We see headlines daily, to the effect of— Russia! China! The European Union! The USA! (or, “America!”) These and a few other nations are major players in the world’s economy, and holders of power concomitant with their economic strength, as measured by Gross Domestic Product. (I admit there are other important strengths attributable to any given nation, but these are not as easily measurable.)

Here are ‘facts’ for the most populous nations of the world, the fourteen that each contain over one hundred million people. But, right away, I and the reader have a problem in that one of these ‘nations’ is the European Union. You will have your own opinion as to whether the EU belongs in this list.

These fourteen entities (40, if you count each of the 27 members of the European Union) comprise around two-thirds of the world’s population, so I assert that what happens in and by these nations is vitally important to the remaining 159 countries which are listed in the World Factbook of the Central Intelligence Agency of the USA, the source of my information.

What a trove! The reader can select the items of his or her interest to ponder; I note these:

  • China and India together contain slightly more than one-third of the earth’s human population. They have an extensive common border with a few small countries wedged between them in the Himalaya Mountain Range. These two countries have tense relations over boundaries, and over the fact that India gives refuge to the Dalai Lama, the leader-in-exile of Tibetan Buddhists of the former administrative region of Tibet, of the Republic of China (before it became the ‘People’s Republic of China’).
  • The EU and the USA hold around 10% of the world’s population. They have  the highest ratio of Gross Domestic Product per person in the world, by far.
  • Not many in the West are aware that Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world; we don’t get much news about Indonesia in Europe and North America.
  • The median age in the EU, Japan, and Russia are all 40 years or more. The USA and China are not far behind at 38.5.and 38.4.  These are aged nations, compared to a median age of 31 years for the world, and the even more youthful nations of Nigeria, Bangladesh, Philippines, Egypt, and Mexico.
  • Japan and Russia have a small, negative population growth rate. That is, their populations are slowly shrinking, currently. Japan has no net migration, but Russia has a comparatively large net migration of +1.7 persons per thousand population. I believe the largest part of this in-migration is due to ethnic Russians migrating from nations which were formerly part of the Soviet Union.
  • Nine of the fourteen countries have a negative net migration; that is, more people leave the country than arrive from other countries. The only countries to which more people want to arrive to than leave are: the EU, the USA–and Russia, as noted in the previous bullet.

What about Gross Domestic Product? See here:

“The definition of a third world country has evolved from the political meaning during the Cold War to the economic meaning of today.” (Source)

The reader will readily note that I have assigned the “Economic Tier Number” of #1.5 to Russia. I believe it is a telling fact that the GDP of Russia is well below the USA, Japan, and the EU, even though Russia gives the general impression, by its international behavior, that it is in the top tier.

Another telling fact is that China, despite its almost constant presence in the headlines, world-wide corporate offices, and halls of governments, is, economically, a second-tier country. It should be remembered that approximately two-thirds of China’s population are the peasantry, not the city-dwellers we see in the news reports. The GDP per person in China is heavily weighted toward the city-dweller, leaving the peasant at the level of “third-world” countries.

I will leave my discussion here, hoping you will find other points of interest which you might share with the reader in the comments section.





About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate American living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
This entry was posted in Demography, Economics, Gross Domestic Product and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to FACTS!

  1. Hi, Ron. I had composed a fairly lengthy response, but it disappeared somehow. I must have clicked on the wrong button. Anyway, I have three points to make.

    — Calling Russia a “1½ World Country” makes a lot of sense to me.

    — “All Others” is a hugely inhomogeneous group. For example, it includes both Norway (per capita GDP ~$80,000) and The Congo (per capita GDP under $1,000).

    — Indonesia used to be in the news a lot, while the Cold War was raging. Now that they’ve joined the Free World, we Westerners have apparently lost interest (unless a Dutchman or a Kiwi gets blown to bits by a terrorist’s bomb — as in 2009).

    David Bryant
    Canyon Lake, Texas


  2. jeff says:

    Interesting points. I’ve been trying to memorize the top 20 countries by poulation for a while. Leaving out the EU as a country though.
    Have you read “Factfulness”? It seems like a book up your alley.


    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Hans Rosling is quite familiar to me, in that I live in Sweden. I was sorry to see that he died recently, but his son and other family members are keeping his work in front of the public. As for EU in or out, I was mostly interested in GDP and given that the EU is a pretty tight trading bloc, it seemed all right for the purposes I had. Otherwise, I guess Germany would represent Europe, economically, but down the list from other countries in the world


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