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Page | Last updated: 21 Dec 2022

Increasing demographic imbalances

The world's population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050, with rapid growth mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and stagnating numbers of residents in the majority of developed countries.

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(© Photos by ?? Janko Ferlič and Curology on Unsplash)


A Megatrend is a long-term driving force that is observable now and will continue to have a global impact in years to come

The world's population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. It is getting older and more urban on average. Demographic changes will be uneven across regions, with rapid population growth concentrated mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and a few other low-income countries. Stalled or even shrinking population numbers are projected for a majority of high-income countries beyond 2030.

Ageing populations can have implications, for example, for economic growth and inequality, for political behaviour, geopolitical balance of power, and the sustainability of public finances. Countries with growing youth populations may face major challenges of adequate human capital investment, discontent, poverty and high unemployment.

This Megatrend is part of the Megatrends Hub



The driving forces of the Megatrend change over time. This timeline indicates more established and newer trends that are influencing the future direction of the Megatrend

Increasing Demography Imbalances megaternd timeline diagram

They indicate a direction of change in values and needs which is driven by forces and manifests itself already in various ways within certain groups in society. 

The global population is growing

The world’s population is growing. It is projected to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100, all in the context of decreasing fertility and mortality. However, although the demographic transition has started everywhere on the planet, it is at different stages of transition in different parts of the world, which translates to various demographic profiles and varying paces of change.

Age structures more uneven

While the share of elderly in the population is increasing globally, in many countries the shares of youth cohorts are still the largest. Different levels of immigration and emigration can deepen, offset, or even reverse population decline.

Changing labour force

Different challenges to local labour markets are emerging, as some regions are experiencing rapid ageing of their populations and others have growing youth cohorts. The EU-27 recorded the highest number of economically active people ever in 2019. However, labour force participation among adults is decreasing globally. The gender-gap in labour market participation is closing in some countries, but widening in others.

Increasing Impact of Ageing

Ageing and shrinking populations have implications for economic growth and inequality, political behaviour, geopolitical balance of power and the sustainability of public finances. Population ageing also has direct impacts on health care and pension systems and other forms of social protection. It affects intergenerational relations and perceptions of fairness in societies.

Demographics and inequality

Societal inequalities can lead to disparities within populations, affecting health risks, or in which settings to live. These situations can lead to different birth and mortality rates, or a quality of life within the population - which in turn can contribute to changes in its demography.


Previously Covered Trends

These are trends that have also been observed relatively recently and might have grown, or starting to recede/fade away in time.

Future Snapshots

A future snapshot shows a plausible image of what might happen in the future in relation to this Megatrend. It is a creation built using knowledge and imagination. These snapshots presented here are excerpts of inspiring future-oriented reports written by other colleagues and organisations.

Low Volume – High Human Capital of Immigrants

“EU Member States adopt more selective migration policies to both emphasise skills and substantially reduce the overall volume of flows. Immigrants are admitted primarily based on their potential for contributing to the economy, using a points system to target highly specialised and needed skills.”

Other sketched scenarios are: Low Volume – Low Human Capital of Immigrants, High Volume – High Human Capital of Immigrants & High Volume – Low Human Capital of Immigrants

Demographic Scenarios for the EU. Four JRC scenarios. JRC (2019)


Rapid Development

“The scenario of Rapid Development (SSP1) assumes rapid increases in life expectancy, a faster fertility decline in high fertility countries and an education expansion path that follows the education goals as given by the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).”

Other sketched scenarios are: Shared Socioeconomic Pathways & Stalled Development (forecast scenarios)

Demographic and Human Capital Scenarios for the 21st Century 2018 assessment for 201 countries. JRC (2018) 

World Population Prospects 2019

“The UN Population Division projects (in its main scenario study) that the world's population will reach 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and might peak at more than 11 billion around the turn of the 21st century.  Such long-term projections are based on assumptions about the evolution of fertility and mortality over a period of eight decades and come with a degree of uncertainty. In another main scenario forecast made by the JRC and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the world’s population peaks at year 2070-80 at around 9.8 billion before starting a slow decline, reaching about 9.5 billion by the end of the century. These lower projected numbers depend mainly on future investments in education in low-income countries that could result in reducing both fertility and mortality.”

World Population Prospects. UN DESA (2019)


Further Reading

Want to explore more? Some interesting reading below:

●    Atlas of Demography - Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography, JRC
●    World Population Prospects – UN DESA
●    Interactive map, 2021 - World Population History 


This Megatrends hub is a repository of foresight related information. It highlights long-term driving forces and its underlying shorter-term trends. This repository can help you understand the changing society in a broad and more systemic way. 

Disclaimer: this repository is by no means comprehensive and apart from established scientific knowledge contains also issues which are subject to scientific debate and where research is ongoing or only starting to give the reader some insights and ways to further explore the topics in more depth.