Although you probably already knew that China is the most populous country on Earth, the other population heavy weights may surprise you. These are the 25 most populous countries in the world.
Burma/Myanmar (51 million)
Although an exact census is hard to take in this country considering that it has some of the worst infrastructure development on Earth, the latest statistics report a population of roughly 51 million.
South Africa (54 million)
With 11 official languages South Africa is a diverse country with people from varied backgrounds and in spite of a rocky past it has managed to become Africa’s largest economy.
Italy (60 million)
With one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, Italy may not hold this spot for long.
United Kingdom (64 million)
Largely as a result of empire, the UK has become a melting pot of cultures. Issues such as immigration have become important in recent years but this has remained a strong source of population growth.
Thailand (65 million)
As the only country in southeast Asia to have escaped colonial rule, Thailand has a long history of buddhism, monarchy, and military rule.
France (66 million)
A key player in international politics and one of the more populous European countries, France has become a melting pot of cultures similar to its northern English neighbor.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (71 million)
In spite of a long history of bloody civil war and conflict including the infamous African World War, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still one of Africa’s larger countries.
Turkey (77 million)
It’s the world’s largest secular Muslim country and as it straddles both Asia and Europe, Turkey has long been an important player in international diplomatic and military situations.
Iran (78 million)
With half of the population being under the age of 25, this Islamic Republic is poised for a population boom in the near future.
Germany (81 million)
With a rapidly aging population and a very low birth rate, Germany is quite the opposite of Iran in many ways. It will have to rely heavily on immigration to keep its economy running.
Egypt (88 million)
A limited amount of arable land means that Egypt’s large and rapidly growing population is concentrated around the Nile River delta. This has led some political and economic strains as Egypt struggles to establish itself as a leading nation in Africa and the Middle East.
Ethiopia (90 million)
After Nigeria, Ethiopia is Africa’s second largest country in terms of population and apart from a 5 year occupation by Italy’s Mussolini, it is the only African nation to have never been colonized. Although its population is very young and the political situation is more stable than most African nations, it is also very poor and massive famines have led to significant economic crises.
Vietnam (91 million)
Following the unification of Vietnam into a one party communist state, it has made attempts to emulate China in terms of liberalizing its economy by opening stock exchanges and trading internationally (the USA is actually its main trading partner). With a large, growing, and dense population Vietnam is striving to be a developed nation by 2020. In spite of its economic progress, however, the communist party seem unlikely to relinquish its political grip any time soon.
Philippines (101 million)
The majority of this country’s rapidly growing population lives on only 11 out of its 7,000 islands. In spite of constant political and civil unrest, the Philippine’s economy is one of the most promising of the region as it has gradually moved away from its focus on agriculture. It also has one of the highest birth rates in Asia and officials say that its population could more than double within three decades.
Mexico (121 million)
Although it has the second largest economy in Latin America, violence, crime, drug trafficking, and poverty are relatively common in some regions. These issues will all have to be addressed in order to maintain stability in this quickly growing country that is suffering from vast economic and social disparities.
Japan (126 million)
Japan made an incredible rebound following World War II and today it is the world’s third largest economy. In spite of that, there are numerous challenges awaiting this aging country from its younger generation pushing for more western ideals to the fact that Japan experiences 20% of the world’s earthquakes.
Russia (146 million)
Geographically speaking it is the largest country on Earth. Covering the majority of two continents, Russia is very demographically diverse. Due to recent tension with the west, however, its has experienced significant economic setbacks. In the near future it will very likely remain a key player on the international scene.
Bangladesh (158 million)
About the size of Kansas, Bangladesh has over ten million more people than Russia. This makes it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Although it had a very high birth rate in the 1960s and 70s (over 7) it has decreased significantly since then (about 2.5 today).
Nigeria (183 million)
Africa’s most populous nation has finally managed to free itself from a long past of coups and political repression. Corruption and terrorism are still significant obstacles to progress however.
Pakistan (189 million)
Carved out of India in 1947 to provide a home for Indian muslims, Pakistan has alternated between military and civilian rule since then. Recently the war on terror and renewed tensions in Kashmir have pushed the country to the brink of all out war several times.
Brazil (204 million)
Along with China, Russia, India, and South Africa it is one of the world’s rising powers (BRICS nation). Although there is a wide economic gap between rich and poor, the nation has done a lot to address it in recent years.
Indonesia (255 million)
With the world’s largest Muslim population and Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Indonesia is a very ethnically and linguistically diverse nation. In order to continue developing though, civil unrest, extremism, and vast inequality are all issues that will need to be addressed.
United States (320 million)
As the world’s foremost military and economic power, the United States GDP accounts for roughly 1/4 of the world total and its military spending is more than the rest of the world combined. While being ethnically and culturally diverse, the US has the largest rich-poor gap of any developed country. This is an issue that will likely require much more attention in the coming future.
India (1.27 billion)
The world’s largest democracy emerged as a world power in the 1990s. It is militarily strong, culturally influential, and has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Population wise it is set to overtake China by 2028. In spite of all this its extreme ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity along with the caste system (technically outlawed) will provide significant challenges to growth.
China (1.37 billion)
The world’s most populous country is also the world’s fastest growing economy. The fast rate of economic reform has not been matched, however, with political progress. The Communist Party still retains a monopoly of control. Corruption, pollution, and vast disparities between urban and rural regions remain a problem as well.