50 Most Populated Countries in the World

Updated July 21, 2023 | Infoplease Staff
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The global population has been increasing ever since humanity invented agriculture around 10,000 B.C. The domestication of food and animals meant that humans had a stable food supply, and could therefore begin supporting greater numbers of people in their settlements.

This pattern has been repeated throughout human history ever since; technological development leads to increased capacity for human life, people have more babies and so the population grows. Population growth has rarely been spread evenly throughout the countries of the world. Different areas of the world have seen population growth at different times according to their level of economic development.

First, it was Europe in the 18th century, then Asia in the 20th and now it is Africa’s time for a population boom. However, as you will see, world population prospects are not so simple and will ultimately be dictated by how individual countries approach the coming global challenges.

This table provides figures about the 50 most populous nations in the world, when the current estimated world population is 8.05 billion, as of 2023.



China is the most populous country in the world. In 1950, China had a population of around 550 million people, meaning that almost 900 million people have been added to that number in 70 years.

China once saw this rising population as a problem and so they implemented a one-child policy from 1980 to 2015. This legally restricted family to only having one child in an attempt to bring population growth under control.

The majority of the population is located in the eastern half of the country. As its dependency, Hong Kong would, by itself, rank around 100 in a list of countries.




A very high population density exists throughout the country, apart from the deserts in the northwest and the mountains in the north. 

India has been gaining fast on China’s population numbers over the past twenty years and is forecast to overtake them in 2023. This is despite a falling fertility rate and a general shift in attitude amongst Indians to have smaller families.

There is a significant deviation between the north and south in population growth. In the north, where families are poorer, the fertility rates are still high, high enough to outweigh the falling population in the richer south. In general, the population density is higher in urban areas like Kolkata.



United States

From 1950 to 2010, the USA’s population doubled from 151 million to 309 million. The populace is spread across very densely populated urban areas which are clustered along the east and west coasts. California and Texas, the two most populous states, account for about one-quarter of the population.

During this time, the USA’s demographics shifted dramatically following the post-industrial decline of their manufacturing industries.

In combination with other factors such as a rising middle class, the USA’s population growth has slowed rapidly. In fact, without the high levels of immigration, the USA’s population would be in decline.




There is a dramatic population division across Indonesia’s islands. Java, the island which is home to the capital Jakarta, is home to 56% of the country’s population and is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. As a result, it is also the most populated island in the world.

Indonesia has a relatively young population with a median age of 30 years.




Pakistan is set to be one of the top ten fastest-growing countries in the coming decade.

It is home to two megacities, Karachi and Lahore, with extensive mountainous rural areas contributing to the extremely urban population distribution. Punjab is the most densely populated province and area in Pakistan.




Nigeria is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa with the continent’s highest population. 50% of Nigerians live in urban areas and this is only set to increase as job opportunities continue to be concentrated there.

By 2050, Nigeria could become the third most populous country in the world. It recently became the continent's largest economy as well.




Brazil has long been the population powerhouse of South America. After a period of rapid growth in the mid-20th century, Brazil’s population growth rate has been steadily declining and will enter a negative phase by 2050.

The population is heavily clustered on the east coast’s megacities although population sprawl has contributed to encroachment on the Amazon Rainforest.




Bangladesh is a small country in terms of area in comparison to its large population. Therefore, it is the most densely populated large country in the world. It has seen its fertility rate drop dramatically in the past 50 years thanks to increased levels of female education and government birth control campaigns.

In contrast to other highly populated countries, Bangladeshis mainly reside in rural areas rather than urban conurbations. This is indicative of the level of economic development in Bangladesh which lags behind its Asian neighbors.




During the mid-20th century, Russia was a global powerhouse in competition with the USA for control of the global political landscape. It remains the most populated country in Europe but it is also one of the least densely populated in the world due to its extensive size.

Russia had been seeing population decline for decades until 2010 when rates began to increase due to lower death rates. The Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine have caused the country to reenter population decline and, with one of the oldest populations in the world, this presents a huge problem for the future prosperity of the country.




Mexico is the most populated Spanish-speaking nation in the world and in all of Central America. For the first half of the 20th century, population growth was negative, mainly due to the revolutionary war, but this changed drastically in the 1980s. Approximately a quarter of the population lives in the capital Mexico City.




The population is most dense along the coasts, due in part to the islands' mountains and the distribution of arable land. Japan’s population is remarkable in the sense that it is so high yet there is very little immigration.

