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Visualizing the Most Populous Countries in the World

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The Most Populous Countries in the World
countries by population

Visualizing the Most Populous Countries in the World

India’s population is projected to surpass China’s as soon as 2022.

While this is consequential on a global economic level, it also leaves other population trends overlooked. For instance, Nigeria is projected to have more people than the U.S., the world’s third-largest country by population, by the year 2050.

This treemap visualization, adapted from PopulationPyramid.net, is an overview of the global population in 2020, showing us the world’s most populous countries.

The 50 Most Populous Countries

China, with a population of 1.44 billion, is the most populous country worldwide.

In 2019, over 60% of its population resided in urban centers, a trend that has seen the portion of city dwellers double over the last 25 years. For context, 83% of the U.S. population lives in cities, while just 35% of India’s population dwells in urban areas.

Together, China and India’s populations make up over 36% of the global total.

 CountryPopulation (2020)
1🇨🇳 China1,439,323,774
2🇮🇳 India1,380,004,385
3🇺🇸 U.S.331,002,647
4🇮🇩 Indonesia273,523,621
5🇵🇰 Pakistan220,892,331
6🇧🇷 Brazil212,559,409
7🇳🇬 Nigeria206,139,587
8🇧🇩 Bangladesh164,689,383
9🇷🇺 Russian Federation145,934,460
10🇲🇽 Mexico128,932,753
11🇯🇵 Japan126,476,458
12🇪🇹 Ethiopia114,963,583
13🇵🇭 Philippines109,581,085
14🇪🇬 Egypt102,334,403
15🇻🇳 Vietnam97,338,583
16🇨🇩 D.R. Congo89,561,404
17🇹🇷 Turkey84,339,067
18🇮🇷 Iran83,992,953
19🇩🇪 Germany83,783,945
20🇹🇭 Thailand69,799,978
21🇬🇧 United Kingdom67,886,004
22🇫🇷 France65,273,512
23🇮🇹 Italy60,461,828
24🇹🇿 Tanzania59,734,213
25🇿🇦 South Africa59,308,690
26🇲🇲 Myanmar54,409,794
27🇰🇪Kenya53,771,300
28🇰🇷 Republic of Korea51,269,183
29🇨🇴 Colombia50,882,884
30🇪🇸 Spain46,754,783
31🇺🇬 Uganda45,741,000
32🇦🇷 Argentina45,195,777
33🇩🇿 Algeria43,851,043
34🇸🇩 Sudan43,849,269
35🇺🇦 Ukraine43,733,759
36🇮🇶 Iraq40,222,503
37🇦🇫 Afghanistan38,928,341
38🇵🇱 Poland37,846,605
39🇨🇦 Canada37,742,157
40🇲🇦 Morocco36,910,558
41🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia34,813,867
42🇺🇿 Uzbekistan33,469,199
43🇵🇪 Peru32,971,846
44🇦🇴 Angola32,866,268
45🇲🇾 Malaysia32,365,998
46🇲🇿 Mozambique31,255,435
47🇬🇭 Ghana31,072,945
48🇾🇪 Yemen29,825,968
49🇳🇵 Nepal29,136,808
50🇻🇪 Venezuela28,435,943

Extending over 17,000 islands, Indonesia comes fourth among the world’s most populous countries, standing at 273.5 million people.

Pakistan comes in fifth, with 220.8 million. Karachi, located on the southeastern coast of Pakistan, is home to over 16 million people alone. It is Pakistan’s most populous city, and the seventh-largest city in the world.

Nigeria also makes it onto the list. In just three decades, the country’s population is projected to climb from 206 million to 400 million—growing at a percentage clip that is more than double that of India.

The 50 Least Populous Countries

Combined, the 50 least-populous countries make up under 0.4% of the total world population. By contrast, the top 50 account for 87% of the total.

Unsurprisingly, the world’s low population nations are situated on small islands, often tropical and reliant on tourism.

