Global population statistics


Library statistics can not stand alone.

When we work with statistics about libraries, we will often need statistics from other fields. Population data are needed to calculate some of  the most basic library indicators – for instance loans and visits per capita. Statistics about literacy and reading, health and education,  infrastructure (water, roads, electricity, …) and culture can often be used to

  • show the need for library services – focused on particular problems to be solved
  • the impact of library services – based on comparisons or time series

Library associations that want to use statistics for advocacy must therefore spend some time getting acquainted with the relevant official statistics – outside the library sector – in their own countries.

Since GLOSSA is an international rather than a national project, we have to do the same at the global level. Since the Second World War, lots of good work has been done, by the UN and others, to collect, systematize and present comparative national statistics.  During the last fifteen years, internet has facilitated the development of sophisticated, user-friendly and interactive statistical delivery systems. The most impressive one to date is probably Gapminder – with the slogan Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact-based world view.

The  United Nations Population Information Network has created an excellent guide to population information on UN system web sites. GeoHive – a site devoted to global statistics – looks professional.  The World Factbook – a well-known source among reference librarians – is still going strong. The data are good though the publisher may be spooky.

Case study

As an illustration I have created a table showing some basic data abouth public libraries in Lithuania 2000-2007.  The input data come from the Statistical Yearbook of Lithuania 2008 (Lietuvos Statistikos Metrastis 2008). To calculate per capita values, I needed authoritative population figures. In this case I took the values I found in the United Nations Population Information Network and the World Factbook – and interpolated the rest. The Lithuanian authorities may have even better data – but data gathering takes time and this level of accuracy is certainly good enough for library purposes.



The following data from GeoHive shows all countries with more than 100 million inhabitants in 1950, 2010 and 2050


  1. China  563
  2. India 370
  3. USA 152
  4. Russia 102


  1. China   1,348
  2. India 1,184
  3. USA 309
  4. Indonesia 243
  5. Brazil 201
  6. Pakistan 180
  7. Bangladesh 160
  8. Nigeria 152
  9. Russia 139
  10. Japan 127
  11. Mexico 112

Today, half the world’s population lives in six countries – China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan.

2050 (estimate)

  1. India   1,808
  2. China 1,424
  3. USA 420
  4. Indonesia 313
  5. Pakistan 295
  6. Bangladesh 280
  7. Ethiopia 278
  8. Nigeria 264
  9. Brazil 261
  10. Congo, DR 189
  11. Philippines 171
  12. Mexico 148
  13. Uganda 128
  14. Egypt 128
  15. Russia 109
  16. Vietnam 108

In 2050, by this estimate, India has rather more people than China. The curves will cross in 2030. The new “hundred million countries”  are Ethiopia, Congo (DR), Philippines, Uganda, Egypt and Vietnam. Bangladesh has replaced Brazil among the top six. Russia has declined from 139 to 109 million – and that Japan has sunk below the horizon – from 127 to 94 million.

. China 562,579,779
2. India 369,880,000
3. USA 152,271,000
4. Russia 101,936,816

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: