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  • Brendan Shaw

A random walk through the state of the world in 2017

Random facts and figures on the state of the world

World population

There are now 7.6 billion people living on the planet

  • This year there were around 133 million births and 55 million deaths

Projections are that by 2050 there will be almost 9.8 billion people living on the planet, with the world population expected to hit 10 billion somewhere around 2055 or 2056

  • Compared to a global population of 2.8 billion in 1955

  • 0.275 billion in 1000 AD, and

  • 0.2 billion at 1 AD - equivalent roughly today to the population of Pakistan

Global population is currently growing around 1.12% per annum, but this growth rate has halved since its peak in 1960 and is expected to continue falling.

Life and death

Global life expectancy increased by five years between 2010 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s

  • Global life expectancy at birth in 2015 was 71.4 years

  • For much of human history, life expectancy has been around 30-40 years

In most recent figures (2015) more than 16,000 children under age 5 die each day

  • Almost all of these could have been saved if they had been provided access to things like breastfeeding, medicines and vaccines, clean water and sanitation

The biggest cause of death in the world is Ischaemic heart disease and stroke, killing 15 million people each year, equivalent to the population of Chad


Global GDP per capita in constant US$ (ie. adjusting for inflation) in 2016 was $10,390.55

  • This compares with $3,689.13 in 1960

  • This means that income earned per person is 2.8 times higher today than it was 56 years ago, even after adjustment for inflation

Global income inequality has declined substantially over the last 30 years, after seeing an increase through most of the 19th and 20th centuries

  • The decline represents a convergence between what have traditionally been referred to as developed and developing countries as a result of globalisation and new technology

  • However, inequality within countries is presents a mixed picture, with some advanced countries seeing rising inequality

Since 1990, nearly 1.1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty

One in 10 people in the world, or 767 million people, still earn less than US$ 1.90 per day, using the World Bank definition of the poverty line

  • Half of these - 389 million people - live in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is equivalent to the combined populations of the United States and France


"Although increased global integration and technological progress are widely recognized as having generated widespread economic growth and falling global inequality and poverty, the rising inequality in advanced economies, in conjunction with job insecurity and stagnating real incomes for a segment of the population, has led to growing public backlash against globalization.”

International Monetary Fund, Fiscal Monitor 2017: Tackling Inequality, October, p, 1, accessed 11/12/2017


Humanity over the last 200 years

Over the last 200 years, human life expectancy and income – health and wealth – has increased dramatically to levels way beyond anything else seen in human history

  • See this great graphical representation of this trend by the late, great Swedish statistician, Hans Rosling

  • And the more updated version released by the World Economic Forum

Largest economic entities in the world

The United States is the largest economic entity in the world with a GDP of US$3,251 billion in 2016

  • Closely followed by China as the second largest economic entity with a GDP of US$ 2,426 billion

The largest company in the world by turnover (sales) was Walmart with turnover of US$ 482 billion

  • This makes Walmart the 10th largest economic entity in the world by turnover or GDP

The largest company in the world by market capitalisation (total value of its share capital) was Apple Inc at US$ 792 million

(as at 3rd quarter 2017)

But the most valuable company in human history was the Dutch East India Company (VOC) which was worth 78 million Dutch guilders in 1637 at the height of the Tulip Mania speculative bubble

  • Its value in today’s dollars would be US$ 7.9 trillion

  • This is equivalent to the combined value of the top 20 global corporations in the world today or to the entire combined value of the Japanese and German economies today


One in five species on Earth now faces extinction and this could rise to one in two, or 50%, by the end of the century

  • It is estimated that just from the destruction of tropical habitats alone, that we are currently losing 27,000 species each year

  • This compares with the average historical fossil record which suggests that through Earth’s history we have lost between 10 and 100 species per year

Globally averaged levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have now reached 403.3 parts per million

  • The last time the world had similar levels of CO2 concentration was 3 – 5 million years ago

  • And the rate of increase is faster than anything ever seen before in Earth’s history

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