About 120 million people in Japan, or around 95 %, are Japanese nationals in comparison to somewhere like the UK where that figure is around 84%. An extremely high 92% of Japan’s population lives in cities, with many of them concentrated in Tokyo, the largest metropolitan area in the world.




The median age in Ethiopia is just under 18 years, making it one of the youngest populations on Earth, despite the country itself is very old. It is also the most populous landlocked country in the world. The population is highly ethnically diverse with over 80 different ethnic groups.

Ethiopia’s population growth rate is amongst the top ten in the world and, like many other African nations, will soon overtake countries above it.




The Philippines experienced an incredibly rapid 45% increase in population from 1990 to 2008. A third of this population lives in the metropolitan area of Manila which is no surprise seeing as 51% of the country is urbanized.




Egypt is the third most populous country in Africa and the most populous Arab country. Much of the population is concentrated around the River Nile due to its highly fertile land and ease of access to trading routes. Approximately 95 percent of the population lives within 20 kilometers of the Nile and its delta.



Congo, Dem. Rep.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has an extremely young population, with 46% aged between 0 and 14 years compared to only 2.47% over 65. Coupled with a rising life expectancy and economic opportunities, this sets the scene for a continued rapid population rise in the DRC.

The country is also the world's largest francophone country. French might be the most common, as it's taught in schools, but it shares the stage with more than 200 other local languages. 




Unlike many developing nations with high populations, 65.6% of the people in the country live in rural areas and work in agriculture. However, this is changing as urbanization increases in areas like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. During the communist unification in 1976, the seizure of property and land led many Vietnamese people to leave the country.

Kinh people, or "ethnic Vietnamese people" account for about 85% of Vietnam's population, but are concentrated in only half of the country. There are 53 other recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam. 




Iran has already had its period of rapid population growth during the 1980s and 1990s. The fertility rate was once a huge 6.5 but has since dropped to 2 leading to a major slowdown in population growth rates. Their population is expected to peak at 105 million in 2050.

Azerbaijanis constitute almost a quarter of the population. The nation's population is concentrated in the north, northwest, and west.




Turkey has a young population concentrated in major urban areas. Due to surrounding wars in the Middle East, especially in Syria, refugees have added around four million people to the population since 2011. Turkey has been a destination for migrants over the past few decades as persecuted minorities flee neighboring countries.

The population is densest around Istanbul, but the largest share of the population actually lives on the south coast.




Germany is the most populous country in the European Union, with a great population concentration along the Rhine. Like many other western European nations, Germany’s fertility rate is below two but there has been a recent increase in the past decade.

There is also a large amount of immigration which is also supporting small, continued population growth. Germany’s population is the third oldest in the world at 47 years.




Thailand has a predominantly rural population due to the reliance on rice paddies for food and exports. The Thai government also introduced a family planning campaign, with incentives for fewer children and schemes like giving out free condoms. It has resulted in a dramatic fall in population growth rates from 3.1% to 0.4%.




The largest concentrations of the population in France are located in the north and the southeast, clustered around a few major historic cities. France is unique to other European nations in that it is one of the only countries to have most of its population growth come from natural births rather than immigration.



United Kingdom

The United Kingdom, like many other European countries, has entered into a period of population stagnation. In the 21st century, the fertility rate dropped to 1.7, as people considered lives without children.

The UK’s minor population growth is attributable in part to immigration which has been consistently in the hundreds of thousands for decades. Despite Brexit and measures to try and bring immigration down, the number of migrants has remained stable.

The UK's population density is one of the highest in the world, centered in the capital city of London.




Tanzania’s population has doubled since 2000 and increased by 20 million since 2012. This indicates that the growth rate will prevail for decades to come.

The capital, Dar es Salaam, is seeing a growing population but the majority of the population remains in rural areas, especially along the coast. Falling child mortality since the 1960s has been a major factor in the country’s population growth.




South Africa

A large proportion of South Africa’s population increase is derived from immigration, especially from neighboring African countries. Included in this are the estimated five million illegal immigrants that mostly originate from Zimbabwe.





Italy’s population has fluctuated in recent years as an aging population catches up with the country’s demographics.

Much of their population is located in urban centers and coastal zones where the economy relies on tourism and fishing. Italy has a long history of emigration that has seen Italians flock to countries like Australia, the USA, and Argentina.




