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Skopje, 15th of November 2022 –  Today’s milestone of a still-growing world population reaching 8 billion must not eclipse the potentially severe consequences that countries with shrinking population numbers could face if they fail to rethink the way they address demographic change, Florence Bauer, the Director of UNFPA’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said today.

Globally, population growth has slowed down considerably, and has started to reverse in an increasing number of countries, most of them in Central and Eastern Europe, where a combination of outmigration and low birth rates has sent population numbers down. If left unaddressed, this could jeopardize the future of economies, social systems, and infrastructures.

“In their responses to population decline, governments tend to focus on increasing birth rates and providing people with financial incentives to have more children,” said Ms. Bauer. “But we have seen that this does not work. What is needed is a broad range of measures that make it easier for people to build a future in their own country, instead of having to look for opportunities elsewhere, and to have the number of children they desire.”

This requires a rethink of how countries approach demographic change, Ms. Bauer said: Moving away from an overemphasis on numbers and perceptions of threats, and towards seeing demographic change as an opportunity to build stronger and more inclusive societies.

With large numbers of people leaving their countries to work elsewhere, and birth rates at low levels, Eastern Europe has been the first world region to experience sustained population decline over the past decades. Currently all but one of the world’s ten fastest shrinking countries are in Central and Eastern Europe. “Of course, numbers are important, but an obsession with the ups and downs of population numbers can distract from what really matters: creating societies in which people want to live and have families,” said Ms. Bauer.

Evidence suggests that a mix of policies is most likely to make a difference. This includes investments in early childhood care, generous family support benefitting men and women, measures to make it easier for women and men to combine family and career duties, expanding job and housing opportunities for young people, and a fair distribution of care and household tasks between men and women. 

Strengthening inclusion is also key for making countries fit for demographic change. This includes removing barriers for women, older people, immigrants and those on the margins of society to fully contribute to the economy and public life.


A World of Eight Billion People: Facts and Figures

Global population growth

• The pace of growth is slowing down, but the world’s population will continue to grow until 2100.
• This year the world population will hit 8 billion. It took about 12 years to grow from 7 to 8 billion, but the next billion is expected to take approx 14.5 years (2037).
• The world’s population is projected to reach a peak of around 10.4 billion people during the 2080s and to remain at that level until 2100.
• Due to relatively high fertility rates, population growth in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to account for more than half of global growth from now until 2050.
• The pace of world population growth has been declining since the 1970s, dropping below 1% (per annum) for the first time in 2020.

Population decline, especially in Southern Europe and East Asia

• In a growing number of countries, population decline is not a temporary phenomenon, but a new reality. And in the future, the number of countries actively facing population decline will grow.
• There are 17 countries today that have a smaller population than in 1990, and all these 17 countries are located in Eastern Europe. There are also a few more countries that have begun to see population decline, especially in Southern Europe and East Asia,
• Globally, population decline is driven by low and falling fertility levels, and in the European countries which are most affected, it is also attributable to high net emigration.

Read more: Summary of Results: World Population Prospects 2022