Why is future population growth uncertain?

There are wildly varying predictions about the population number in the year 2100, with estimates varying between 7 and 15 billion people. Predicting the world population is a complicated thing to do, as worldwide near future population growth is influenced by many different factors. On this page we will discuss some of the factors that influence world population growth and make it hard to predict the future world population.

future population growth is uncertain

Birth and death rates

It seems logical that birth and death rates are important determinators for the population number: when more people are born every year, the world population will grow faster; when more people die every year, the world population will grow slower. This all makes sense. However, birth and death rates are not always easily predictable.

There’s a trend of declining fertility rates globally, influenced by factors such as increased access to education and contraception, urbanization, and changing societal norms. However, these rates can fluctuate unexpectedly due to cultural, economic, and policy changes.

Advances in healthcare and technology have generally led to lower mortality rates and longer life expectancy, which contribute to population growth. However, these trends can be offset by factors like widespread health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

future population growth is uncertain


Economic conditions greatly influence population growth. In developing countries, higher birth rates are often observed, partly due to the lack of access to family planning resources and the economic benefit of having more children as labor force. As countries develop, birth rates typically decrease to the replacement rate or lower.

However, this is not always the case. For instance: in the Netherlands the fertility rate is not decreasing, but increasing. In 1998 the fertility rate was 1.59 children per woman, in 2022 fertility rate was 1.67 children per woman. Uncertainties like this make it difficult to predict the future fertility rate in individual countries, let alone the worldwide fertility rate.

Government policy

Governments exercise a great deal of control over the population growth in their country. Government policies and social programs play a crucial role in influencing population growth, particularly through their impact on family planning and reproductive health. Policies that provide greater access to contraception and family planning services typically lead to a decrease in birth rates, as seen in many developed countries.

On the other hand, policies promoting or subsidizing childbearing, such as maternity leave, childcare support, and financial incentives for families, can encourage higher birth rates. As population numbers start declining in developed countries, it is expected that many will use policies to promote childbirth.


The future of world population growth remains uncertain due to the complex interplay of various factors such as birth and death rates, developmental progress, and government policies. Trends in fertility and healthcare advances are countered by unexpected events and cultural shifts, making precise predictions for future population growth difficult.

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