On Sunday the world celebrated the World Population Day. This day, which is observed annually on July 11 to raise awareness of global population issues. Established in 1989, the event was inspired by the public interest in Five Billion Day on July 11, 1987, the approximate date on which the world’s population reached five billion people. The World Population Day aims to increase people’s awareness on various population issues such as the importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights. The suggestion of the day came from Dr. K. C. Zachariah, a senior demographer at the World Bank.
While press interest and general awareness in the global population surges only at the increments of whole billions of people, the world population increases annually by 100 million approximately every 14 months. The world population today is close to 7.9 billion and we add about 220,000 people to our world every single day! So on World Population Day, advocates from around the world call on leaders, policymakers, grassroots organisers, institutions and others to help make reproductive health and rights a reality for all.
It took hundreds of thousands of years for the world population to grow to 1 billion, then in just another 200 years or so, it grew sevenfold. In 2011, the global population reached the 7 billion mark, and today, it stands at about 7.8 billion, and it’s expected to grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 10.9 billion in 2100. This dramatic growth has been driven largely by increasing numbers of people surviving to reproductive age, and has been accompanied by major changes in fertility rates, increasing urbanization and accelerating migration. These trends will have far-reaching implications for generations to come. In addition, the world is seeing high levels of urbanization and accelerating migration. 2007 was the first year in which more people lived in urban areas than in rural areas, and by 2050 about 66 per cent of the world population will be living in cities.
So why is population an important topic? The human race has an enormous impact on this planet. We control and modify the Earth more than any other species. How do we meet the needs of human beings and also preserve Earth’s finite resources, biodiversity, and natural beauty? This is the fundamental question of our time, and the challenge is becoming more critical as we continue to add more people. The world is vastly overpopulated and research conducted by the Global Footprint Network suggests that about 2 to 3 billion people is the number the planet can sustainably support, if everyone consumes the same amount of resources as the average European, which is about 60% the amount of the average American. U.N. experts predict that, unless we change course, world population will continue increasing until after 2100, with a most likely prediction of 10.9 billion people by the year 2100.
Worldwide, the average number of children per family has come down over the last 50 years, from more than 5 per woman to around 2.3, but the current average is still above replacement level, which would be 2.1 children per woman, and the number of women having children is about twice what it was in 1960. There is also huge demographic momentum since over 2/5 of the world’s population is 24 years or younger, either having children now, or poised to have them in the next 10 to 15 years and any changes we make today may not have a visible effect until a generation has passed.
Finally, people are living longer all over the world and will continue to do so, with a resultant slowdown in death rates. Thus, there’s a big imbalance in the birth to death ratio: currently more than 2 births for every 1 death worldwide.
These megatrends have far-reaching implications. They affect economic development, employment, income distribution, poverty and social protections. They also affect efforts to ensure universal access to health care, education, housing, sanitation, water, food and energy. To more sustainably address the needs of individuals, policymakers must understand how many people are living on the planet, where they are, how old they are, and how many people will come after them.
The theme for 2021 is focussed on COVID-19 and its impact specifically on safeguarding the health and rights of women and girls. The COVID-19 crisis has taken a staggering toll on people, communities and economies everywhere. But not everyone is affected equally. Women, who account for the largest share of front-line health workers, for example, are disproportionately exposed to the coronavirus. Supply chains around the world are being disrupted, impacting the availability of contraceptives and heightening the risk of unintended pregnancy. As countries are on lockdown and health systems struggle to cope, sexual and reproductive health services are being sidelined and gender-based violence is on the rise. Recent UNFPA research highlighted that if the lockdown continues for 6 months with major disruptions to health services, then 47 million women in low- and middle-income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives resulting in 7 million unintended pregnancies. 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence can also be expected. The disruption of UNFPA’s programmes on the ground could result in 2 million cases of female genital mutilation and 13 million child marriages between 2020 and 2030 that could have been averted. Moreover, women disproportionately work in insecure labour markets and are harder hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19. Nearly 60 percent of women worldwide work in the informal economy, at greater risk of falling into poverty. Women’s unpaid care work has increased as a result of school closures and the increased needs of older people. The pandemic is hitting marginalised communities particularly hard, deepening inequalities and threatening to set us back in efforts to leave no one behind. Country responses to COVID-19 everywhere is critical and will determine how fast the world recovers.
So in honour of this day, spread the word anout the dangers of overpopulation and it’s impact on our world. This world, which we will leave to our children and grandchildren should be one that can sustain them and their desendents.