2012 World Population Data Sheet Focuses on Noncommunicable Diseases and the “Demographic Divide”
The 2012 data sheet also sheds light on population growth trends, which reveal a prominent “demographic divide,” or stark contrast in birth and death rates between less developed and more developed countries. Nearly all future population growth will occur in developing countries. While in 1950, 1.7 billion people (about two-thirds of the world population at the time) lived in less developed countries, by 2050, more than 8 billion people (roughly 86 percent of the world population) will live in less developed countries. Most wealthy countries have experienced a long-term collapse in birth rates, which, in many places, is now roughly the same as the death rate. Population pyramids for developed countries are actually no longer pyramid shaped, indicating the end of population growth and the beginning of unprecedented aging.
In contrast, developing country population pyramids hold a true pyramid shape, indicating that births greatly outnumber deaths. This results in a young age structure. While fertility is declining in Africa, this decline is very slow compared to that of wealthier nations. For example, Tanzania currently has a population of 48 million; it is projected to grow to 138 million by 2050. Spain, meanwhile, currently has a population of 46 million, but it is only expected to grow to 48 million by 2050.
As the population of young people balloons in the developing world, the retirement population is soaring in developed countries. In 2050, 42 percent of Japan’s population will be 60 or older; this will be true for 38 percent of the population in Germany, 19 percent in India, and only 6 percent in Uganda. Despite these differences, the proportion of population over 60 will increase in all of these countries between now and 2050.
The population trends in both developed and developing nations will require innovative responses. Parts of the world with a growing youth population must figure out how to accommodate the economic, social, educational, nutritional, and other needs of this massive young generation. Countries with rapidly aging populations must find solutions to the impending workforce shortages, health care demands, and budgetary drains that will occur as a result of the shrinking working-age population. As is true each year, the publication of the 2012 data sheet is a reminder for those working in international health and development that there is much work to be done. We must apply both creativity and pragmatism to the important task of meeting the needs of the ever-changing global population. And next year, as it does every year, the PRB data sheet will help us measure our progress.