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UN Says World's Seven Billionth Human Will be Born Today

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There is about a 20% chance the world's seven billionth human inhabitant will be born in India - by far the highest chance for any individual country.

According to UN calculations presented in May, today, 31 October 2011, the world population reaches 7 billion people. If you had to make a bet where, India would be your number one choice - but with over 350,000 newborns sharing the same birthday there is of course no way to be sure.

In India today, an estimated 75,000 people will be born, quite a lot more than the numbers two and three, China (46,000) and Nigeria (17,000). [This is why India's population will top China's in 10 years from now.]

If really you want to pin the tail on the donkey for where the seven billionth person will be born, the best shot would be Mumbai, as it is India's largest city. You could then look to one of the most densely-populated neighbourhoods, like Dharavi Slum, world-famous since Slumdog Millionaire.

A boy or a girl?

There is a good chance however that human inhabitant number seven billion will not be born in the Mumbai area, but somewhere in the Ganges Basin, which is said to currently be the most important driver of Indian population growth.

2011-10-26-worldpopulation7billion.jpg

That would diminish our chance of celebrating the birth of a girl. In the Indian state of Utar Pradesh for instance, only 889 girls are being born to every 1000 boys. This is mainly due to sex-selective abortion according to campaign group Plan International, which today holds a rally in India to challenge the practice.

Is there a problem?

Meanwhile in New York, Ban Ki-moon will address the UN members, to mark the seven billion milestone. He will focus attention on challenges and problems arising from continued growth of the world population. It is only 12 years since the world population reached six billion.

And according to the medium projections of the World Population Prospects' 2010 Revision, we will only have to wait until 2025 to greet eight billion. That would mean the world population would have doubled in just over 50 year's time.

A Harvard study from a few months ago concludes that up to 2050, 97% of population growth will come from less developed regions. Most notable is Africa, where again according to medium UN predictions, the total population will grow by two and a half billion people over the course of this century.

Meanwhile, many European nations will have declining populations. Today, countries like Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia already have more inhabitants than Russia. By the end of the century, according the UN forecasts, even some small African nations like Uganda and Malawi, would have larger populations than the world's biggest country.

Is there agreement?

To get back to today's news: not everyone agrees on the calculations. It's apparently more difficult to keep count than one would imagine. The US Census Bureau for instance thinks we'll have to wait till March 30 2012 to greet our planet's seven billionth human.

It is of course even harder to predict future developments - especially since these would depend on economic development, politics and policies and the possibility of cultural changes. But it is perhaps wise to assume some resilience on that last front, as so far the graphs have always needed upward adjustment.

That very politically-correct assumed link between birth rates and poverty seems somewhat challenged by the fact than an average Russian woman gives birth to just 1.4 children, whereas in rich Saudi Arabia that number is still higher than 3.

Niger tops all other countries with 7.2 children per average woman - in Afghanistan it's 6.6.

Is there a policy?

The range of UN scenarios seems to suggest within this century some sort of friendly incentive-induced policy could at least be considered. And don't get nightmares about 'Chinese practices' - their population grew 30% 30 years of one' child policy.

Today however, even China is easing down on birth control. This means we now live on a planet with as much demographic policy as we had in the Middle Ages - but with the foresight that leaving things to chance, means having yet more growth...

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