Muslim birth rate falls, population to grow more slowly

Thu Jan 27, 2011 8:47am EST
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - Falling birth rates will slow the world's Muslim population growth over the next two decades, reducing it on average from 2.2 percent a year in 1990-2010 to 1.5 percent a year from now until 2030, a new study says.

Muslims will number 2.2 billion by 2030 compared to 1.6 billion in 2010, making up 26.4 percent of the world population compared to 23.4 percent now, according to estimates by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report did not publish figures for worldwide populations of other major religions, but said the United States-based Pew Forum planned similar reports on growth prospects for worldwide Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Judaism.

"The declining growth rate is due primarily to falling fertility rates in many Muslim-majority countries," it said, noting the birth rate is falling as more Muslim women are educated, living standards rise and rural people move to cities.

"Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades -- an average annual growth rate of 1.5 percent for Muslims, compared with 0.7 percent for non-Muslims," it said.

The report, entitled The Future of the Global Muslim Population, was part of a Pew Forum program analyzing religious change and its impact on societies around the world.

It said about 60 percent of the world's Muslims will live in the Asia-Pacific region in 2030, 20 percent in the Middle East, 17.6 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 2.7 percent in Europe and 0.5 percent in the Americas.

Pakistan will overtake Indonesia as the world's most numerous Muslim nation by 2030, it said, while the Muslim minority in mostly Hindu India will retain its global rank as the third largest Muslim population.   Continued...

<p>A woman and her daughter wear green headbands, symbols of the Imam Hussein family, during a Shi'ite Ashura religious festival in Khorramabad, 491 km (305 miles) southwest of Tehran, December 15, 2010. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl</p>