What will the population of these 40 countries be in 2030?

Written by:
September 25, 2019
Don Mammoser // Shuttestock

What will the population of these 40 countries be in 2030?

One-quarter of a billion people live outside their home countries, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. A full 10% of those individuals are refugees fleeing violence, persecution, hunger, and other threats. This record level of displacement has significant effects on communities, national economies, and social services around the world as populations dwindle in some countries and spike (sometimes very quickly) in others.

At first glance, moves to harden national borders may be read as xenophobia or the fear or hatred of anything foreign or culturally strange. A deeper look, however, suggests the influx of minority groups into places like the U.K. and the United States may trigger fears of status change among socioeconomic groups, a scarcity of resources, or the end of a majority. Immigration played into the Brexit vote, while stateside the Trump administration has drastically reduced admissions of refugees, canceled DACA, and terminated Temporary Protected Status designations for Sudan, Haiti, and Nicaragua—in addition to instating a Muslim ban.

Of course, migration isn't the only factor affecting population growth. Birth and death rates, access to education, social services, family planning services, employment, and women's participation in the labor market all contribute to ebbs and flows of a country's headcount—proving the world is a complicated place and a difficult one to forecast.

Understanding how and why people move can help bring understanding to some larger geopolitical issues. For example, while Brexit can be seen as a protest against open-ended refugee and migrant-acceptance policies, the reason migrants wanted to go to the U.K. in the first place is that they feel they can get a shot at a better life there than they did at home. Similarities can be found in refugees' stories in every country.

With the 2019 world population estimated at 7.7 billion and estimated forecasts for 2030 reaching 8.5 billion people, Stacker took a closer look at how country's populations are changing around the world. We analyzed data from the United Nations Population Division to determine how country populations will change by 2030. Stacker specifically looked at population predictions of 40 nations: the top 10 nations by population, the bottom 10 by population, the top 10 by projected population growth, and the bottom 10 by projected population growth.

We evaluated 2019 population estimates and 2030 population projections for all 195 member and non-member observer states of the United Nations. From there, we determined the countries projected to be biggest, smallest, fastest-growing, and fastest-shrinking by 2030—including the 10 highest-ranked countries for each criterion.

Keep reading to learn why Eastern Europeans are more likely than not to migrate from home.

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#10 biggest population by 2030: Russia

- 2030 population projection: 143.35 million
- 2019 population estimate: 145.87 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -1.73%

Russia is the largest nation by area and the tenth-largest by population, which suggests the country is having deep logistical problems related to an insufficient workforce distribution and lopsided and economy. Russia's inhospitably cold climate, weak economy, and aggressive international sanctions have caused the nation to be one of the biggest population losers. In fact, the two years from 2013 to 2015 were the first years of natural population growth for post-Soviet Russia. 

#9 biggest population by 2030: Ethiopia

- 2030 population projection: 144.94 million
- 2019 population estimate: 112.08 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 29.32%

Ethiopia is the largest landlocked nation in the world by population and the second largest in Africa. The home of some of the oldest human remains to be found, Ethiopia is thought to be the cradle of humanity. The nation is currently crushed by ethnic violence, the aftermath of a destructive war with Eritrea, and droughts in 2011 that led to widespread famine.

#8 biggest population by 2030: Bangladesh

- 2030 population projection: 178.99 million
- 2019 population estimate: 163.05 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 9.78%

The 92nd-largest country by area, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated nations in the world. Bordered by India on two sides and Myanmar on the third, the nation sits largely in the Ganges Delta on the Bay of Bengal. The nation formed as the result of a war of secession with Pakistan. A relatively poor country, Bangladesh recently has been racked by the Rohingya refugee crisis, runaway corruption, and terrorism.

#7 biggest population by 2030: Brazil

- 2030 population projection: 223.85 million
- 2019 population estimate: 211.05 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 6.07%

Brazil is dealing with the aftermath of a corruption scandal that saw the impeachment and removal of its president, a Summer Olympics that helped to precipitate an economic crisis, and runaway inflation and unemployment. A member of BRICS, the supranational organization comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—which are meant to be the emerging economies best positioned to lead the world economy by 2050—Brazil’s recent recession has led many to reconsider the future potential of South America’s largest country.

#6 biggest population by 2030: Pakistan

- 2030 population projection: 262.96 million
- 2019 population estimate: 216.57 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 21.42%

The 33rd-largest nation by area, Pakistan is another densely populated country. The only country to be formed in the name of Islam, Pakistan derived from the Muslim partition of British India. Pakistan would split into West Pakistan, which is modern-day Pakistan, and East Pakistan, which is Bangladesh today, following the 1971 civil war.

