In 1950, the world had 2,537 million people. 338.5 million (14%) were under the age of 5, and 869.6 million (35%) were under the age of 15.
By 2020, the world’s total population had risen to 7,794 million, of whom 1,983 million (25%) were under the age of 15—including 677 million (9%) under the age of 5.
People don’t necessarily live markedly longer. In 1950, there were 73 million people over the age of 100, comprising 2.9% of the population; by 2020, this number had risen to 457 million, or 5.8% of the world’s total. However, infant mortality has been cut dramatically, and fertility has fallen. Fewer babies dying, fewer babies being born, and people living slightly longer equates to aging of populations.
By 2050, the number of infants (under the age of 5) is projected to be 690 million, which will be the peak—while the number of over-75s will hit over 1 billion in 2045. From that point on, the number of under-5s will continue to decline. By 2100, estimates are that under-5s will fall to 623 million (5.73% of the world), while over-75s will reach 1.8 billion (17%). In 2100, over-90s will top 80 million.
However, it’s important to note these trends aren’t the same in every country. If we divide the world into “more” and “less” developed areas, the differences are dramatic:
|Number of under-5s, in millions||More developed||% of pop||Less developed||% of pop|
By 2100, there will be more under-15s in the “less developed” world (1,714 million) than there are people in the “more-developed” world (1,244 million). (In fact, under-5 infants will equal nearly half the population of the “more developed” world!)
To bring this point home a little more for my readers: in 2050, the total population of the North American region will be 425 million. Europe’s will be 710 million. Africa’s under-15 population will then be 797 million, out of a total of 2,489 million people. Asia will have 5,290 million people, of whom 943 million will be under-15.
The implications of this for world evangelization bear consideration.
Data source: UN World Population Prospects, 2019.