The population of Myanmar is actually quite difficult to pin down, due to various problems with their census-taking. Myanmar’s fertility rate has dropped significantly in the past 20 years. This is attributed to fewer people deciding to get married, high rates of illegal abortions, and high numbers of single women.




Kenya’s population grew from 2.9 million to 40 million in the space of a century. As such, Kenya did not reach the top 50 of the most populated countries until the 1970s.




Most Colombians live in the mountainous western region of the country or on the northern coastline. 76% of Colombians now live in urban areas which is at odds with their traditionally rural past. Population estimates put their number at 55 million in 2050 indicating a significant slowdown in growth rate.



South Korea 

More than 70 percent of the country is mountainous so most of the population is located in lowland areas.

In 2020, South Korea recorded more deaths than births, meaning the population declined for the first time since records began. This was due to a falling fertility rate and an aging population. It is also the third most densely populated country in the world. South Korea is expected to peak in population by 2035.




Uganda has the fifth-highest total fertility rate in the world at 5.97. It also has the youngest population in the world at 15 years. There are also around 1.5 million immigrants in the country making up around 2% of the population.




Spain saw a population boom in the 1960s and early 1970s. Since then it has seen a much lower fertility rate with returning Spanish immigrants and immigrants from Latin America making up the numbers.

The largest urban populations are found near the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, aside from the populous areas of Madrid, Sevilla, and Zaragoza.




Sudan’s population is spread across the country apart from the north. Khartoum is the largest city and is growing rapidly. Sudan is a refugee-generating country but these losses are made up for by immigration and a high fertility rate.




Roughly a third of Argentina’s population lives in Buenos Aires. It is transitioning from a young population to an aging one with improving life expectancy fuelling an imbalanced demographic.

Its population density is low for South American countries and it is the third most populous on the continent.




Most of the population is located along the Mediterranean Coast in the north, with very sparse population in the desert south. 90% of Algerians live in the northern coastal areas as the southern Sahara Desert is mostly uninhabitable. There are however about 1.5 million nomadic people who live in the desert areas of the country.




Iraq’s population was growing steadily throughout the 20th century until the Iraq War.

Around two million people were displaced internationally by the war which also curtailed fertility rates for a while. However, after the war, Iraq experienced a population boom as it returns to some semblance of normalcy. 




Much of Afghanistan’s population resides in rural areas due to traditional ways of life and the established tribal order. Afghanistan has the highest fertility rate of any country outside of Africa.

It is the largest refugee-producing country in the world but despite this, the growth rate remains high at 2.3%. War in the 1980s and 2000s meant that millions fled the country but they have since returned.




Poland’s population has plateaued in the last 20 years. The combination of an incredibly low fertility rate of 1.4 and an aging population has contributed to this, as well as the excessive migration of men to countries with higher job opportunities.

The war in Ukraine has seen Poland take on a large number of migrants but these are yet to be included in official statistics.




Canada has a steadily growing population due mainly to immigration and some natural growth. It also makes up 10% of the global annual refugee resettlement.

Because of its expansive size and largely uninhabitable areas in the north, Canada has one of the lowest population densities in the world. The most populated province in Canada is Ontario, followed by Quebec and British Columbia.




As an African nation, Morocco has a relatively low population growth rate. Its fastest-growing region is Western Sahara but this is often omitted from official statistics because it is a disputed territory.

Most Moroccans are Sunni Muslims, although there was once a sizable Jewish population that has since almost entirely emigrated. 




Before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Ukraine had a population of around 41 million. However, both the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of the country, on the whole, has displaced around 5 million people. The population peaked in 1993 at 52 million but has decreased ever since.



Saudi Arabia

During the mid-20th century, Saudi Arabia had one of the highest population growth rates in the world. It is often hard to accurately define their population numbers because Saudi Arabia has in the past inflated population figures.

The last 30 years have seen a rapid urbanization process enacted by the Saudi government. This transformed the population from subsistence farmers into city-dwellers.




Angola is set for rapid population growth, hitting 60 million by 2050 as its economic prosperity continues to flourish. The capital Luanda houses about 10% of the country's population, and is ten times larger than the next largest city.




Uzbekistan is the most populated country in Central Asia. After the fall of the Soviet Union, many of the Russians in Uzbekistan emigrated in search of economic opportunities.

The country was often a location for deported minorities to be sent during the USSR’s existence, including many Koreans who were relocated by the Soviets in the 1930s, and have lived in Uzbekistan ever since.