#5 biggest population by 2030: Nigeria

- 2030 population projection: 262.98 million
- 2019 population estimate: 200.96 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 30.86%

Nigeria is the largest nation by population in Africa. The nation also has the third-largest concentration of young people in the world. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and largely is seen as being among the next economies to emerge as drivers of the future global economy. The nation’s low human development score, however, suggests severe flaws in its educational, economic, health care, and personal security protections.

#4 biggest population by 2030: Indonesia

- 2030 population projection: 299.20 million
- 2019 population estimate: 270.63 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 10.56%

Comprising over 17,000 islands, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago nation and largest nation by either land area or population to have a predominately Muslim population. Its capital of Jakarta is the second-most populous urban area in the world, following Tokyo, and its abundance of natural resources has made Indonesia a leader in global commerce.

#3 biggest population by 2030: United States

- 2030 population projection: 349.64 million
- 2019 population estimate: 329.07 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 6.25%

While China has become the world’s largest manufacturing and global trade nation, the United States remains the world’s economic and military leader. Bolstered by being the only major nation to escape World War II largely unscathed, the United States positioned itself to be the “policeman of the world,” serving as the fount of international cooperation and leading the charge against nations that do not fit the U.S.’s image of the world. However, the Trump Administration’s “America First” policies of isolationism is threatening to force some U.S. global partners and allies to look elsewhere for leadership.

#2 biggest population by 2030: China

- 2030 population projection: 1.46 billion
- 2019 population estimate: 1.43 billion
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 2.13%

The emergence of China as a free-market economy changed the dynamics of the global market. With a large, cheap workflow, ready access to raw material and component sources, and lax labor laws, China was prepared to offer lower manufacturing costs to the world’s multinational businesses. This influx of cash allowed China to take a more active role in international financing and politics, presenting a potential competitor for the United States’ global leadership.

#1 biggest population by 2030: India

- 2030 population projection: 1.50 billion
- 2019 population estimate: 1.37 billion
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 10.04%

The world’s most populous nation, India is plagued by overcrowding, weak infrastructure, and high levels of poverty, gender inequality, food insecurity, and pollution. The nation also has unresolved territorial disputes with China and Pakistan, religious and caste-related violence, Naxalite insurgencies, and a separatist movement in northeastern India. Despite this, the nation has a growing middle class, an active tradition of democracy, and a steady—if slow—push toward modernization.

#10 smallest population by 2030: Dominica

- 2030 population projection: 73,000
- 2019 population estimate: 72,000
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 1.39%

Dominica is a small island nation in the Windward Islands region of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies. One of the youngest islands in the Caribbean, it is still being formed by volcano activity. A hotspot for hurricane hits, the island was most recently devastated in 2017 by Hurricane Maria. The island had yet to recover from Tropical Storm Erika in 2015.

#9 smallest population by 2030: Marshall Islands

- 2030 population projection: 65,000
- 2019 population estimate: 59,000
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 10.17%

The former U.S. territory of the Marshall Islands is a part of Micronesia. Set on 29 coral atolls, the United States seized the islands during World War II from Japan, used it as a military base and a site for nuclear testing from 1946 to 1958, and established a regional Congress to promote self-governance in 1965. Declaring independence from the United States in 1979, the nation today is in a compact of free association with the United States. Accordingly, the United States provides the Marshall Islands with military support, access to federal agencies such as the Post Office, use of U.S. currency as legal tender, and a subsidy.

#8 smallest population by 2030: Saint Kitts and Nevis

- 2030 population projection: 56,000
- 2019 population estimate: 53,000
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 5.66%

The Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, known as Saint Kitts and Nevis, is another West Indies nation—this time located on the Leeward Islands region of the Lesser Antilles. The smallest nation in the Western Hemisphere, the country comprises two main islands: Nevis and Saint Kitts. The nation also formerly included Anguilla. The name Saint Christopher came from a mapping error that was never corrected where the wrong island was identified as the first island Christopher Columbus landed on; the Nevis came from Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (“Our Lady of the Snow”), a story about a 4th-century miracle.

#7 smallest population by 2030: Monaco

- 2030 population projection: 42,000
- 2019 population estimate: 39,000
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 7.69%

The Principality of Monaco is one of the wealthiest and most expensive jurisdictions in the world. On the Mediterranean Sea and bordered by France on three sides, the country is the second-smallest nation in the world by area, following the Holy See (Vatican City). Since the creation of its first casino in the 19th century, the nation’s warm weather, positioning near the Italian border, and no taxes made it a preferred resort spot and banking center.

