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World General

The World
   Introduction    World Top of Page
Globally, the 20th century was marked by: (a) two devastating world wars; (b) the Great Depression of the 1930s; (c) the end of vast colonial empires; (d) rapid advances in science and technology, from the first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (US) to the landing on the moon; (e) the Cold War between the Western alliance and the Warsaw Pact nations; (f) a sharp rise in living standards in North America, Europe, and Japan; (g) increased concerns about the environment, including loss of forests, shortages of energy and water, the decline in biological diversity, and air pollution; (h) the onset of the AIDS epidemic; and (i) the ultimate emergence of the US as the only world superpower. The planet's population continues to explode: from 1 billion in 1820, to 2 billion in 1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1988, and 6 billion in 2000. For the 21st century, the continued exponential growth in science and technology raises both hopes (e.g., advances in medicine) and fears (e.g., development of even more lethal weapons of war).
   Geography    World Top of Page
Geographic overview:
The surface of the earth is approximately 70.9% water and 29.1% land. The former portion is divided into large water bodies termed oceans. The World Factbook recognizes and describes five oceans, which are in decreasing order of size: the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, and Arctic Ocean.
The land portion is generally divided into several, large, discrete landmasses termed continents. Depending on the convention used, the number of continents can vary from five to seven. The most common classification recognizes seven, which are (from largest to smallest): Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia. Asia and Europe are sometimes lumped together into a Eurasian continent resulting in six continents. Alternatively, North and South America are sometimes grouped as simply the Americas, resulting in a continent total of six (or five, if the Eurasia designation is used).
North America is commonly understood to include the island of Greenland, the isles of the Caribbean, and to extend south all the way to the Isthmus of Panama. The easternmost extent of Europe is generally defined as being the Ural Mountains and the Ural River; on the southeast the Caspian Sea; and on the south the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean. Africa's northeast extremity is frequently delimited at the Isthmus of Suez, but for geopolitical purposes, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula is often included as part Africa. Asia usually incorporates all the islands of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The islands of the Pacific are often lumped with Australia into a "land mass" termed Oceania or Australasia.
Although the above groupings are the most common, different continental dispositions are recognized or taught in certain parts of the world, with some arrangements more heavily based on cultural spheres rather than physical geographic considerations.
Map references:
Physical Map of the World, Political Map of the World, Standard Time Zones of the World
total: 510.072 million sq km
land: 148.94 million sq km
water: 361.132 million sq km
note: 70.9% of the world's surface is water, 29.1% is land
Area - comparative:
land area about 16 times the size of the US
Land boundaries:
The land boundaries in the world total 251,060 km (not counting shared boundaries twice); two nations, China and Russia, each border 14 other countries
note: 45 nations and other areas are landlocked, these include: Afghanistan, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Holy See (Vatican City), Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Paraguay, Rwanda, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, West Bank, Zambia, Zimbabwe; two of these, Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan, are doubly landlocked
356,000 km
note: 94 nations and other entities are islands that border no other countries, they include: American Samoa, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Baker Island, Barbados, Bermuda, Bouvet Island, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Christmas Island, Clipperton Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Comoros, Cook Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominica, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Faroe Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Greenland, Grenada, Guam, Guernsey, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Howland Island, Iceland, Isle of Man, Jamaica, Jan Mayen, Japan, Jarvis Island, Jersey, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Kiribati, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mauritius, Mayotte, Federated States of Micronesia, Midway Islands, Montserrat, Nauru, Navassa Island, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Palmyra Atoll, Paracel Islands, Philippines, Pitcairn Islands, Puerto Rico, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Spratly Islands, Sri Lanka, Svalbard, Tokelau, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Virgin Islands, Wake Island, Wallis and Futuna, Taiwan
Maritime claims:
a variety of situations exist, but in general, most countries make the following claims measured from the mean low-tide baseline as described in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: territorial sea - 12 nm, contiguous zone - 24 nm, and exclusive economic zone - 200 nm; additional zones provide for exploitation of continental shelf resources and an exclusive fishing zone; boundary situations with neighboring states prevent many countries from extending their fishing or economic zones to a full 200 nm
a wide equatorial band of hot and humid tropical climates - bordered north and south by subtropical temperate zones - that separate two large areas of cold and dry polar climates
the greatest ocean depth is the Mariana Trench at 10,924 m in the Pacific Ocean
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Bentley Subglacial Trench -2,540 m
note: in the oceanic realm, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is the lowest point, lying -10,924 m below the surface of the Pacific Ocean
highest point: Mount Everest 8,850 m
