Thought for the day

8 Billion

The World’s Population Today?

3 March 2024
The World's population is estimated by the United Nations Population Prospects database to have reached 8 billion people, and to be on target for 9 billion in 15 years, and 10 billion in 50 years-time.

Has the world's population really grown from 3 billion in the 1960's to 8 billion?
Population in Billions
8 Billion

Data: UN Population Prospects Database, Median Total Population.

These numbers have been presented by the media as factual. For example, the Financial Times report said "The world’s population reaches 8bn people on Tuesday and will hit 9bn in 15 years as it experiences an unprecedented surge in the number of older people, according to the latest UN data.".

In reality "estimated" is the crucial word. These numbers can only be rough estimates, when a significant proportion of countries have out of date census records, and many others fail to register more than a fraction of births (see World Economics Population Data Quality Estimates).

For example, in populous Bangladesh 44% of births go unrecorded, in Pakistan 58% and in Nigeria 58% . Even in India over 11% of births go unrecorded.

Calculating world population accurately on the basis of such numbers can only be fraught with difficulty. And in 1960, when statistical records were far less reliable (see Morten Jerven's book "Poor Numbers" published relatively recently in 2013), probably close to pure guesswork.

Read here: World Economics Population Data quality Ratings for more information.  

More perspectives using World Economics data