 CountryPopulation*
1🇻🇦 Vatican City799
2🇹🇰 Tokelau1,340
3🇳🇺 Niue1,615
4🇫🇰 Falkland Islands3,377
5🇲🇸 Montserrat4,989
6🇵🇲 Saint Pierre and Miquelon5,822
7🇸🇭 Saint Helena6,059
8🇳🇷 Nauru10,756
9🇼🇫 Wallis and Futuna11,432
10🇹🇻 Tuvalu11,646
11🇦🇮 Anguilla14,869
12🇨🇰 Cook Islands17,548
13🇵🇼 Palau18,008
14🇧🇶 Caribbean Netherlands25,979
15🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands30,030
16🇬🇮 Gibraltar33,701
17🇸🇲 San Marino33,860
18🇱🇮 Liechtenstein38,019
19🇹🇨 Turks and Caicos Islands38,191
20🇲🇨 Monaco38,964
21🇸🇽 Sint Maarten42,388
22🇫🇴 Faroe Islands48,678
23🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis52,823
24🇦🇸 American Samoa55,312
25🇲🇵 Northern Mariana Islands56,188
26🇬🇱 Greenland56,672
27🇲🇭 Marshall Islands58,791
28🇧🇲 Bermuda62,506
29🇰🇾 Cayman Islands64,948
30🇩🇲 Dominica71,808
31🇦🇩 Andorra77,142
32🇮🇲 Isle of Man84,584
33🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda97,118
34🇸🇨 Seychelles97,739
35🇻🇮 United States Virgin Islands104,578
36🇦🇼 Aruba106,314
37🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines110,589
38🇹🇴 Tonga110,940
39🇬🇩 Grenada112,003
40🇫🇲 Micronesia (Fed. States of)113,815
41🇰🇮 Kiribati117,606
42🇨🇼 Curaçao163,424
43🇬🇺 Guam167,294
44Channel Islands172,259
45🇱🇨 Saint Lucia182,790
46🇼🇸 Samoa197,097
47🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe215,056
48Mayotte266,150
49🇵🇫 French Polynesia279,287
50🇬🇫 French Guiana282,731

*Source: United Nations, as of July 1, 2019. Includes territories.

With a total of 799 residents in 2019, Vatican City is the least populated country. Following close behind is the territory of Tokelau, a cluster of islands situated between New Zealand and Hawaii.

The Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is also among the smallest populations in the world, with just 97,118 inhabitants. While it may be small in terms of total inhabitants, its population density is another story—with over 222 people per square kilometer. That is roughly 50% higher than China, but about half the population density of India.

Meanwhile, the 33 pacific islands of Kiribati also make the top 50 list of the least populous countries worldwide. With a population of 117,606, Kiribati was a testing site for atomic bombs by the British and Americans during the 1960s. The island reached independence in 1979, after being under crown colonial rule since 1916.

Regional Median Ages

How about the median ages across these populations?

By far, the African region has the lowest median age at 19.8 years old, partially driven by a high birth rate of 4.7 children per woman. In contrast, the global average falls around 2.5 children.

By 2050, Africa’s population will effectively double from 1.3 billion to 2.5 billion.

RegionAnnual Rate of Natural Population IncreaseMedian Age (2020)
Africa2.5%19.8 years
Asia0.9%32.1 years
Central America1.2%28.3 years
Europe-0.1%42.7 years
Latin America & Caribbean0.9%30.9 years
Northern America0.3%38.6 years
Oceania0.9%33.5 years
South America0.9%32.0 years
World1.0%30.9 years

Source: Our World in Data

On the other hand, Europe is the oldest, at 42.7 years for this demographic metric.

With a median age of 47.9, Italy has the second-oldest population in the world, topped only by Japan. Meanwhile, Germany (46.6), Portugal (46.2), and Spain (45.5) fall next in line. If current trends continue, by 2050, half of Europe’s population will be non-working and over the age of 65.

That said, it should be noted that this trend is not exclusive to Europe. In 30 years, 1.5 billion people globally will be over the age of 65, amounting to 16% of the global population.

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Which Asian Economies Have the Most Sustainable Trade Policies?

The Sustainable Trade Index ranks 19 Asian economies and the U.S. across three categories of trade sustainability.

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Which Asian Economies Have the Most Sustainable Trade Policies?

