WORLD population has reached 5.6 billion this year and unless a significant number of people opt for smaller families, population will hit 7.9 billion by the year 2020, according to a report issued today by the United States Bureau of the Census.
Nine of the 10 people added to the world's population by 2020 will come from developing countries, the report adds. One billion of them will come from Asia alone. Half of the world's population now lives in just six countries: China, India, the US, Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia.
The fastest population growth in the world is in sub-Saharan Africa, despite the rising number of AIDS-related deaths there. Africa's population will double by 2020, from 572 million this year to 1.1 billion, which is almost the present population of mainland China.
The Census report says the effect of AIDS will be most apparent in life expectancy: In Uganda, for example, expectation of life at birth will fall to 32 years by 2010 from a previous projection of 59 years.
At the present rate, AIDS will nearly double the death rate in Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa by 2010, and triple the death rate in Thailand. Infant mortality is also expected to increase. This is the first Census report to include a special chapter on the impact of AIDS.
China, through its well-known but rarely imitated one-child policy, will continue its awesome slowdown in population growth. China's share of Asia's total population will decrease from 39 percent currently to 34 percent in 2020.
But developing countries in Asia other than China are picking up the slack. By 2020, 36 percent of the world's population will come from Asia, excluding China.
Around the world, women continue to outlive men, the report says. Men in Europe and North America live an average of 73 years. North American women live 80 years; their European counterparts live 79 years.
In 1994, people in the developing world tend to be on average younger than those in the developed world. The median age in developing countries is 23, whereas it is 35 in the developed world. By 2020, the number of people over 60 will exceed the number of children four years old and younger.
Earlier this month, the Census Bureau projected a substantial population shift in the US toward the south and west, with marginal gains for the northeast and midwest.