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In November of last year, the world population surpassed 8 billion people.  Coming to terms with just how many people 8 billion is can prove to be conceptually challenging.  So, what does this level of a global population look like when broken down by country? Let’s explore population growth below.

Exploring Population Growth

China and India are the two countries with the largest populations of any nation in the world, with 1.426 and 1.417 billion people, respectively.  Other countries with large populations include The United States of America, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, and Indonesia.  The populations of these countries in order are 338 million, 145 million, 228 million, 215 million, 219 million, and 280 million. 

Of the aforementioned countries, many of these populations have been increasing due to migration.  For example, the United States of America has had an incoming migration rate of 2.784 people out of every thousand.  

Other countries’ populations are substantially smaller.  For example, Argentina, Canada, and Australia have relatively small populations. These countries consist of 46 million, 28 million, and 26 million people respectively.  With one of the smallest populations globally, New Zealand’s population is just 5 million people.  

To put these various populations in perspective, New Zealand’s population would have to be multiplied by 285.2 to equal that of China. 

As our population has grown, so have other facets of the human experience; life expectancy has increased, and certain aspects of global business have advanced.  Other things are expected to continue on a path of growth, as well – experts believe that rates of migration between countries will go up as time goes on.  However, these patterns of expansion are not resulting in the same outcomes amongst various regions of the world.  

Life Expectancy Rates

The global life expectancy has gone up from an expected 29 years in 1800 to 73 on average today.  Some countries fall above this average expected lifespan, while others fall below.  Spain is considered to be one of the healthiest countries in the world, with a life expectancy of 83.98 years and a health index score of 92.75.  On the other end of the spectrum, Sierra Leone has a life expectancy of just 44.40 years, with a health index score of 0. 


With regard to the impact of a growing world population on business, there are pros and cons to be considered.  The rate of global GDP, or gross domestic product, has slowed down substantially.  However, GDP for particular areas is actually increasing: for example, Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a rise in labor rates that is leading to more GDP in that region.  

The heightened average age of the world population is also a factor that carries both good and bad tidings for business.  On the bright side, more overall capita and productivity are correlated with workers living longer lives.  On the other hand, an aging population places heavier demands on industry, as older individuals require more support. 

To get to 8 billion people, the growth rate has been increasing at about 0.83% each year.  We’ve made it to 8 billion, so what’s next?  The upcoming benchmark for the world population is 9 billion people.  Experts anticipate that we will reach that number in just 15 more years.  

As we look to the future, and experts predict patterns of continued growth, we can expect to see increased migration rates.  Africa is expected to intake enough migrants to double its population by the year 2050, while the population of Europe is expected to decrease due to migration by 15%.  

Overall, experts agree that a growing population is an accomplishment to be celebrated. However, they remind us that we must keep in mind the impacts of heightened population on the planet, and humankind as a whole.  

Bringing it all Together

António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, said that “the milestone [of reaching 8 billion] is an occasion to celebrate diversity and advancements while considering humanity’s shared responsibility for the planet.”.  Dr. Mrittika Shamsuddin, an instructor at Dalhousie University, echoed Guterres’ sentiments.  She asserted that “humankind has made tremendous progress… [but] rapid population growth might lead to depletion of non-renewable resources, deforestation, pollution, and hence global warming.”  Finally, ANU researcher and demographer Dr. Liz Allen reminds us to carefully evaluate the social impacts of increased population. She said that “population growth or decline aren’t in and of themselves bad things … the key issue is how a population is functioning”.

Learn more about population growth rates around the globe in the infographic below:

8 billion people visualized

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