By Karl Hofmann, President and CEO of PSI
Demography is a powerful thing. Only two years ago, the UN projected a “medium variant” global population in 2050 of 9.3 billion; just recently the UN upped this projection by 300 million people to 9.6 billion. What’s striking about this upward drift in the UN’s projections is that the growth comes from a surprisingly small set of countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. These include Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as Niger, which currently has the world’s highest fertility rates.
Elsewhere the world has recorded general declines in fertility. Family size is falling and incomes are rising. And the relationship between those two trends is the subject of ongoing debate over whether one causes the other, and if so, which way the causality flows.
The experience of some emerging economies demonstrates that what’s most important to general societal health and well-being is not necessarily how rapidly the population is growing, but rather what policies are in place to leverage these additional brains into productive uses for society. The demographic dividend that India has reaped, for example, means that even though huge social challenges remain, the growing Indian population has been able to power middle class economic growth and social progress. Population matters, but so do policies.