To say that Asia has benefited from international trade is an understatement. By opening its economies to the rest of the world, the region has become a leading exporter in many of today’s most important industries.

Trade has also improved Asia’s quality of life, lifting over one billion people out of poverty since 1990. Without the proper controls, however, such rapid growth could have harmful effects on Asia’s environment and society.

In this infographic from The Hinrich Foundation, we break down the results of their 2020 Sustainable Trade Index (STI). Since 2016, this index has ranked 19 Asian economies and the U.S. across three categories of trade sustainability: economic, social, and environmental.

What Exactly is Sustainable Trade?

International trade is an important source of economic growth, enabling domestic businesses to expand, reach new customers, and gain exposure to foreign markets.

At the same time, countries that focus too heavily on exports put themselves at greater long-term risk. For example, an aggressive expansion into manufacturing is likely to impair the quality of a country’s air, while overdependence on a single product or sector can create an economy that is susceptible to demand shocks.

“The primary principle which underpins sustainable trade is balance. Trade cannot be pursued solely for economic gains, without considering environmental and social outcomes.”
– Merle A. Hinrich

Thus, sustainable trade supports not only economic growth, but also environmental protection and strengthened social capital. It involves finding a balance between short-term incentives and long-term resilience.

Measuring Sustainable Trade

The Sustainable Trade Index (STI) is based on three underlying pillars of trade sustainability. Every economy in the STI receives a score between 0 and 100 for each pillar.

PillarNumber of IndicatorsExamples of Indicators
Economic pillar21
  • Use of trade tariffs
  • Logistics performance
  • Growth in labor force
Social pillar12
  • Level of economic inequality
  • Presence of child labor
  • Educational attainment
Environmental pillar14
  • Level of air pollution
  • Reliance on natural resources
  • Environmental standards

The economic pillar measures a country’s ability to to grow its economy through trade, while the social pillar measures a population’s tolerance for trade expansion, given the costs and benefits of economic growth.

Last but not least, the environmental pillar measures a country’s proficiency at managing climate-related risks. Individual pillar scores are then aggregated to arrive at an overall ranking, which also has a maximum possible score of 100.

The Sustainable Trade Index 2020: Overall Rankings

For the first time in the STI’s history, Japan and South Korea have tied for first place. Both countries have placed in the top five previously, but 2020 marks the first time for either to take the top spot.

RankEconomyOverall Score
1 (tied)🇯🇵 Japan75.1
1 (tied)🇰🇷 South Korea75.1
3🇸🇬 Singapore70.2
4🇭🇰 Hong Kong68.3
5🇹🇼 Taiwan67.0
6🇺🇸 U.S.66.2
7🇨🇳 China56.5
8🇵🇭 Philippines55.9
🌏 Average55.1
9🇹🇭 Thailand50.5
10🇱🇰 Sri Lanka50.4
11🇲🇾 Malaysia49.5
12🇧🇩 Bangladesh49.4
13🇧🇳 Brunei48.5
14🇰🇭 Cambodia47.8
15 (tied)🇮🇳 India46.9
15 (tied)🇻🇳 Vietnam46.9
17🇮🇩 Indonesia46.3
18🇱🇦 Laos46.1
19🇵🇰 Pakistan43.9
20🇲🇲 Myanmar40.3

Advanced economies like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan were also strong performers, each scoring in the high 60s. At the other end of the spectrum, developing countries such as India and Vietnam were tightly packed within the 40 to 50 range.

To learn more, here’s how each country performed in the three underlying pillars.

1. Economic Pillar Rankings

Hong Kong topped the economic pillar for the first time thanks to its low trade costs and well-developed financial sector. Financial services have increased their contribution to Hong Kong’s GDP from 13% in 2004 to 20% in 2018.

The region’s recently initiated national security law—which has resulted in greater political instability—may have a negative effect on future rankings.