Peru has the fourth largest population in South America. Much of the population lives in urban areas, although there are still uncontacted native tribes. Over a quarter of the Peruvian population is identified as Amerindian, mainly Quechua.




Malaysia’s population is clustered on the Malay Peninsula. As a prosperous nation, it has attracted a large number of migrant workers who make up around 10% of the overall population.




Yemen has a very young population which is expected to rise to 60 million by 2050. Yemen has been in a state of civil war since 2014 which has led to over 100,000 dead civilians and 4 million displaced people. The majority of the population is found in the Asir Mountains in the west.   




Ghana is an outlier in terms of largely populated African countries. It started its process of development slightly earlier than places like DR Congo and therefore has an older population of 30. years.

The coastal areas, the Ashanti region, and the two principal cities, Accra and Kumasi are among the most densely populated parts of the country.




As a Portuguese colony, Mozambique had a sizable Portuguese population. Upon independence, most of these moved back to Portugal. It has a high fertility rate and will therefore see continued growth throughout the 21st century.

Less than half of Mozambique speaks its official language, Portuguese, as a first or second language.




Most of the Nepalese population is concentrated in the central highlands and is home to over 125 different ethnic groups. Kathmandu, the capital, is the most populated city and is part of the wave of urbanization happening in the country.




Madagascar’s population is highly rural due to the reliance on subsistence farming. 90% of the ethnic makeup of Madagascar is composed of the Malagasy people.


Sources: Worldpopulationreview.com and United Nations World Population Prospects 2022

What Are the Most Populous Countries in the World?

The most populous countries in the world have fluctuated throughout history and even now, the list of countries in the top 50 is likely to change over the coming decades. As demographics in Europe, America and China begin to tip in favor of an aging population, and countries in Africa have an increased capacity to support more people, the balance of population will undoubtedly shift.

For now, many of the most populous countries are located in Asia and Europe, although there are already some African countries that are on the rise. The list above is likely to change in one major way: that India will supersede China to be the most populous country by the end of 2023.

Population Around the World

Population growth rates were relatively slow from 10,000 B.C. onwards and remained steady for centuries. In 500 B.C., the population was about 100 million and by the year 0, it had doubled to 200 million. Increases like this continued until around 1750 which saw the dawn of the industrial revolution in Europe and the USA.

Advances in technology, crop harvests, and rising incomes ushered in an era of extremely rapid population growth that has continued into the 21st Century. In 1750, the global population was around 800 million. This had increased by tenfold in November 2022 when the population hit 8 billion people.

The only time the global population declined was during the Black Death in the 1400s when population estimates state that around 100 million people were lost. In the present day, world population growth rates have begun to slow down, mainly due to declining birth rates and aging populations in areas like China, India, and Europe.

According to the United Nations, birth rates are set to fall from 2.3 to 2.1 per woman by 2050 and estimates say that the global population will peak around 2100. Total population growth has already started to slow and the decline in many countries is likely to begin between 2030 and 2050.

That is not to say that growth is slowing everywhere. Africa is projected to continue growing well into the mid-21st century, with Nigeria entering the top three largest countries by population by 2050.

This will be fueled by the expansion of urban areas as economic development continues and incomes rise to feed higher standards of living. India will also continue to grow, with their rates suggesting they will surpass China in April 2023 to have the largest population in the world.

The rest of the 21st century paints a mixed picture for countries around the world in terms of population. But on the whole, growth is almost certainly going to tail off during the mid-century and by 2100 it may begin to fall.

Where in the World Do People Live?

The world’s population distribution is ever-changing. Historically, most people lived in Europe and America as it became a hub of industrial power in the late 18th century. However, as economic development spread in the 20th century, powerhouses such as India and China exploded in number. This is where the majority of people live today.

As the 21st century progresses, this will change as African nations begin to be able to support larger populations. In fact, this shift has already started as many African countries begin to see upticks in their population growth and reductions in their death rates. The future, it seems, is African, but external factors such as climate change may yet have an impact on population numbers both in Africa and around the world.

If Africa’s growing importance on the global stage has piqued your interest, then read up on the megacities that are driving the continent forward.

You May Also Be Searching For...

You can learn about these countries and more on our Countries of the World page.

To see which countries have the most people per square mile, check out our list of most densely populated countries, or our collection of U.S. Population Stats.

The Largest Cities in the U.S.

Population Statistics
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