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News announcement14 May 2018

Future of population and migration

The global assessment looks at population outcomes for 201 different countries
© denis_pc, Adobe Stock 2018

If population dynamics remain similar to the averages observed between 1960 and 2015, the European Union population could increase to 512 million by 2035 and the population of Sub-Saharan Africa could double to around 2.2 billion by 2060.

A new book from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the JRC examines future population trends across the world, taking into account multiple factors such as migration, fertility, mortality, education and labour force participation.

In addition to age and sex which usually form the backbone of population trends analysis, this new study also looks at the impact of educational attainment and labour force participation in the EU Member States.

The book's global assessment looks at the population outcomes for 201 different countries, based on three different migration scenarios in addition to different fertility, mortality and education scenarios.

  • The "medium" scenario assumes that migration rates will remain similar to the average level observed for each country from 1960–2015.
  • The "double migration" scenario assumes twice the average level of in- and out- migration rates.
  • The "zero migration" scenario assumes there is no migration.

The editors say that these "naïve" scenarios serve as benchmarks to understand how migration affects population, rather than being realistic forecasts.

"Migration should be seen as an integral part of population dynamics. This is why this volume considers it in the context of alternative possible scenarios for all countries of the world over the rest of this century", says IIASA World Population Program Director Wolfgang Lutz.

Under the medium scenario – which assumes that migration rates would remain similar to current levels - world population would continue to increase until 2070-80, reaching 9.8 billion before beginning to decrease.

The increase is higher than that presented in the previous edition (2014), mainly because of a faster decline in child mortality in Africa. An alternative scenario, with rapid social development and better levels of education for women, is coupled with lower fertility rates, and results in a peak population of 8.9 billion in 2055-60.

Stalled social development and lower levels of education would result in higher fertility rates and the population continuing to climb over the century, reaching 13.4 billion in 2100.

Different trends are visible in different parts of the world. In the European Union, under the medium scenario, population is estimated to increase to around 512 million people by 2035, largely due to migration. After that there will be a decline as fertility rates are low, and the population will get older.

However, the available labour force does not necessarily shrink if female participation is increased.

Meanwhile, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the population under the medium scenario is likely to double by 2060, to around 2.2 billion people.

With stalled social development and without increased schooling, the population could reach 2.7 billion. This would lead to widespread poverty and high vulnerability to climate change, with serious implications for potential emigration.

The scenarios presented in the book will help policymakers consider the economic consequences of population aging, development priorities in Africa and environmental change.

The editors say that the results of the study show that within certain bounds, future trends in population are not given, and can still be influenced by policies in the longer term. In the short term, it is migration that can most easily be influenced by policies.

The book, Demographic and human capital scenarios for the 21st century, is the work of the Centre of Expertise on Population and Migration (CEPAM) a collaboration between IIASA’s World Population Program and the JRC's Centre for Advanced Studies.

The CEPAM partnership was launched to provide comprehensive assessments of the drivers of possible future migration to Europe and study the implications of alternative future migration scenarios that could help to inform European policies from 2019 onwards.

The book presents an essential background study for that work. It also serves as an update to a previous book, World Population and Human Capital in the Twenty-First Century, published in 2014.


In 2016, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) agreed to form a partnership for the establishment of a joint Centre of Expertise on Population and Migration (CEPAM) placed in the JRC Centre for Advanced Studies.

CEPAM was tasked to provide multidimensional assessments of future population trends in Europe, as well as in the potential regions of origin for migration into Europe.


Lutz L, Goujon A, Samir KC, Stonawski M, Stilianakis N (Eds.) (2018) Demographic and human capital scenarios for the 21st century. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, doi:10.2760/41776

Related Content

IIASA-JRC Centre of Expertise on Population and Migration

World Population Program: Research Overview & Aims

Demographic and Human Capital Scenarios for the 21st Century: 2018 assessment for 201 countries


Publication date
14 May 2018