The state of the world

The state of the world

Read an article about the state of the world to practise and improve your reading skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the text and do the exercises.


Reading text

If your view of the world comes from watching the news and reading newspapers, you could be forgiven for lying awake at night worrying about the future. Apparently, rising violence and population rates mean humans are both killing each other in ever larger numbers and being born at rates the world's resources can't sustain. To make matters worse, all the wealth is concentrated on a handful of people in the world's richest countries. People in low-income countries live in poverty while the West gets richer. Depressing, isn't it?

But do the statistics support our negative world view or is the world actually improving?

Let's take global population first. It's around 7 billion now, in line with figures predicted by the UN in 1958. By the year 2100, the same experts predict it will be around 11 billion. But did you know that 11 billion is probably as high as that number will get? The rate of increase will slow down in the second half of this century thanks to falling birth rates today.

Falling birth rates? Yes, that's right.

In the last two centuries, improvements in technology and health meant fewer children died young, fuelling rapid population growth. These large families produced even more children who survived into adulthood and had their own children. But with the wider availability of contraception in the 1960s, the global average number of babies per woman has declined from six babies per woman to as low as two.

The biggest factor in child mortality is poverty. And while it's still true that only 20 per cent of the world takes about 74 per cent of the world's income, 60 per cent of the world now falls into a middle-income group, with 11.6 per cent – the smallest amount of people in history – still living in conditions of extreme poverty. If the majority of the world's people have money, international aid could realistically achieve the UN target of eradicating poverty by 2030. As poverty goes down, life expectancy goes up, birth rates go down because parents can expect their existing children to survive, and the global population stabilises.

As for news stories that make us think the world is an increasingly violent place, there is cause for some optimism too. Between the end of World War II and 1990, there were 30 wars that killed more than 100,000 people. Today there are still civil wars, but countries are mostly co-existing more peacefully than in the past. However, terrorism has shot up in the last few years and, since World War II, wars have killed many more civilians than soldiers. Even for civilians, though, the statistics are not all bad. Although deaths are nine times more likely to be a result of violent crime than political conflict, the global murder rate fell slightly, from 8 per 100,000 people in 2000 to about 5.3 in 2015.

Of course, none of this means the world is perfect, and whether you personally are affected by war and poverty is often down to the lottery of where you're born. Also, we still face huge problems of our own making, particularly environmental ones like global warming, and wealth and natural resources need to be distributed more fairly. But not all the news is bad news, whatever the TV and newspapers might say.

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Submitted by Tajbibi Shamim on Sat, 14/12/2019 - 18:41

The world is not so bad but for the news and political control. The 20% rich have access to better education and better information channels, while the poor are brain washed into being happy in their deprived condition. Spread of knowledge and free teaching of skills to under privileged groups will level up them with the 60% middle batch. Besides, good amount of taxation will bring down the 20% rich to the middle level. All in all We can live in a less competitive world.

Submitted by MAG22 on Tue, 15/10/2019 - 11:02

Good day I'm wondering shouldn't we say, in the third paragraph, improvements in health and technology meant 'that" fewer... instead of meant fewer?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 16/10/2019 - 07:17

In reply to by MAG22


Hello MAG22,

When the verb 'mean' is followed by a clause, we can include 'that' or omit it. For example, both of these are grammatically correct:

This meant costs were higher. OK

This meant that costs were higher. OK


However, when 'mean' is followed by a noun or noun phrase, we do not use 'that':

This meant higher costs. OK

This meant that higher costs. NOT OK



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by om mariam on Sun, 01/09/2019 - 21:25

I think the situation is not the same in all countries, for example many countries in Asia has built a strong economy and some of them became a super power.having their vital role in global economy, while the matter is the opposite in most of Africa and middle east where triple destructive of war, poverty and corruption destroy these countries leaving halve of the population to desperate and the other immigrated to wealthier countries pursuing better life away from their own lovely homes in a journey that may cost their lives.Unfortunately the governments which cause all these disasters still holding the power with the same primitive mentality.

Submitted by Eon on Thu, 29/08/2019 - 15:11

Hi Team, I notice that in this website the percentages are often written like '20 per cent' instead of '20 percent'. I thought earlier that the latter one was common. I'd like to know if the former one is a formal expression. Thank you so much in advance. My best, Eon
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 30/08/2019 - 07:13

In reply to by Eon


Hello Eon,

Both 'percent' and 'per cent' are correct. The one-word form is more common in the US, which the two-word form is more common in the UK.



The LearnEnglish Team