Population Matters

Graphs, stats and projections

Graphs, stats and projections

World population projections


The United Nations issues projections for future population every two years. Because many factors affect population numbers, they produce a range of estimates, with the central red line representing the median figure – the one generally used to indicate future population. This is a simplified diagram and the full range of projetions can be found on the UN’s population website.

In 2017, it calculated the following high, low and median (in red) figures for the middle and end of the century:

Note: The low and high variant figures represent population figures if families have half-a-child more on average  than the median projection, or half-a-child less.

Currently, population is growing by 1.1 per cent per year – 83 million people.

Uneven distribution

World map detailing population size in each region

Population size and distribution across the world remain highly uneven, as evidenced by the latest UN World Population Prospects figures.

High rates of growth

It is also clear that while population growth rates are falling globally, some countries will continue experience large levels of growth between now and the end of the century.

Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017)

Falling fertility levels

What is hopeful, according to these median projections, is that fertility is expected to fall in almost all of the world’s most populous countries. For this to occur, however, it will be essential to support continued improvements in access to reproductive health care services, including family planning, with a focus on enabling women and couples to achieve their desired family size.

Need more detail? Visit the United Nations’ World Population Prospects website, where you’ll find interactive maps and graphs, and its 2017 report on population. 

UK population projections

Source: Office for National Statistics
Estimated and projected population of the UK, mid-1981 to mid-2039. Source: ONS

The Office for National Statistics produces projections for UK population. Again, a large number of variables affect the figures so a range of calculations are provided. The most recent figures (March 2017) are that the UK has a population of 65.1 million, which is expected to reach 70 million by 2026 and more than 77 million by 2050.

[Notes to graph: HP = High fertility, high life expectancy, high migration; YP = High fertility, low life expectancy, high migration; HM = High migration; HF = High fertility; HL = High life expectancy; P = Principal projection; LL = Low life expectancy; LF = Low fertility; LM = Low migration; OP = Low fertility, high life expectancy, low migration; LP = Low fertility, low life expectancy, low migration]

Family size trend in England and Wales

Source: Office for National Statistics
Estimated family size distribution in England and Wales. Source: ONS
The traditional two-child family remains the most common family type in England and Wales, with 37 per cent of women born in 1967 having two children. Childlessness is the second most common family size for the 1967 cohort. This is a recent development first encountered among the 1964 cohort, whereas for those born between the late 1930s and early 1960s, three children was the second most common family size. A woman born in 1940 was more likely to have one, three, or ‘four or more’ children than not to have any. Only one in ten women born in 1967 had four or more children, compared with nearly one in five in the 1940 cohort.

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