UN Projections to 2100 Show Small Families are Key to the Future

The United Nations Population Division’s 2019 population projections to 2100, released earlier this month, are largely unchanged from its 2017 projections, forecasting a global population of 9.7 billion people in 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100, where the 2017 estimates were 9.8 billion and 11.2 billion, respectively.
The UN median projection assumes that global fertility will fall from just under 2.5 births per woman in 2019 to around 2.2 in 2050 and then to 1.9 in 2100.
Source: Population Matters Graphic (Data from UN Population Projection, 2019)

The UN median or “medium variant” projection assumes global fertility will fall from just under 2.5 births per woman in 2019 to around 2.2 in 2050, and then to 1.9 in 2100. This is important because, as Population Matters, PIC’s sister organization points out, if every other family had one fewer child than the median projection, there would be 8.9 billion people inhabiting the planet by 2050 and our population would fall to 7.3 billion people by 2100 – a smaller population than today.

Conversely, if every other family had one child more than the median projection, there would be 10.6 billion people by 2050 and as many as 15.6 billion by 2100.

Such a huge difference could well determine whether our children and grandchildren live in a sustainable world, or one that is in danger of collapse as population pressure destroys the complex biosphere on which all life depends.


Despite the slight downward change in population projections (a positive trend, no doubt), there will likely be astronomical population growth until 2100 in the areas least able to cope, and adding billions more people to the planet will only add to the already intense pressure exerted on its finite resources. The report notes that migration has become a major component of population change in some countries.

Attacks on family planning from ideologues opposed to birth control and choice over abortion and the failure of family planning programs in the world’s poorest countries to meet their targets threaten what little progress has been made on limiting growth. Family planning, promoting small families, education, empowering women, and ending poverty are our best chances to manage our population humanely and ethically so future generations can live in balance with the natural world and the ecosystems upon which our well being depend.

PIC echoes the words of Population Matters, who says, “Where people don’t have the choice to have a smaller family, they must have it – where they do have the choice, it’s vital they exercise it – especially in rich, high consuming countries where our environmental impact is so great. These projections represent too little progress, and without the right actions now, it will be too late to change them. That’s why the world needs an international policy framework on the overriding, upstream factor of population, as there is for the downstream issue of climate change.


Becoming a member or making a donation to Population Institute Canada allows us to continue to raise awareness of the social, economic and environmental consequences of population growth, including how it inhibits sustainable development and the human rights aspiration of a majority of people worldwide.

Contact: Madeline Weld, Ph.D.
President, Population Institute Canada
Tel: (613) 833-3668
Email: mail@populationinstitutecanada.ca