Population Matters

World Population Day 2017: a call for action

World Population Day 2017: a call for action

This year on World Population Day, we recognise the unsustainable impacts of continued global population growth, putting increased pressure on resources, the environment and those struggling to escape poverty. Yet there remains hope for the future, as action to bring down and eventually reverse population growth can be taken.


According to the most recent United Nations projections, our global population by the end of the century could vary drastically depending on the scenario. The main, “median” projection shows a population of 9.8bn in 2050 and 11.2bn in 2100. However, projections based on assuming half-a-child more on average per family and half-a-child less compared to the median indicate that our population in 2100 could see a massive range: between 16.5bn and, with half-a-child less, 7.3bn—smaller than our population today.


In order to ensure that our population growth becomes sustainable over time, effective and ethical measures to reduce the number of children being born need to be adopted. These include:

  • Public education campaigns regarding the benefits of small families
  • Education and empowerment of women and girls
  • Ensuring full, universal access to modern family planning
  • Challenging social conventions which encourage large family size and discourage the use of contraception


Today in London, a major global family planning summit is taking place, co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The summit comes as family planning aid has been hit hard by the Trump administration’s reinstatement of the ‘global gag rule’, which bans funding to any organisation providing abortion services or even discussing abortion options with its clients.

In an interview, Melinda Gates said

“Funding is being squeezed when we need it the most, because the biggest-ever generation of girls is entering adolescence. If they are empowered to decide if and when to get pregnant, they can invest in themselves and their families. If they are not empowered, they may well be trapped in the same cycle of poverty as their parents.”

Representatives of Population Matters are attending satellite events at the summit. Population Matters is calling for a benchmark figure of 10% of overseas aid to be devoted to family planning.

Our view

In a statement to the media, Population Matters director Robin Maynard said:

“On World Population Day, the global community must begin to acknowledge that the size of our population underlies almost all of the profound problems we face – but also that it’s a problem that we can address. To do that, we must acknowledge the need to start taking positive action now. 

“The progress that’s been made already in bringing down fertility rates is a welcome sign that more women are becoming empowered, fewer people live in poverty and more people are getting the health care, family planning and education they deserve. It is vital that the global community does more, better and faster on all of these fronts.  

“We are already in a crisis and our current trajectory of rising numbers, rising affluence and so increased consumption is unsustainable. We are already using up the renewable resources of more than one-and-a-half Earths to supply our needs – and those of us in the richest countries even more. If we continue on this trajectory, we will need more than three Earths by 2050. We can and must take action.

“Every person born consumes resources and produces carbon emissions. By having smaller families and curbing our consumption, the greater the chances of our tackling the multiple, urgent challenges we face: getting climate change under control, lifting people out of poverty, protecting biodiversity and ensuring that the resources we have are available to future generations fairly and sustainably.”


For more information about population, sustainability and solutions, visit our Key Facts webpage

To find out more about the UN population projections, read our article here

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