The World’s Most Populated Countries

most populated countries

In this post, we’ll run through the most populated countries in the world. There are now 14 countries with a population of more than 100 million. However China and India still are way clear of the rest with not only over a billion people, but over a billion more residents than the 3rd most populated country.

The figures featured in this article are accurate according to the latest estimates as of November 2020. They are accurate to the nearest million and while the overall picture will not change much in the very immediate future, the figures most certainly will with the population of some countries growing at a rate of more than 3% per year.

The Top 5 Most Populated Countries

1. China – 1.439 billion

The world’s most populated country is China. Despite its well documented “one child policy” which ran from 1979 until 2015, China’s population has continued to rise. This in part is due to the fact many parents were in fact given special permission to have two children during that period, although the measures did still manage to slow China’s population growth.

Today, China is closing in on the 1.5 billion mark and it accounts for about 18.5% of the world’s total population. In other words, out of every five or six people on the planet, one is Chinese and that doesn’t even account for the large Chinese communities that exist in many other countries around the world.

Over the past couple of decades, China has developed into a modern nation of megacities with the likes of Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Shenzhen all home to more than 10 million people.

2. India – 1.380 billion

population growth

India is now only around 60 million people (roughly the population of Italy and just less than that of the UK and France) behind China and it is growing faster. According to a recent UN estimate, it is expected to replace China as the world’s most populous nation as early as the year 2027.

When it does so, India is only likely to pull away with an estimated population growth of 1% per year. Unless there are any biblical changes to mankind and life on earth, it is likely to continue to be the most populated country for many centuries to come.

In comparison to China, India is far less developed and faces more hurdles to overcome on its road to becoming a global economic and political superpower. Another major difference is that India is around three times more densely populated with its hectic cities and limited resources making some question whether its current population growth is sustainable.

3. USA – 331 million

Over the past couple of years, India has pulled more than a billion residents clear of the USA, the next most populated country. The population of the United States is growing though, largely due to migration, at a rate of 0.59% per year, which is slightly higher than China.

What the USA doesn’t lack is space, and there is certainly room for growth should it decide to opt for a more openly pro-immigration stance in the coming decades to help boost its population. The USA has approximately 36 people per kilometre squared. That’s significantly less than China (153) or India (465).

The US population is pretty heavily concentrated on the two coasts. California is the most populated state with almost 40 million residents while Texas, Florida and New York are the other major states in terms of the number of people living there.

4. Indonesia – 274 million

countries with most people
Jakarta via Ken Marshall, CC BY 2.0

The Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia is next with around 274 million residents. With 17,508 islands, Indonesia is quite unique in its nature, certainly for a country of its size. 

Only around 6000 of those islands are populated though and just over half of those 274 million, live on the volcanic island of Java, home to the capital Jakarta. The next three biggest cities are also in Java but neighbouring Sumatra also has around 50 million residents, roughly the same as the number that live in Spain.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Islamic nation in terms of population with around in one in eight of the world’s Muslims living in this vast island collection which spans from the tip of mainland Southeast Asia to the shores of the Timor Sea, just north of Australia.

5. Pakistan – 221 million

Pakistan will replace Indonesia as the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, at least if current population growth continues. It currently grows by around 4.3 million people each year, which in % terms is significantly higher than any of the top four.

Similarly to neighbouring India, it stands out in this list in that it has a much higher rural population than China, the USA or even Indonesia, with only around 35% of Pakistanis living in urban areas. That is likely to change in the coming decades as Pakistan continues to develop and people flock to major cities such as Karachi and Lahore. The latter more than doubled in population between the two most recent censuses in 1998 and 2017.

In some less developed countries, accurate population measures are harder to come by, so the current population estimate of 221 million, is indeed only an estimate. However with an average age of just 23, Pakistan is only going to get more and more crowded over the coming years.

Population by Country – The Top 10

Country Population
China 1.439 billion
India 1.380 billion
USA 331 million
Indonesia 274 million
Pakistan 221 million
Brazil 213 million
Nigeria 206 million
Bangladesh 165 million
Russia 146 million
Mexico 129 million

The top ten countdown of the most populated countries 2020 is concluded by Brazil, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia and Mexico. Of those, Nigeria is the one to really look out for in terms of rising up this list. Already the most populous African nation, with an average age of just 18, its population will soar over the coming decades and is already growing at a rate of more than 5 million per year. This means it is likely to overtake Brazil in the early 2020’s and there will be an estimated 400 million people in Nigeria by 2050.

Ethiopia and DR Congo are other African countries that we can expect to move into the top ten at some point in the 21st Century based on their current rate of growth. Russia is most likely to drop out with negligible population changes each year. Aside from Japan (where the population is actually shrinking), it has the lowest rate of growth of any of the world’s 20 most populated nations.

This article was published in November 2020.

The World’s Most Populated Countries

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