#6 smallest population by 2030: Liechtenstein

- 2030 population projection: 39,000
- 2019 population estimate: 38,000
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 2.63%

Another tiny but rich European nation is Liechtenstein. A principality sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, the nation is about 62 square miles in area. A banking center, the country was once a blacklisted tax haven for billionaires; reforms, however, have improved transparency and reduced the nation’s reputation for money laundering. The nation has the highest per capita gross domestic product of any nation.

#5 smallest population by 2030: San Marino

- 2030 population projection: 34,000
- 2019 population estimate: 34,000
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 0%

San Marino is a landlocked country in the northwest corner of Italy. About 24 square miles in area, the nation is a republic, with elected heads of state. One of only two nations (Switzerland being the other) where the head of government/head of state is a collaborative body, San Marino is headed by the Captains Regent. Having the oldest written governance document still in use, the country also has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in Europe, no national debt, and the world’s highest rate of car ownership. With 19 female Captains Regents to date, San Marino holds the record for the most female heads of state for a single nation.

#4 smallest population by 2030: Palau

- 2030 population projection: 18,000
- 2019 population estimate: 18,000
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 0%

Palau is a western South Pacific nation comprising about 340 islands. Next to Indonesia and the Philippines, the nation was seized by Americans during World War II and made a part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Like the Marshall Islands, Palau is independent from the United States under the Compact of Free Association. Palau also has developed an alliance with the Philippines—another former U.S. territory.

#3 smallest population by 2030: Tuvalu

- 2030 population projection: 13,000
- 2019 population estimate: 12,000
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 8.33%

Tuvalu is an island country in the South Pacific between Australia and Hawaii. Southeast of Nauru, this Polynesian island chain comprises three reef islands and six atolls. Tuvalu was a part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony until the Gilbert Islands and the Ellice Islands separated by referendum. Orphaned, Tuvalu declared independence two years later.

#2 smallest population by 2030: Nauru

- 2030 population projection: 11,000
- 2019 population estimate: 11,000
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 0%

Speaking of Nauru, it is a Polynesian island that was made a mandate of Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom following World War I. A phosphate rock deposit with surface formation, the island was heavily strip mined by Australian business interests. The nation became independent in 1968. Exhausting its phosphate deposits and after several short-lived schemes to raise money, Nauru became a de facto client state of Australia, providing services undesirable on mainland Australia, like immigrant detention.

#1 smallest population by 2030: Holy See

- 2030 population projection: 1,000
- 2019 population estimate: 1,000
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 0%

The Holy See—formally the See of Rome, the Vatican City State, or Apostolic Episcopal See of the Diocese of Rome—is the international headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Created under the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the Holy See is an administratively separate state from the rest of Italy with its own sovereignty. The Pope is the head of state for the territory. The residency of the See comprises the Pope and his staff, the secretary of state and staff, the papal household, and invited guests.

#10 biggest growth by 2030: Zambia

- 2030 population projection: 24.33 million
- 2019 population estimate: 17.86 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 36.20%

Zambia’s transition from one-party rule to a multi-party democracy helped to kick start sociodemocratic growth. With the government no longer controlling the means of production, corruption was curtailed and the standard of living improved. Today, Zambia is regarded as one of the fastest-growing and healthiest economies in Africa.

#9 biggest growth by 2030: Tanzania

- 2030 population projection: 79.16 million
- 2019 population estimate: 58.01 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 36.48%

Tanzania has a per capita GDP that is matched by only nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Able to absorb much of the shock of the Great Recession because of strong gold prices, the nation has expanded its economy via investments in tourism, banking, and telecommunications. Still a highly impoverished nation, Tanzania is working to reform its harvesting methods and infrastructure.

#8 biggest growth by 2030: Burundi

- 2030 population projection: 15.77 million
- 2019 population estimate: 11.53 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 36.79%

It may be beneficial to point out the pattern that is emerging. As most African nations are former European colonies that got independence post-World War II, there was a long cycle of authoritarianism, sectarian and ethnic violence, corruption, and famine that kept their economies from launching. However, as these governments move into maturity, many have embraced decentralized government controls, free-market economies, and diverse infrastructure support, all of which are needed for prolonged growth. Burundi has largely moved past its genocidal past and is engaged in reconstruction. The country is considered to be a stable multi-party democracy, despite a 2015 attempted coup d’état.

#7 biggest growth by 2030: Mali

- 2030 population projection: 26.96 million
- 2019 population estimate: 19.66 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 37.13%

With two-thirds of the nation’s population under the age of 25 as of 2017, and nearly half under the age of 15, Mali is well-positioned for healthy population growth. A complication is that the nation is marred by sectarian fights, such as the resources conflicts that have occurred in central Mali since 2015 and the Northern Mali Conflict, which started in 2012. The nation is also poor, being agricultural driven. However, the government has a healthy multi-party democracy.