RankEconomyEconomic Score
1🇭🇰 Hong Kong69.6
2🇸🇬 Singapore68.7
3🇨🇳 China64.9
4🇰🇷 South Korea63.3
5 (tied)🇲🇾 Malaysia61.2
5 (tied)🇺🇸 U.S.61.2
7🇹🇼 Taiwan60.3
8🇧🇳 Brunei59.3
9 (tied)🇯🇵 Japan58.6
9 (tied)🇵🇭 Philippines58.6
🌏 Average56.9
11🇧🇩 Bangladesh56.3
12🇰🇭 Cambodia56
13🇱🇰 Sri Lanka54.7
14🇻🇳 Vietnam53.9
15🇮🇩 Indonesia52.1
16🇮🇳 India51.4
17🇲🇲 Myanmar49.5
18🇹🇭 Thailand47.4
19🇵🇰 Pakistan46.9
20🇱🇦 Laos44.0 

China was also a strong performer, climbing to third for the first time. Asia’s largest economy benefits from a well-diversified group of trading partners, meaning it doesn’t rely too heavily on a single market.

The bottom five countries—India (16th), Myanmar (17th), Thailand (18th), Pakistan (19th) and Laos (20th)—suffered from issues such as payment risk, which is measured as the difficulty of getting money in and out of a country. This risk is especially damaging to trade because it discourages foreign direct investment.

2. Social Pillar Rankings

The social pillar features the highest average score, but also the largest gap from top to bottom. This gap has expanded over recent years, growing from 43.9 points in 2018 to 52.3 in 2020.

RankEconomySocial Score
1🇹🇼 Taiwan88
2🇯🇵 Japan87.3
3🇰🇷 South Korea86.9
4🇺🇸 U.S.83.1
5🇸🇬 Singapore63.1
6🇵🇭 Philippines62.4
7🇹🇭 Thailand60.9
🌏 Average59.1
8🇭🇰 Hong Kong57.8
9🇧🇩 Bangladesh55.8
10🇲🇾 Malaysia53.6
11🇱🇦 Laos53.0
12🇮🇳 India52.5
13🇮🇩 Indonesia52.4
14🇧🇳 Brunei51.6
15🇻🇳 Vietnam50.4
16🇨🇳 China50.2
17🇰🇭 Cambodia46.2
18🇱🇰 Sri Lanka46.1
19🇵🇰 Pakistan45.6
20🇲🇲 Myanmar35.7

Taiwan claimed the top spot for the second time, solidifying its reputation as Asia’s leader in human capital development. It performed well in the educational attainment indicator, with 93.6% of its population receiving a tertiary education.

China, despite its success in other pillars, only managed 16th. This was partly due to the effects of its now defunct one-child policy, which has been responsible for creating gender imbalances and a shrinking population.

3. Environmental Pillar Rankings

The environmental pillar has the lowest average score of the three. Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea were the only countries to score above 75.

RankEconomyEnvironmental Score
1🇯🇵 Japan80.0
2🇸🇬 Singapore78.7
3🇭🇰 Hong Kong77.4
4🇰🇷 South Korea75.2
5🇨🇳 China54.5
6🇺🇸 U.S.54.3
7🇹🇼 Taiwan52.8
8🇱🇰 Sri Lanka50.4
🌏 Average49.1
9🇵🇭 Philippines46.6
10🇹🇭 Thailand43.2
11🇰🇭 Cambodia41.2
12🇱🇦 Laos41.1
13🇵🇰 Pakistan39.3
14🇮🇳 India36.7
15🇻🇳 Vietnam36.3
16🇧🇩 Bangladesh36.0
17🇲🇲 Myanmar35.6
18🇧🇳 Brunei34.6
19🇮🇩 Indonesia34.3
20🇲🇾 Malaysia33.8

The top four performed well in areas such as air quality and water pollution, and with the exception of Hong Kong, have all introduced carbon pricing schemes in the past decade. This doesn’t mean these countries are without their flaws, however.

Land-constrained Singapore, for instance, ranked 16th in the deforestation indicator. The city-state is one of the densest population centers in the world, and has cut down forests to clear space for further settlement and urbanization.

Building Back Better From COVID-19

Despite the damage that COVID-19 has caused, there are some silver linings. This includes the environmental benefits experienced by China, where lockdowns reduced carbon emissions by 200 million tonnes in a single month. It’s been estimated that after two months, China’s reduced pollution levels saved the lives of 77,000 people.

These temporary improvements are an explicit reminder of the environmental and social costs associated with economic growth. In response, governments in Asia are taking steps to ensure the long-term sustainability of their nations. Japan and South Korea both announced their commitments to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, while China set a similar goal for 2060.

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Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points

Ocean shipping is the primary mode of international trade. This map identifies maritime choke points that pose a risk to this complex logistic network.

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maritime choke points

Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points

Maritime transport is an essential part of international trade—approximately 80% of global merchandise is shipped via sea.

Because of its importance, commercial shipping relies on strategic trade routes to move goods efficiently. These waterways are used by thousands of vessels a year—but it’s not always smooth sailing. In fact, there are certain points along these routes that pose a risk to the whole system.

Here’s a look at the world’s most vulnerable maritime bottlenecks—also known as choke points—as identified by GIS.

What’s a Choke Point?

Choke points are strategic, narrow passages that connect two larger areas to one another. When it comes to maritime trade, these are typically straits or canals that see high volumes of traffic because of their optimal location.

Despite their convenience, these vital points pose several risks:

  • Structural risks: As demonstrated in the recent Suez Canal blockage, ships can crash along the shore of a canal if the passage is too narrow, causing traffic jams that can last for days.
  • Geopolitical risks: Because of their high traffic, choke points are particularly vulnerable to blockades or deliberate disruptions during times of political unrest.

The type and degree of risk varies, depending on location. Here’s a look at some of the biggest threats, at eight of the world’s major choke points.

maritime choke point risks

Because of their high risk, alternatives for some of these key routes have been proposed in the past—for instance, in 2013 Nicaraguan Congress approved a $40 billion dollar project proposal to build a canal that was meant to rival the Panama Canal.

As of today, it has yet to materialize.

A Closer Look: Key Maritime Choke Points

Despite their vulnerabilities, these choke points remain critical waterways that facilitate international trade. Below, we dive into a few of the key areas to provide some context on just how important they are to global trade.

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is a lock-type canal that provides a shortcut for ships traveling between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Ships sailing between the east and west coasts of the U.S. save over 8,000 nautical miles by using the canal—which roughly shortens their trip by 21 days.

In 2019, 252 million long tons of goods were transported through the Panama Canal, which generated over $2.6 billion in tolls.

The Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is an Egyptian waterway that connects Europe to Asia. Without this route, ships would need to sail around Africa, which would add approximately seven days to their trips. In 2019, nearly 19,000 vessels, and 1 billion tons of cargo, traveled through the Suez Canal.

In an effort to mitigate risk, the Egyptian government embarked on a major expansion project for the canal back in 2015. But, given the recent blockage caused by a Taiwanese container ship, it’s clear that the waterway is still vulnerable to obstruction.

The Strait of Malacca

At its smallest point, the Strait of Malacca is approximately 1.5 nautical miles, making it one of the world’s narrowest choke points. Despite its size, it’s one of Asia’s most critical waterways, since it provides a critical connection between China, India, and Southeast Asia. This choke point creates a risky situation for the 130,000 or so ships that visit the Port of Singapore each year.

The area is also known to have problems with piracy—in 2019, there were 30 piracy incidents, according to private information group ReCAAP ISC.

The Strait of Hormuz

Controlled by Iran, the Strait of Hormuz links the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, ultimately draining into the Arabian Sea. It’s a primary vein for the world’s oil supply, transporting approximately 21 million barrels per day.

Historically, it’s also been a site of regional conflict. For instance, tankers and commercial ships were attacked in that area during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is another primary waterway for the world’s oil and natural gas. Nestled between Africa and the Middle East, the critical route connects the Mediterranean Sea (via the Suez Canal) to the Indian Ocean.

Like the Strait of Malacca, it’s well known as a high-risk area for pirate attacks. In May 2020, a UK chemical tanker was attacked off the coast of Yemen–the ninth pirate attack in the area that year.

Due to the strategic nature of the region, there is a strong military presence in nearby Djibouti, including China’s first ever foreign military base.

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