While the global population is expected to significantly grow in number, some countries will still witness a decrease in population by 2050. There are several reasons for this, the foremost of which are fertility rates and emigration.
The global population has been increasing steadily since the 1800s and on 15 November 2022, it is expected to reach 8 billion people worldwide compared to 984 million at the beginning of the 19th century. According to forecasts, the world will record further growth in population until 2080. However, despite these predictions, some countries are expected to shrink in population size. The countries that are likely to register a decline in population size are mainly located in or near Eastern Europe, except Japan and Cuba. From 2020 to 2050, the highest drop in population, 22.5%, will be recorded in Bulgaria. Lithuania follows with a 22.1% projected decline for the same period and Latvia ranks third with 21.6%.
Fig.1. Top 20 countries with the fastest declining populations, 2020-2050
Source: Visual Capitalist
There are several reasons why Eastern European countries lead the list of countries with the quickest decline in populations. Firstly, birthrates dropped dramatically in these countries after the USSR collapsed. While in 1988, on average, a woman had 2.1 children, in 1998, this number fell to 1.2. Secondly, emigration has played a significant role. Due to the European Union’s border expansion between 2004 and 2007, Eastern European countries had recorded emigration equal to 6.3 million people by 2016.
Japan and Cuba, the only countries located outside Eastern Europe, also have low levels of birth rates. In Japan, the birth rate has been falling since 1971 when it was 2.2 to 1.3 in 2020. Overall, 811,604 babies were born in 2021 in Japan while, at the same time, 1.44 million people passed away. At 49 years, Japan currently has the highest average age among all other nations.
In Cuba, the birth rate is the lowest among Latin American countries. For instance, in Guatemala the fertility rate, measured by births per woman, is equal to 3.0. In Paraguay it stands at 2.5 and in Mexico at 2.2 while in Cuba the fertility rate is equal to 1.7. In addition, Cuba also has a low level of immigration. The International Organization for Migration states only 0.1% of the population in Cuba are migrants.
As for the population growth rate on a global level, this has slowed down over time, reaching its slowest rate, 1%, in 2020 compared to 1950. However, estimates show that, despite this deceleration, the global population could increase to about 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050 and 10.4 billion by 2080. Currently China leads the list of the most populous countries but India is expected to exceed China in 2023.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, commenting on the population growth rates, noted:
“This year’s World Population Day falls during a milestone year, when we anticipate the birth of the Earth’s eight billionth inhabitants. This is an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity, and marvel at advancements in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates. At the same time, it is a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another.”
Fig.2. The global population over 300 years, by country
Source: Visual Capitalist