Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 717–730 | Cite as

A forecast analysis on world population and urbanization process

  • WenJun Zhang


The continuous growth of world population and the intensification of urbanization process create a challenge to environment quality and sustainable development around the world. In this paper I tried to conduct a forecast analysis of near-future urbanization related population growth worldwide, based on recent demographic trends. Such an analysis can provide important insights into the prospects for changes in the size and composition of world population and in urbanization process. Optimal polynomial functions were used to fit historical trajectories of population dynamics, and the detailed forecasts of the population mainly over the period 2010–2030 were conducted and analyzed.

If the past pattern continues, world total population would increase to 7.94–8.33 billion in 2030 and the annual growth is expected to continually decline in the forecast period. Global total population would stop increasing during the period 2050–2060 and would not exceed 9.5 billion in the future. The total population of Africa, Asia, Oceania, South America, North & Central America would separately increase to 1.35–1.41, 4.86–5.65, 0.04–0.05, 0.44–0.45, and 0.71–0.72 billion in 2030. Europe’s total population is forecast to decline to 0.64–0.67 billion in 2030.

World’s rural population is expected to grow to the maximum during the period 2015–2020 and would greatly decline after that period. Global rural population would reach 3.12–3.41 billion in 2030. Rural population in Asia and Africa is estimated to increase and achieve the maximum around 2025 and decline thereafter. For other regions, the rural population would continually decline in the forecast period.

Urban population in the world would continually grow and reach 4.72–5.00 billion in 2030, an increase of 48.6–57.8%. However the annual growth of urban population is expected to increase to the maximum (6.86 million/year) during the period 2020–2025 and then decline in the following years. Urban population is projected to continually grow in all regions excepting Europe. Europe’s urban population is expected to decline in the period 2010–2030. Urbanization process worldwide, represented by the ratio urban population versus total population (RUT) and the ratio rural population versus urban population, is expected to continue during the period 2010–2030. The RUT of the world is projected to reach 0.5 before 2010 and would continue to increase in the forecast period. Global RUT is estimated to reach 0.56 in 2030. However, the regional patterns of urbanization process would be diverse. Europe’s RUT is estimated to continually decline in the forecast period and reach 0.68 in 2030. The RUT for Africa and Caribbean would continually increase before 2030, while the RUTs for Asia and South America are estimated to achieve their maximums around 2025 and decline in the following years. Oceania and North & Central America would thoroughly realize urbanization (≈1) during the periods 2020–2025 and 2025–2030. The expansion of world population and urbanization will continually exert a stronger stress to environment quality and sustainable development in a near future. However we may expect this situation would start to change from mid-21st century after total population has achieved its maximum.


World Total population Rural and urban population Urbanization Forecast 



This project was partially supported by the “948” project of China, through 2006-G32, and the “973” project of China, through 2006CB102005. The author thanks five anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions on this paper and thanks Mrs Hasen for her help in preparation of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Institute of Entomology and School of Life SciencesZhongshan UniversityGuangzhouChina

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