A RECENT study published in the Lancet medical journal estimated that the world’s population will experience a peak in the year 2064 (9.73bn people), before seeing a sharp decline at the end of the century, with an estimated 8.79bn people inhabiting the planet in 2100. The figure stands in contrast to an earlier projection made by the United Nations, which stated that the global population may peak in 2100, with approximately 10.9bn people — 2bn higher than the latest estimate. However, the more recent journal study estimated that more than 20 countries will witness their populations reduce by half or more, including Italy, Portugal, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. The most populous country in the world, China, will show a drastic reduction from 1.4bn to 732m people in 2100. Meanwhile, India will overtake China as the country with the highest population, peaking at 1.6bn people before declining to 1.09bn in 2100. In contrast, several African countries will witness an increase in their populations, and Nigeria is expected to swell up to around 791m, surpassing China, which is projected to have the third highest population by 2100.With 336m people, the United States is anticipated to have the fourth highest population in the world in 2100, followed by Pakistan (248m) at fifth place.
Even at this time, Pakistan has the fifth highest population in the world, trailing behind only China, India, the United States and Indonesia. The current number of people in the country stands well over 200m, and Pakistan also has one of the highest annual birth rates in the world. And yet, despite the fact that this population boom has far-reaching consequences, affecting every aspect of social development and service provision, the issue is not treated with the urgency that it deserves. The Lancet study attributed the projected lower global population growth rates to “continued trends in female educational attainment and access to contraception” in much of the world. In order to keep fertility rates low, the researchers recommended continued policymaking to improve women’s reproductive health. However, in a seminar last year, the special assistant to the prime minister for national health services explained that about half of all married women in Pakistan do not use or have access to modern contraceptive methods, resulting in over 3m unwanted pregnancies each year. Until women’s lower social standing and lack of agency is addressed and remedied, this nation will not be able to realise its true potential.
Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2020