#6 biggest growth by 2030: Somalia

- 2030 population projection: 21.19 million
- 2019 population estimate: 15.44 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 37.22%

Possibly more than any other African nation on this list, Somalia has been forced to recover from near-destruction. In 1991, civil war broke out in the country, which has yet to be settled. By 2012, however, the insurgency had largely lost its land holdings. This has yet to stop the fighting. The year 2012 also saw the creation of the first permanent central government for the nation since the start of the war. The nation is cash poor, with one of the lowest GDPs per capita in the world. It is also a hot spot for maritime piracy and sectarian violence. However, the nation’s economy is stable and the situation in the country is becoming more tenable with each passing year.

#5 biggest growth by 2030: Equatorial Guinea

- 2030 population projection: 1.87 million
- 2019 population estimate: 1.36 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 38.20%

The only sovereign nation in Africa whose language is Spanish, Equatorial Guinea is one of the few authoritarian governments on the list of nations most likely to grow. A hotspot for human trafficking, Equatorial Guinea is seen to be lawless, with freedom of expression, due process, and basic human rights severely curtailed. A wealthy nation with the fifth-largest oil deposit in Africa, it is also highly corrupt, with only the elite being able to share in the nation’s wealth. The international community, however, is paying more attention to Equatorial Guinea and has been intervening on behalf of its citizens.

#4 biggest growth by 2030: Democratic Republic of the Congo

- 2030 population projection: 120.05 million
- 2019 population estimate: 86.79 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 38.32%

The largest French-speaking country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is another nation at war. The Kivu conflict, which involves the DRC’s military fighting with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, has been going on since 2004. Largely politically unstable, with a history of corruption and poor infrastructure development, the nation is also resource-rich. Cash-poor, it is hoped that an end to the fighting and a series of reforms can help the country heal.

#3 biggest growth by 2030: Angola

- 2030 population projection: 44.84 million
- 2019 population estimate: 31.83 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 40.88%

Returning to our pattern, the nations that have been estimated to grow the fastest currently have the most deaths. This may be because of war, famine, political corruption, poor infrastructure, or high poverty. With Angola, it is a little from all the categories. Declared independent from Portugal in 1975, Angola initially was a communist state. After a violent civil war that lasted until 2002, the nation emerged as a stable constitutional republic. Despite this, wealth concentration and infant mortality are high, while life expectancy is low.

#2 biggest growth by 2030: Niger

- 2030 population projection: 34.85 million
- 2019 population estimate: 23.31 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 49.48%

Since 2010, Niger has lived under democratic multi-party rule. The nation, which was cobbled together from the lands of several different people, has seen four constitutions and three military coups before the latest one. With huge segments of the population uneducated and poor, the people of Niger make their living on subsistence farming, or on growing enough food for the farmer and his family to survive on. The nation’s chief export, uranium, is under reduced global demand, complicating Niger’s financial stability.

#1 biggest growth by 2030: Syria

- 2030 population projection: 26.68 million
- 2019 population estimate: 17.07 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: 56.28%

The projected growth listed here comes with several caveats. First, it assumes that the Syrian Civil War will be over by 2030. The Syrian Civil War has seen the displacement of many of the country’s citizens; an end to hostilities could allow many refugees to return. Second, it assumes that the winning side will allow the refugees to come back. Some combatants, such as ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), may not be welcoming to non-Islamic refugees returning to Syria, for example. Finally, this projection assumes that sectarian violence may not reignite. Given all this, the projection of growth is optimistic.

#10 biggest loss by 2030: Bosnia and Herzegovina

- 2030 population projection: 3.13 million
- 2019 population estimate: 3.30 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -5.27%

Bosnia and Herzegovina was born from the split up of Yugoslavia—an event that triggered a series of bloody ethnic wars. The Yugoslav Wars left nearly one-third of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s residents displaced, with over 100,000 residents killed. Compounded by natural disasters, such as the flooding of 2014, which left a quarter of the population without access to clean water, the nation is finding the road to recovery to be hard.

#9 biggest loss by 2030: Greece

- 2030 population projection: 9.92 million
- 2019 population estimate: 10.47 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -5.31%

Greece is broke; there is really no other way to explain the nation’s current struggles. Crippled under heavy borrowing debt and poor internal accounting, the Mediterranean country, where tourism is a leading industry, finds itself unable to escape austerity and the reduced employment and government services brought by less internal spending. As a member of the European Union, the nation’s workers are free to move and work anywhere in the EU they wish, which over 400,000 have done since the Great Recession.

