Global population slowing but overpopulation still looms
It is no great secret that the population of the world is growing but statistics have shown that the growth rate is slowing down. This is generally considered to be good news, but figures also show that the global population is destined to keep climbing and the threat of a population crush remains very real.
According to a report from the BBC, there is concern within the scientific community that the slowdown is not enough.  The report refers to figures released by the UN Population Division in February, 2011, which show that the continued growth rate remains higher than mortality rates.
Should the current trend continue, the report states, then the current 6.9 billion population of the world will have increased to 14 billion before the end of this century, and could reach 30 billion by the year 2300.
In order for overpopulation to be avoided, fertility rates must fall below replacement rates - which basically means that more people die than are born in any given year.
Experts agree that all countries must strive to achieve this, not just the likes of China, India and other heavily populated nations. The Director of the UN Population Division, Hania Zlotnik, quoted by the BBC as saying: "Even countries with intermediate fertility need to reduce it to replacement level or below if they reach unsustainable population levels."
China has had a one-child policy in place since 1978 but remains the undisputed population kingpins of the world, with 1.34 billion inhabitants. That staggering figure has grown from 667 million just 50 years ago, but even its population growth rate is visibly slowing down. According to statistics available on website Nationmaster.com, which has tracked the growth of global and national populations with figures from UN and governmental bodies world wide, show that the growth rate has slowed significantly .
For example, between 2008 and 2011, the Chinese population grew by just under 6.7 million (1,330,044,544 to 1,336,718,015), while the growth rate from 2007-2008 alone was about 8.2 million, and 11.1 million from 2006-2007. In fact, in the last decade China's population has grown by just under 65 million, but grew by 121 million in the 10 years before that, 1991-2001. 
India, meanwhile, remains the second most populous country on earth with its own 2011 census showing a population of 1.21 billion. However, its census, which was carried out in February, also shows that the rate of growth in the country is at his lowest since India gained independence in the 1940s. According to provisional figures, the growth rate was 17.64% over the past decade (2001-2011) compared to 21.54% from 1991-2001 and 23.8% over the previous 10 years. 
The future of global demographics is set for a major shift. UN figures state, for example, that Europe's population grew from 727 million to 729 million in five years between 2000 and 2005, and to 733 million by 2010.  However, their projections suggest that Europe's total population is set to decline steadily to an estimated 691 million in 2050, reducing its share of the global population by 3% to just 7.6%.
It is a similar story for most regions of the world, though the fall in overall population is expected to be a European phenomenon. North America is expected grow from 352 million in 2010 to 448 million in 2050, but represent a fall of 0.2% of the global population. Even Asia will slip from 60.3% to 57.2% in global population share, despite an increase in population of 4.17 billion to 5.23 billion.
The only region expected to grow is Africa, with the continent's population doubling over the next 40 years from 1 billion people, increasing to 21.8% of the world's population. This suggests its development into a leading region in the world could be realized.
So, what do all these figures and stats actually mean? Well, simply put: the breaks are on on population growth but it's unlikely to come to a complete stop any time soon. So the world will continue to get that bit smaller every day!
- Camille Ebden, "UN 'concerned' by world population growth trends," BBC.com, Feb 3, 2011, accessed May 7, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12338901
- "Population (2011) by country", NationMaster.com, accessed May 17, 2011, http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/peo_pop-people-population&date=2011
- "China (historical data)", NationMaster.com, accessed May 17, 2011, http://www.nationmaster.com/time.php?stat=peo_pop-people-population&country=ch-china
- "Census Posts", Census of India, accessed may 17, 2011, http://www.censusindia.gov.in/
- "World Population", Wikipedia.com, accessed May 17, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population#cite_note-unpp-71