The U.S. Census Bureau has looked ahead to 2050 and seen a much changed landscape among the world’s most populous countries.
For whatever that honor is worth, The United States will remain the world’s third most populous country with its current population of 311 million having grown to 423 million.
China and India will remain the world’s most populous, but by 2050 India, with more than 1.6 billion people, will have displaced China, at 1.3 billion, for the distinction of being the nation with the world’s most people.
Fourth behind the United States is Nigeria that because of its high birthrate is expected to go from 166 million to 402 million. Given that country’s great social problems and ethnic and religious divisions one can only wonder what effect more than doubling its population will have.
Nigeria is followed by Indonesia, with 313 million, and then comes Pakistan, another not terribly stable country bedeviled by religious extremists. If it can’t solve its problems now, they may be infinitely worse when it has 291 million people.
Thanks to a fertility rate of six children per woman, Ethiopia will vault from 13th to 7th on the 10 most populous list, tripling its population from 91 million to 278 million. In a land regularly beset by savage famines, this cannot really qualify as good news.
Seventh and eighth on the list are Brazil with 261 million and Bangladesh with 250 million.
The Philippines, 172 million, leapfrogged Mexico, 148 million, for the final spot in the top 10.
Missing from their traditional place on the list because of shrinking populations are Japan and Russia. Both have what the Census calls persistent low fertility rates, Japan has a strong cultural bias against immigration to augment its shrinking numbers, and Russia has a high mortality rate to go with its low fertility rate.
The world’s population center of gravity, it seems, is swinging to Asia and South Asia. The list contains one Latin American nation, one African nation and no European nations. If we think migration, legal and illegal, is a problem now, wait until 2050.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer and columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service.