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World

World Population Day: Earth's inequalities

There are 7.5 billion people on Earth, with 150 people being added to that every minute. July 11 is World Population Day, a UN-designated event focusing on resource distribution, overcrowding and the future.

Matej Gaspar is a very special young man. He was born on July 11, 1989, in Zagreb, Croatia - and was designated as the symbolic five-billionth person concurrently living on Earth. United Nations (UN) statisticians had calculated that some time in July of that year, the world population would cross the five billion mark. Gaspar became the milestone baby because on July 11, when the announcement was to be made, then-Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar happened to be in Zagreb.

The "Day of Five Billion," as Gaspar's birthday became known, garnered huge interest and as a consequence, the UN established the date as World Population Day. It's an occasion to "enhance awareness of population issues," according to the organization.

150 more people every minute

As Gaspar's 28th birthday rolls around, there are now 7.52 billion people on planet Earth. Our numbers are rising fast. Humans crossed the one billion mark around 1804. To get to two billion, it took more than 120 years. But the time period between six and seven billion was a tenth of this, with six billion reached in 1999 and seven billion in 2011.

Today, an average of 150 people are added to Earth's population every minute, with population growth being faster in developing countries. If we keep growing at the projected rate, there will be 9.8 billion people in 2050, according to UN population experts. Matej Gaspar might still see the world's population reach the ten billion mark.

Meet your fellow humans

Only time will tell how the world's rising population will manage our planet's resources. One thing is certain: there will be more and more humans occupying the same space - so why not get to know the people with whom you're sharing the Earth?

The gender distribution across our planet is almost even: There are roughly 101 men for every 100 women. The median age is 30.1 years, but it has been rising steadily and is expected to keep doing so. More than 50 percent of the people live in urban areas, according to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Factbook.

To get an idea of how the world's population is distributed on the various continents, it helps to scale down the numbers. That's exactly what researchers with the 100 People project did. If you follow their prompt and imagine that the world as a village with a population of 100, there'd be 60 people from Asia, but only 5 from North America.

Of the villagers, 25 would be children aged 14 and younger, 66 would be between 15 and 64 years old and 9 would be seniors aged 65 and older. 86 of the people in World Village would be able to read and write, 14 would not. Only 7 people would hold a college degree.

The country with the largest population in the world is China with almost one-and-a-half billion people. India isn't too far behind, but there is almost a one billion people drop to the US, which has a mere 324 million inhabitants. Three of the five most populous countries are in Asia.

The most-spoken language in the world is Mandarin-Chinese. According to CIA numbers, it's the first language for roughly 12.2 percent of the world population. Other languages spoken by many people on Earth include Hindi and Urdu, English, Spanish and Arabic. Exact numbers and ranks are hard to come by because different institutions use different criteria when calculating these.    

Wealth distribution is extremely unequal: More than 70 percent of the world's population own an accumulated 3 percent of global wealth, with each one of them owning 10,000 dollars or less. The millionaires and billionaires of the world, on the other hand, own almost half of the global wealth.

According to Forbes magazine, there are 2,043 billionaires living on Earth in 2017. That's a record number - the first time that the magazine was able to pin down more than 2,000 billionaires. Last year, that number was at 1,810. On the other end of the spectrum, in 2013 there were 767 million people living in extreme poverty according to the World Bank. These people live on less than 1.90 dollar a day.

There are also stark differences when it comes to people's access to food and water: 663 million people have no access to clean drinking water, according to the NGO water.org, and 795 million people didn't have enough to eat in 2015, according to the World Food Programme. One in nine people will go to bed hungry tonight.

Other people have too much to eat. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.9 billion adults 18 years and older and 41 million kids under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2014. In countries like the US, France, Saudi Arabia and Australia, more than 60 percent of adults are overweight or obese.