Natural resources:
the rapid depletion of nonrenewable mineral resources, the depletion of forest areas and wetlands, the extinction of animal and plant species, and the deterioration in air and water quality (especially in Eastern Europe, the former USSR, and China) pose serious long-term problems that governments and peoples are only beginning to address
Land use:
arable land: 13.31%
permanent crops: 4.71%
other: 81.98% (2005)
Irrigated land:
2,770,980 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards:
large areas subject to severe weather (tropical cyclones), natural disasters (earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions)
Environment - current issues:
large areas subject to overpopulation, industrial disasters, pollution (air, water, acid rain, toxic substances), loss of vegetation (overgrazing, deforestation, desertification), loss of wildlife, soil degradation, soil depletion, erosion; global warming becoming a greater concern
Geography - note:
the world is now thought to be about 4.55 billion years old, just about one-third of the 13.7-billion-year age estimated for the universe
   People    World Top of Page
6,677,563,921 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 27% (male 933,716,943/female 877,734,429)
15-64 years: 65% (male 2,205,342,972/female 2,153,959,605)
65 years and over: 8% (male 222,346,221/female 284,463,751) (2008 est.)
Median age:
male: 27.4 years
female: 28.7 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.159% (2008 est.)
Birth rate:
19.97 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate:
8.32 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 42.64 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 45.42 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 39.67 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 66.12 years
male: 64.18 years
female: 68.2 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.58 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Christians 33.32% (of which Roman Catholics 16.99%, Protestants 5.78%, Orthodox 3.53%, Anglicans 1.25%), Muslims 21.01%, Hindus 13.26%, Buddhists 5.84%, Sikhs 0.35%, Jews 0.23%, Baha'is 0.12%, other religions 11.78%, non-religious 11.77%, atheists 2.32% (2007 est.)
Mandarin Chinese 13.22%, Spanish 4.88%, English 4.68%, Arabic 3.12%, Hindi 2.74%, Portuguese 2.69%, Bengali 2.59%, Russian 2.2%, Japanese 1.85%, Standard German 1.44%, Wu Chinese 1.17% (2005 est.)
note: percents are for "first language" speakers only
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 82%
male: 87%
female: 77%
note: over two-thirds of the world's 785 million illiterate adults are found in only eight countries (India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Egypt); of all the illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are women; extremely low literacy rates are concentrated in three regions, South and West Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Arab states, where around one-third of the men and half of all women are illiterate (2005 est.)
   Government    World Top of Page
Administrative divisions:
266 nations, dependent areas, and other entities
Legal system:
all members of the UN are parties to the statute that established the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or World Court
   Economy    World Top of Page
Economy - overview:
Global output rose by 5.2% in 2007, led by China (11.4%), India (8.5%), and Russia (7.4%). The 14 other successor nations of the USSR and the other old Warsaw Pact nations again experienced widely divergent growth rates; the three Baltic nations continued as strong performers, in the 8%-10% range of growth. From 2006 to 2007 growth rates slowed in all the major industrial countries except for the United Kingdom (3.0%). Analysts attribute the slowdown to uncertainties in the financial markets and lowered consumer confidence. Worldwide, nations varied widely in their growth results. Externally, the nation-state, as a bedrock economic-political institution, is steadily losing control over international flows of people, goods, funds, and technology. Internally, the central government often finds its control over resources slipping as separatist regional movements - typically based on ethnicity - gain momentum, e.g., in many of the successor states of the former Soviet Union, in the former Yugoslavia, in India, in Iraq, in Indonesia, and in Canada. Externally, the central government is losing decisionmaking powers to international bodies, notably the EU. In Western Europe, governments face the difficult political problem of channeling resources away from welfare programs in order to increase investment and strengthen incentives to seek employment. The addition of 80 million people each year to an already overcrowded globe is exacerbating the problems of pollution, desertification, underemployment, epidemics, and famine. Because of their own internal problems and priorities, the industrialized countries devote insufficient resources to deal effectively with the poorer areas of the world, which, at least from an economic point of view, are becoming further marginalized. The introduction of the euro as the common currency of much of Western Europe in January 1999, while paving the way for an integrated economic powerhouse, poses economic risks because of varying levels of income and cultural and political differences among the participating nations. The terrorist attacks on the US on 11 September 2001 accentuated a growing risk to global prosperity, illustrated, for example, by the reallocation of resources away from investment to anti-terrorist programs. The opening of war in March 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq added new uncertainties to global economic prospects. After the initial coalition victory, the complex political difficulties and the high economic cost of establishing domestic order in Iraq became major global problems that continued through 2007.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
GWP (gross world product): $65.82 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
GWP (gross world product): $53.64 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
5.2% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$10,000 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 4%
industry: 32%
services: 64% (2007 est.)
