Country size can be measured by population or land mass. In this article, we’re focusing on population.
In 2022, around 8 billion people lived on Earth. That’s a growth of about 1 billion since 2011, while the UN predicts the Earth won’t host 9 billion people until 2037. While these numbers represent a deceleration in the global population, 8 billion is still a lot of people. Where are the most populous areas? In this article, we’ll explore the 15 largest countries in the world by population.
When people think about the largest countries in the world, they’re most likely thinking in terms of population. For our list, we turned to the Nations Online Project, which gathered population figures from national census sources and UN estimates. Their list also included regions (like the European Union), but we will stick with sovereign nations for our purposes.
You may also like: Certified courses by top universities
Population in 2022: 1.45 billion
China is the world’s most populous country, but it may not be for long. Its 1.4 billion population was down from the previous year. China hadn’t seen a population decrease since 1961. Why a decrease? According to a CNN article, there’s a combination of factors like the one-child policy (which lasted from 1980-2016), changing attitudes about marriage, gender inequality, and the cost of raising kids in cities. The most populous cities in China include Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin.
Population in 2022: 1.4 billion
The UN began keeping population records in 1950, and since then, India has grown by 1 billion. The exact numbers are hard to identify because India keeps delaying its census. The most recent one was supposed to happen in 2021, but it was delayed until 2024. If the UN’s projections are accurate, India will overtake China as the most populated country in 2023. India’s largest cities include Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore.
#3. The United States
Population in 2022: 333.3 million
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the United States’ population growth is expected to slow between 2023-2053. Most of the growth will come from immigration, so if immigration slows down, the population will shrink. Why is there a slowdown? Less immigration is one factor, but death rates and low fertility play a role, too. California is the most populous state (40+ million people), followed by Texas and Florida.
Population in 2022: 275 million
Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago with 17,000 islands. Not all are inhabited, but the state is the 4th-largest country by population. It’s been growing fast in recent years, and by 2040, it’s estimated to reach a 312.51 million population. Four of the five largest cities (Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, and Bekasi) are on Java, which is Indonesia’s – and the world’s – most populated island.
Population in 2022: 229.5 million
Pakistan is experiencing high population growth. According to a United Nations Population Fund Report on population growth and decline, Pakistan was one of 8 countries expected to account for half of the projected global population growth by 2050. That would put its population at 403 million by 2050. Various sources describe this growth as an overpopulation problem, pointing out that the country has limited resources to serve everyone. The largest cities include Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad.
Population in 2022: 216.7 million
Nigeria is the largest country in Africa by population. It’s expected to reach 400 million by 2050. It would overtake the United States and become the third most populated country in the world. Unfortunately, the country’s population growth is faster than its poverty reduction, so the number of people living below the national poverty line could rise by 13 million between 2019 and 2025. Large cities include Lagos, Kano, and Ibadan.
Population in 2022: 214.3 million
Brazil has also had a fairly high birth rate because of how many Catholics live in the country, but with more women entering the workforce and waiting to have children starting in the 1970s, the birth rate has dropped. According to data collected on World Population Review, Brazil will reach its population peak in 2045, and then start to decline. The country’s most populous cities include Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia.
Population in 2022: 167.9 million
Bangladesh had a high birth rate in the 1960s and 1970s, but it’s been declining in recent decades. It’s expected to peak in 2053 with around 193 million people. Reasons for a declining birth rate include better family planning education, contraceptive use, and more options for women, especially in cities. Dhaka, which is the capital city, is by far the most populated. It’s home to around 23 million people.
Population in 2022: 145.8 million
Russia is the most populous country in Europe, but it has a fairly low birth rate. As the economy got stronger in the early 20th century, there were some increases. In 2009, there was another increase driven by more migration and a decreasing death rate, but Russia has struggled with maintaining and growing its population for many years. According to data collected by World Population Review, the population will most likely decrease to 140 million by 2030, and 136 million by 2040. Russia’s biggest cities include Moscow (the capital), Saint Petersburg, and Novosibirsk. The country’s last census was taken in 2021.
Population in 2022: 126 million
Mexico’s population growth has slowed significantly over the years as there are fewer marriages and more divorces. This follows a global pattern of shifting attitudes about marriage and family. Younger generations aren’t getting married as young or having as many kids as their parents. The population is also getting older in Mexico, so by 2055, almost 30% of Mexicans will be over 60 years old. After 2062, the population is expected to decrease. Projections estimate that Mexico’s population will peak at that time, too, with about 157.2 million. The most populous cities include Mexico City, Tijuana, and Guadalajara.
Population in 2022: 124.8 million
Japan has experienced significant population decreases since 2009. The main reason is the steadily decreasing birth rate. Each year, people are having fewer and fewer babies. One of the most cited reasons is the lack of high-paying jobs for men, who in Japan are expected to be the main providers of a family. Without enough money, men wait longer to marry and start a family. Projections say Japan’s population could shrink to below 100 million by 2058. Most populous cities include Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka.
Population in 2022: 120.8 million
According to a UN working paper on the country, Ethiopia’s population is growing at 2.6%, which is the second-highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2030, projections put Ethiopia’s population at 150 million. Every year, 2-3 million young people enter the labor market. Unemployment is still high, which affects Ethiopia’s goal to reach lower-middle-income status by 2025. Addis Ababa is the largest city in Ethiopia, followed by Dire Dawa and Mekelle.
Population in 2022: 110.4 million
The Philippines’ population growth rate started decreasing significantly in the 1960s. In 1969, the fertility rate was 6.4 kids per woman, but today, the rate has dropped to 2.1 kids per woman. Modern family planning methods and contraceptives are a big reason why. The country’s population has continued to grow, albeit at a slower rate, and it’s expected to hit 125 million by 2030. The largest cities include Davao City, Quezon City, and Manilla.
Population in 2022: 102.2 million
Egypt’s population has been growing very fast for many years. According to the World Population Review, the growth rate is 1.95%, which means about 2 million people get added to the population each year. With that rate, Egypt’s population will double by 2078. This has been a concern for the government as issues like climate change make it harder to support such a large population. Giza, Cairo, and Alexandria are the most densely populated cities.
Population in 2022: 97.6 million
By 2054, Vietnam is expected to reach a peak of about 110 million people. About 1 million people get added every year, but the growth rate has also been decreasing with each passing year. After 2055, the population is expected to start decreasing. While the country’s two-child policy (which is still in effect at the time of writing) was never as strict as China’s, it has affected population growth. Once the population decreases, the policy might end. Large cities include Ho Chi Ming, Hanoi, and Da Nang.
What are the largest countries by land mass?
When looking at the largest countries by population, you usually find most of the population living in just a handful of areas. Indonesia is a prime example as almost 60% of the population lives on Java. What are the largest countries by land mass? Russia is one of the largest countries by population, as well as the largest by land mass. Its land area occupies around 11% of the world’s total landmass. Because so much of the country is uninhabitable, Russia’s population lives close together in just a few areas.
Canada is the second-largest country by land mass, followed by the United States. When you put Russia, Canada, and the US together, you get about ¼ of the Earth’s total landmass. Other large countries include China, Australia, India, Argentina, and Kazakhstan.