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.
|9||🇷🇺 Russian Federation||145,934,460|
|16||🇨🇩 D.R. Congo||89,561,404|
|21||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||67,886,004|
|25||🇿🇦 South Africa||59,308,690|
|28||🇰🇷 Republic of Korea||51,269,183|
|41||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||34,813,867|
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.
|1||🇻🇦 Vatican City||799|
|4||🇫🇰 Falkland Islands||3,377|
|6||🇵🇲 Saint Pierre and Miquelon||5,822|
|7||🇸🇭 Saint Helena||6,059|
|9||🇼🇫 Wallis and Futuna||11,432|
|12||🇨🇰 Cook Islands||17,548|
|14||🇧🇶 Caribbean Netherlands||25,979|
|15||🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands||30,030|
|17||🇸🇲 San Marino||33,860|
|19||🇹🇨 Turks and Caicos Islands||38,191|
|21||🇸🇽 Sint Maarten||42,388|
|22||🇫🇴 Faroe Islands||48,678|
|23||🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis||52,823|
|24||🇦🇸 American Samoa||55,312|
|25||🇲🇵 Northern Mariana Islands||56,188|
|27||🇲🇭 Marshall Islands||58,791|
|29||🇰🇾 Cayman Islands||64,948|
|32||🇮🇲 Isle of Man||84,584|
|33||🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda||97,118|
|35||🇻🇮 United States Virgin Islands||104,578|
|37||🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||110,589|
|40||🇫🇲 Micronesia (Fed. States of)||113,815|
|45||🇱🇨 Saint Lucia||182,790|
|47||🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe||215,056|
|49||🇵🇫 French Polynesia||279,287|
|50||🇬🇫 French Guiana||282,731|
*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.
|Region||Annual Rate of Natural Population Increase||Median Age (2020)|
|Central America||1.2%||28.3 years|
|Latin America & Caribbean||0.9%||30.9 years|
|Northern America||0.3%||38.6 years|
|South America||0.9%||32.0 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.
Recession Risk: Which Sectors are Least Vulnerable?
We show the sectors with the lowest exposure to recession risk—and the factors that drive their performance.
Recession Risk: Which Sectors are Least Vulnerable?
In the context of a potential recession, some sectors may be in better shape than others.
They share several fundamental qualities, including:
- Less cyclical exposure
- Lower rate sensitivity
- Higher cash levels
- Lower capital expenditures
With this in mind, the above chart looks at the sectors most resilient to recession risk and rising costs, using data from Allianz Trade.
Recession Risk, by Sector
As slower growth and rising rates put pressure on corporate margins and the cost of capital, we can see in the table below that this has impacted some sectors more than others in the last year:
|Sector||Margin (p.p. change)
|🏡 Household Equipment||-0.9|
|🚗 Automotive Manufacturers||-1.1|
|🏭 Machinery & Equipment||-1.1|
|🖥️ Computers & Telecom||-2.0|
*Percentage point changes 2021- 2022.
Generally speaking, the retail sector has been shielded from recession risk and higher prices. In 2023, accelerated consumer spending and a strong labor market has supported retail sales, which have trended higher since 2021. Consumer spending makes up roughly two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
Sectors including chemicals and pharmaceuticals have traditionally been more resistant to market turbulence, but have fared worse than others more recently.
In theory, sectors including construction, metals, and automotives are often rate-sensitive and have high capital expenditures. Yet, what we have seen in the last year is that many of these sectors have been able to withstand margin pressures fairly well in spite of tightening credit conditions as seen in the table above.
What to Watch: Corporate Margins in Perspective
One salient feature of the current market environment is that corporate profit margins have approached historic highs.
As the above chart shows, after-tax profit margins for non-financial corporations hovered over 14% in 2022, the highest post-WWII. In fact, this trend has been increasing over the past two decades.
According to a recent paper, firms have used their market power to increase prices. As a result, this offset margin pressures, even as sales volume declined.
Overall, we can see that corporate profit margins are higher than pre-pandemic levels. Sectors focused on essential goods to the consumer were able to make price hikes as consumers purchased familiar brands and products.
Adding to stronger margins were demand shocks that stemmed from supply chain disruptions. The auto sector, for example, saw companies raise prices without the fear of diminishing market share. All of these factors have likely built up a buffer to help reduce future recession risk.
Sector Fundamentals Looking Ahead
How are corporate metrics looking in 2023?
In the first quarter of 2023, S&P 500 earnings fell almost 4%. It was the second consecutive quarter of declining earnings for the index. Despite slower growth, the S&P 500 is up roughly 15% from lows seen in October.
Yet according to an April survey from the Bank of America, global fund managers are overwhelmingly bearish, highlighting contradictions in the market.
For health care and utilities sectors, the vast majority of companies in the index are beating revenue estimates in 2023. Over the last 30 years, these defensive sectors have also tended to outperform other sectors during a downturn, along with consumer staples. Investors seek them out due to their strong balance sheets and profitability during market stress.
|S&P 500 Sector||Percent of Companies With Revenues Above Estimates (Q1 2023)|
|Real Estate ||81%|
Cyclical sectors, such as financials and industrials tend to perform worse. We can see this today with turmoil in the banking system, as bank stocks remain sensitive to interest rate hikes. Making matters worse, the spillover from rising rates may still take time to materialize.
Defensive sectors like health care, staples, and utilities could be less vulnerable to recession risk. Lower correlation to economic cycles, lower rate-sensitivity, higher cash buffers, and lower capital expenditures are all key factors that support their resilience.
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