Labor force:
3.001 billion (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 40%
industry: 20.5%
services: 39.5% (2007 est.)
Unemployment rate:
30% combined unemployment and underemployment in many non-industrialized countries; developed countries typically 4%-12% unemployment (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 29.8% (2002 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
developed countries 1% to 4% typically; developing countries 5% to 20% typically; national inflation rates vary widely in individual cases, from declining prices in Japan to hyperinflation in one Third World country (Zimbabwe); inflation rates have declined for most countries for the last several years, held in check by increasing international competition from several low wage countries (2005 est.)
dominated by the onrush of technology, especially in computers, robotics, telecommunications, and medicines and medical equipment; most of these advances take place in OECD nations; only a small portion of non-OECD countries have succeeded in rapidly adjusting to these technological forces; the accelerated development of new industrial (and agricultural) technology is complicating already grim environmental problems
Industrial production growth rate:
5% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production:
18.56 trillion kWh (2005 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
16.79 trillion kWh (2005 est.)
Electricity - exports:
634.7 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports:
624.7 billion kWh (2005)
Oil - production:
78.9 million bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption:
80.29 million bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports:
63.76 million bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports:
63.18 million bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves:
1.295 trillion bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production:
3.299 trillion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
3.025 trillion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
1.242 trillion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
794.6 billion cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
172 trillion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
$13.87 trillion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities:
the whole range of industrial and agricultural goods and services
top ten - share of world trade: electrical machinery, including computers 14.8%; mineral fuels, including oil, coal, gas, and refined products 14.4%; nuclear reactors, boilers, and parts 14.2%; cars, trucks, and buses 8.9%; scientific and precision instruments 3.5%; plastics 3.4%; iron and steel 2.7%; organic chemicals 2.6%; pharmaceutical products 2.6%; diamonds, pearls, and precious stones 1.9% (2006 est.)
Exports - partners:
US 15.1%, Germany 7.4%, China 5.9%, France 4.6%, UK 4.5%, Japan 4.4% (2006)
$13.81 trillion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities:
the whole range of industrial and agricultural goods and services
top ten - share of world trade: see listing for exports
Imports - partners:
China 9.8%, Germany 8.8%, US 8.6%, Japan 5.6% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient:
ODA, $106.4 billion (2005)
Debt - external:
$54.31 trillion
note: this figure is the sum total of all countries' external debt, both public and private (2004 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
World total DFI $12.2 trillion
top ten recipients of DFI: US $1.818 trillion; UK $1.135 trillion; HK $506.4 billion; Germany $763.9 billion; China $699.5 billion; France $697.4 billion; Belgium $633.5 billion; Netherlands $450.9 billion; Spain $439.4 billion; Canada $398.4 billion (year-end 2006 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
World total DFI $12.2 trillion
top ten sources of DFI: US $2.306 trillion; UK $1.487 trillion; France $1.005 trillion; Germany $941.4 billion; Netherlands $652.3 billion; Switzerland $546.6 billion; Spain $509.2 billion; Belgium $485.1 billion; Japan $459.6 billion; HK $441.4 billion (year-end 2006 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$43.64 trillion (2005 est.)