#8 biggest loss by 2030: Romania

- 2030 population projection: 18.31 million
- 2019 population estimate: 19.37 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -5.47%

Romania, like many former Soviet Bloc nations, has had trouble converting from a communist to a free-market economy. A key consideration in such a conversion is that no one, except those the government opts to give or sell property to, has any access to the means of production. This means that any profit-sharing would be limited to those who were given property by the government initially, encouraging poverty in the early stages of the free-market. In addition, jobs that were guaranteed under communism may no longer exist in a free market, as the government no longer controls the means of production. This may stabilize after a couple of generations of workers earning enough to invest in production; however, as an EU nation, Romania’s workers need not have to wait—they can just move somewhere with better wages.

#7 biggest loss by 2030: Serbia

- 2030 population projection: 8.25 million
- 2019 population estimate: 8.77 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -5.95%

Like Bosnia and Croatia, Serbia is struggling to cope with the long history of war and ethnic genocide. With many residents fleeing rural life for city jobs, and with Serbia falling short in urbanization, efforts to encourage increased childbirth are falling short since the nation is losing residents of childbearing age. The bleed-off of displaced citizens during the Yugoslav Wars has not helped, nor has the closure of subsidized factory jobs during the conversion to a free-market economy.

#6 biggest loss by 2030: Croatia

- 2030 population projection: 3.88 million
- 2019 population estimate: 4.13 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -6.13%

Croatia has an aging problem. Per one estimate, the nation’s current population of 4.1 million could drop to 2.27 million by 2095. As with the other former nations of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav War and the conversion to a free-market economy has taken a toll. A bigger problem with Croatia, though, is that no one really knows how bad the nation’s emigration problem really is. As most of its out-migrated workers never registered their intentions to leave, official population numbers are suspect and misleading.

#5 biggest loss by 2030: Ukraine

- 2030 population projection: 40.88 million
- 2019 population estimate: 43.99 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -7.07%

Ukraine’s largest problem today is that Russia desperately wants it. The largest nation by area in Europe, not counting Russia, Ukraine has the second-lowest GDP per capita in Europe and the lowest median wealth, excluding real estate, per adult in the world. It is also one of the world’s largest grain exporters and is a key delivery route for Russian gas to Western Europe. When pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed, Russia invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea. Ukraine is in a proxy war with Russia over Ukraine’s Donbass region, although there is currently a ceasefire.

#4 biggest loss by 2030: Bulgaria

- 2030 population projection: 6.42 million
- 2019 population estimate: 7 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -8.33%

Former Soviet Bloc nation Bulgaria has the lowest average income per month compared with any other EU nation. While Bulgaria is running debt free, the high level of centralization discourages outside investment. An example of this centralization is the fact that Sofia Province, which hosts the capital city of Sofia, is home to 22% of the population, but 42% of the national GDP. Corruption and embezzlement by party leadership is common.

#3 biggest loss by 2030: Lebanon

- 2030 population projection: 6.20 million
- 2019 population estimate: 6.86 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -9.64%

The smallest sovereign state on mainland Asia, Lebanon was once the financial engine that drove the Middle East. While the Lebanese Civil War damaged much of this wealth, there was a conscious effort to recover, resulting in the nation’s GDP per capita being the seventh highest in the region. Israel’s and Syria’s subsequent occupation of Lebanon, the establishment of Hezbollah in the nation, and the recent spilling over of the Syrian Civil War into Lebanon have largely destabilized the security and economy of the one-time gem of the Persian world.

#2 biggest loss by 2030: Latvia

- 2030 population projection: 1.72 million
- 2019 population estimate: 1.91 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -9.81%

A Baltic state, Latvia was one of the Soviet component states that sought independence following the collapse of Soviet rule. Latvia, like Lithuania, has a well-established democratic tradition, strong personal freedoms, and high living standards. With a strong economy that is almost fully privatized, the nation has yet to draw strong foreign investment. Open borders have encouraged economic migration, in which younger workers can find better-paying jobs elsewhere.

#1 biggest loss by 2030: Lithuania

- 2030 population projection: 2.49 million
- 2019 population estimate: 2.76 million
- Projected population change 2019-2030: -9.96%

Lithuania was the first USSR component nation to declare its independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. With a highly advanced economy, Lithuania embraced a democratic government, civil liberties, high levels of personal freedoms, and technological and educational investments. However, like other Soviet nations, Lithuania had trouble landing from communism to a free-market economy. Without job guarantees and price controls, the nation’s high cost of living grew out of pace with the average wage, and average Lithuanians could not afford to live in their country.

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