Questions raised over 7billionpopulation figure

| 31/10/2011

(BBC): The United Nations estimates that on Monday 31 October the world's population will reach seven billion. But how accurate is this figure? Not only is the world's population supposedly reaching seven billion today,the charity Plan International has anointed a girl born in India as the seven billionth. In reality, things are much less clear. The UN's population estimates chief, Gerhard Heilig, describes it as "nonsense" to suggest anyone could pinpoint where the seven billionth child will be born. And he says the UN recognises that its own figures come with a 1-2% margin of error. Today's population could actually be 56 million higher or lower than seven billion, Heilig says.

"There is a window of uncertainty of at least six months before and six months after the 31 October for the world population to reach seven billion," he told the BBC. “You are always going to be essentially guessing… We will never have a true, definitive figure”
The UN Population Division website adds that no-one can determine the date with an error margin smaller than about 12 months, as even the best censuses have "inevitable inaccuracies".

"In fact, due to very poor demographic statistics in a significant number of developing countries the uncertainty may be even larger."

According to some experts, the UN has jumped the gun. The US Census Bureau says the most likely date the world population will reach seven billion is between March and April next year.

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