped countries are and will be in need of introducing these latest and most productive methods of birth control, but that does not mean that those who have a need for those methods will welcome them. Those who own small family farms have a consistent need to employ family labor resources. Accordingly, they might not welcome some of those proposals that limit these resources.
Any discussion of trends in world population would be incomplete without considering the population changes in India and China. Both nations have approximately 1.40 billion people, and the 2.8 billion total represents about 28.5 percent of the world’s population. Projections of their population show that India will have over 1.57 billion in 2035. Their rate of natural increase, 0.9 percent, will indeed produce consistent population growth. China’s rate of natural increase, 0.3 percent, is significantly below that of India. Accordingly, China will fall further behind India in total population in the near future. It is worth mentioning that both these nations have taken significant steps to control population growth. Still, it is noteworthy to realize that they will continue to suffer from the problems that plagued economically developing nations in the 20th century and still continue to concern those nations in the 21st century.
Continual population growth and increased urbanization complicates the struggle against COVID-19. Taking proper steps such as hand washing, social distancing and increasing the use of masks, becomes more difficult. The developing nations need all the help they can get to control population growth and to control COVID-19.
Author and educator Dave Kaplan writes from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif.