Home » 2021 Population Data Sheet Highlights Declining Fertility Rates | News | SDG Knowledge Hub

The global population is projected to increase to 9.7 billion by 2050, according to the 2021 edition of the World Population Data Sheet. This level represents a nearly 24% increase over 2020, although it is lower than was expected last year: the 2020 edition anticipated that the global population would reach 9.9 billion by 2050.

The World Population Data Sheet is released annually by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), a non-profit organization that tracks population indicators for more than 200 countries and territories. The 2021 edition offers an in-depth look at fertility patterns and trends. 

With regard to fertility, the resource highlights differences based on income levels and age. In high-income countries, fertility rates for women of all age groups have declined since 1950. Fertility rates are also lowest for adolescents ages 15 to 19 and women in their 40s (14 and 8 births per 1,000 women, respectively). In middle-income countries, the fertility rate for women in their 30s has stabilized, which the Data Sheet suggests could signal a transition to delayed childbearing in middle-income countries, as seen in high-income countries. In low-income countries, fertility rates are steadily declining for all age groups, but without signs that signal delayed childbearing. The fertility rate for adolescents ages 15 to 19 in these countries is 94 births per 1,000 adolescent girls. 

Additional points in the 2021 Data Sheet include:

  • India is projected to have the greatest absolute increase in population size of any country between 2021 and 2050, while China, Thailand, and Ukraine are among the 39 countries and territories projected to have smaller populations by 2050;
  • China is currently the most populous country, with 1.4 billion people;
  • The global total fertility rate (lifetime number of births per woman) is 2.3, which is above replacement-level (2.1 births per woman) but lower than it was in 1990 (3.2);  
  • Global life expectancy is 75 years for women and 71 years for men; and
  • 85% of South America’s population lives in urban areas.

The Data Sheet also notes that “COVID-19 is likely the cause of an increase in crude death rates in some countries around the world and a dip in life expectancy in the United States.” PRB notes that Italy, Russia, and the US were among the countries recording higher crude death rates in 2020 versus 2019. Furthermore, provisional 2020 data indicate life expectancy at birth in the US dropped from 81.4 to 80.2 years for women and from 76.3 to 74.5 for men. [SDG Knowledge Hub stories about the World Data Population Sheet in 202020192018, and 2017]

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