While the number of births among Muslims and Christians, the world’s two largest religious groups, are projected to increase over the next decades, an “especially dramatic” drop is expected for Hindus, according to a new study by Pew Research Center.
Hindus are projected to see 33 million fewer births between 2055 and 2060 compared to the 2010-2015 period, due “in large part to declining fertility in India”, which is home to 94% of the world’s Hindus.
This will not bring down the number of Hindus worldwide though. The number of Hindus is projected to rise by 27%, from 1.1 billion to 1.4 billion, according to the study, but the increase will trail the pace of overall population growth.
The fertility rate among Hindus (as well as for Jews) was 2.3 children per woman, on an average, which is below the global average of 2.4. The rate is 2.9 for Muslims and 2.6 for Christians.
While the study attributed higher rate of birth among Muslims to, among other reasons, the younger median age of the group — 24 to the global 30 — Hindus were no older at 27 as their median age.
The study’s headline finding, of course, was that though Christians will remain the world’s largest religious group for the next few decades, will lose the battle for births to Muslims, the world’s second largest religious group.
“Muslims are projected to be the world’s fastest- growing major religious group in the decades ahead,” the study said. Between 2010 and 2015, births among Muslims accounted for 31% of all births, while the group was only 24% of the global population; Christian births were 33%, but their share of the world population was also larger at 31%.
Christians were as of 2015 the world’s largest religious community with a third (31%) of the world’s population of 7.3 billion people, followed by Muslims with 1.8 billion (24% of the global population), unaffiliated (16%), Hindus (15%) and Buddhists (7%).
By 2060, when the global population is expected to be 9.6 billion, Muslims would have grown by 70% over the current size to account for 31% of the global total with 2.1 billion and Christians would have grown by 34% to remain in the lead with 32% of the total, at 3.1 billion.
Much of the worldwide growth of Islam and Christianity, the study projected, would take place in sub-Saharan Africa.
While all major religions are expected to grow in real terms — absolute numbers — Buddhists are expected to decline by 7% from nearly 500 million in 2015 to 462 million in 2060, due to, the study said, “low fertility rates and aging populations in countries such as China, Thailand and Japan”.
All other religions – including Baha’is, Jains, Sikhs, Taoists and many smaller faiths – also are projected to decrease, the Pew report said, “slightly in number”, from a total of approximately 59.7 million in 2015 to 59.4 million in 2060.