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Charted: The World’s Most Populous Countries (1973–2023)

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Data visualization showing the world's top 10 most populous countries over the past 50 years

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The World’s Most Populous Countries (1973–2023)

Humankind is now double the size it was in 1973.

Of course, that growth has been far from uniform, and the ranking of the world’s most populous countries continues to evolve.

Using the latest data available from the United Nations, we’ve looked at which countries have the largest share of the planet’s eight billion people.

The Top 10 Most Populous Countries

Here are the countries shown above, including how much they’ve grown over the past 50 years:

CountryPopulation (1973)Population (2023)Change (1973–2023)
🇨🇳 China881,652,0841,425,671,353544,019,269
🇮🇳 India596,107,4871,428,627,666832,520,179
🇺🇸 United States207,314,772339,996,567132,681,795
🇷🇺 Russia132,191,636144,444,36012,252,724
🇮🇩 Indonesia124,709,060277,534,118152,825,058
🇯🇵 Japan109,679,473123,294,51613,615,043
🇧🇷 Brazil103,666,906216,422,450112,755,544
🇩🇪 Germany78,667,47383,294,6344,627,161
🇧🇩 Bangladesh71,144,816172,954,325101,809,509
🇵🇰 Pakistan64,285,630240,485,666176,200,036
🇳🇬 Nigeria59,605,450223,804,636164,199,186
🇲🇽 Mexico55,228,202128,455,56373,227,361

The numbers above highlight the extreme variance in growth for these world’s most populous countries. While Germany has grown by just 6% over the past 50 years, Pakistan and Nigeria have nearly quadrupled their populations.

Half a century ago, there were only six countries with populations of over 100 million. Today, there are 15 countries past that mark, with Vietnam positioned to hit that milestone next.

The Top 20 Most Populous Countries

Things get even more interesting when we examine the top 20 most populous countries over the same time period.

CountryPopulation (1973)Rank (1973)Population (2023)Rank (2023)
🇨🇳 China881,652,08411,425,671,3532
🇮🇳 India596,107,48721,428,627,6661
🇺🇸 United States207,314,7723339,996,5673
🇷🇺Russia132,191,6364144,444,3609
🇮🇩 Indonesia124,709,0605277,534,1184
🇯🇵 Japan109,679,4736123,294,51612
🇧🇷 Brazil103,666,9067216,422,4507
🇩🇪 Germany78,667,473883,294,63419
🇧🇩 Bangladesh71,144,8169172,954,3258
🇵🇰 Pakistan64,285,63010240,485,6665
🇳🇬 Nigeria59,605,45011223,804,6366
🇬🇧 United Kingdom56,166,6301267,736,79821
🇲🇽 Mexico55,228,20213128,455,56310
🇮🇹 Italy54,379,5871458,870,76325
🇫🇷 France51,814,0771564,756,58623
🇺🇦 Ukraine48,301,5481636,744,63541
🇻🇳 Vietnam44,891,2861798,858,94716
🇵🇭 Philippines40,406,23218117,337,36613
🇹🇭 Thailand38,873,0651971,801,28120
🇹🇷 Turkey38,028,2362085,816,19218
🇪🇬 Egypt37,120,77821112,716,59914
🇮🇷 Iran30,981,9032589,172,76817
🇪🇹 Ethiopia30,694,32126126,527,06411
🇨🇩 DRC21,853,90832102,262,81215

Looking back 50 years ago, Nigeria was the lone African nation in the top 20. Today, it is joined by Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – all of which have experienced staggering population growth.

African nations are expected to lead population growth over the next few decades. By 2100, one quarter of the world’s people are expected to be African.

Europe is the flip side of this equation. Back in 1973, there were six European countries in this top list. Today, only Russia and Germany remain, with the latter country soon to fall out of the top 20 ranking.

Ukraine, which was shrinking, is expected to fall to at least 41st place due to the turmoil surrounding the Russian invasion of the country. Since the invasion began in February 2022, nearly 14 million border crossings have been recorded from Ukraine to other countries.

How Big Will Populations Get?

Once India becomes the world’s largest country, it will likely remain so for many decades in the future, peaking in the 2060s (unless there are substantial changes in projected growth rates). India’s peak population will stand at around 1.7 billion people.

The world’s population is expected to peak later, around the 2080s. Humanity’s peak population is expected to be about 10.5 billion.

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Countries

Mapped: The Population of China and India in Perspective

We compare the populations of India and China to other top countries and regions for a unique perspective on the world’s demographics.

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The Population of China and India in Perspective

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

China and India, the world’s two most populous countries, each boast populations exceeding 1.4 billion people.

To put this into perspective, we visualized populations of China and India beside other leading countries and regions. All figures are for 2023, and were accessed via Worldometer.

Data and Key Takeaways

All of the data we used to create this graphic is listed in the table below.

Country / RegionPopulation (2023)
🌍 Africa1,460,481,772
🇮🇳 India1,428,627,663
🇨🇳 China1,425,671,352
🌎 Latin America & the Caribbean664,997,121
🇪🇺🇬🇧 EU plus UK516,659,018
🇺🇸 U.S.339,996,563
🇮🇩 Indonesia277,534,122

From these figures, we can see that the entire population of Africa (currently the fastest growing region in the world) barely surpasses that of China and India.

The populations of China and India are each more than double the size of Latin America and the Caribbean, and nearly triple that of the European Union (including the UK).

Fast Facts on Global Population

Here are some important figures to know regarding the world’s population:

  • China accounts for 17.7% of the world’s population, while India represents a slightly larger 17.8% share.
  • Africa is the fastest growing region in the world, with annual growth of about 2.4%.
  • Europe is the only region in the world that is shrinking, at about -0.17% annually.

Learn More About Demographics from Visual Capitalist

If you enjoy graphics like these, be sure to check out Population Projections: The World’s 6 Largest Countries in 2075.

It reveals a startling contrast between the trajectories of China and India, with the latter peaking at 1.7 billion in the mid-2060s.

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