   Communications    World Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
1,263,367,600 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
2,168,433,600 (2005)
Telephone system:
general assessment: NA
domestic: NA
international: NA
Radio broadcast stations:
AM NA, FM NA, shortwave NA
Television broadcast stations:
Internet users:
1,018,057,389 (2005)
   Transportation    World Top of Page
total airports - 49,024
top ten by passengers: Atlanta - 84,846,639; Chicago - 77,028,134; London - 67,530,197; Tokyo - 65,810,672; Los Angeles - 61,041,066; Dallas/Fort Worth - 60,226,138; Paris - 56,849,567; Frankfurt - 52,810,683; Beijing - 48,654,770; Denver - 47,325,016
top ten by cargo (metric tons): Memphis - 3,692,081; Hong Kong - 3,609,780; Anchorage - 2,691,395; Seoul - 2,336,572; Tokyo - 2,280,830; Shanghai - 2,168,122; Paris - 2,130,724; Frankfurt - 2,127,646; Louisville (US) - 1,983,032; Singapore - 1,931,881 (2006)
1,359 (2007)
total: 1,370,782 km (2006)
total: 32,345,165 km
paved: 19,403,061 km
unpaved: 12,942,104 km (2002)
671,886 km (2004)
Ports and terminals:
top ten container ports (TEUs): Singapore - 24,792,400; Hong Kong - 23,539,000; Shanghai - 21,710,000; Shenzhen (China) - 18,468,890; Busan (South Korea) - 12,030,000; Kaohsiung (Taiwan) - 9,774,670; - Rotterdam - 9,603,000; Dubai (UAE) - 8,923,465; Hamburg - 8,861,545; Los Angeles - 8,469,853 (2006)
   Military    World Top of Page
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
roughly 2% of gross world product (2005 est.)
   Transnational Issues    World Top of Page
Disputes - international:
stretching over 250,000 km, the world's 322 international land boundaries separate 194 independent states and 70 dependencies, areas of special sovereignty, and other miscellaneous entities; ethnicity, culture, race, religion, and language have divided states into separate political entities as much as history, physical terrain, political fiat, or conquest, resulting in sometimes arbitrary and imposed boundaries; most maritime states have claimed limits that include territorial seas and exclusive economic zones; overlapping limits due to adjacent or opposite coasts create the potential for 430 bilateral maritime boundaries of which 209 have agreements that include contiguous and non-contiguous segments; boundary, borderland/resource, and territorial disputes vary in intensity from managed or dormant to violent or militarized; undemarcated, indefinite, porous, and unmanaged boundaries tend to encourage illegal cross-border activities, uncontrolled migration, and confrontation; territorial disputes may evolve from historical and/or cultural claims, or they may be brought on by resource competition; ethnic and cultural clashes continue to be responsible for much of the territorial fragmentation and internal displacement of the estimated 6.6 million people and cross-border displacements of 8.6 million refugees around the world as of early 2006; just over one million refugees were repatriated in the same period; other sources of contention include access to water and mineral (especially hydrocarbon) resources, fisheries, and arable land; armed conflict prevails not so much between the uniformed armed forces of independent states as between stateless armed entities that detract from the sustenance and welfare of local populations, leaving the community of nations to cope with resultant refugees, hunger, disease, impoverishment, and environmental degradation
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that in December 2006 there was a global population of 8.8 million registered refugees and as many as 24.5 million IDPs in more than 50 countries; the actual global population of refugees is probably closer to 10 million given the estimated 1.5 million Iraqi refugees displaced throughout the Middle East (2007)
Trafficking in persons:
current situation: about 600,000 to 800,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked annually across national borders, not including millions trafficked within their own countries; at least 80% of the victims are female; 75% of all victims are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation; roughly two-thirds of the global victims are trafficked intra-regionally within East Asia and the Pacific (260,000 to 280,000 people) and Europe and Eurasia (170,000 to 210,000 people)
Tier 2 Watch List: Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Cyprus, Dijbouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Fiji, The Gambia, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Libya, Macau, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates
Tier 3: Algeria, Bahrain, Burma, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Venezuela
Illicit drugs:
cocaine: worldwide coca leaf cultivation in 2005 amounted to 208,500 hectares; Colombia produced slightly more than two-thirds of the worldwide crop, followed by Peru and Bolivia; potential pure cocaine production rose to 900 from 645 metric tons in 2005 - partially due to improved methodologies used to calculate levels of production; Colombia conducts aggressive coca eradication campaign, but both Peruvian and Bolivian Governments are hesitant to eradicate coca in key growing areas; 551 metric tons of export-quality cocaine (85% pure) is documented to have been seized or destroyed in 2005; US consumption of export quality cocaine is estimated to have been in excess of 380 metric tons
opiates: worldwide illicit opium poppy cultivation reached 208,500 hectares in 2005; potential opium production of 4,990 metric tons was only a 9% decrease over 2004's highest total recorded since estimates began in mid-1980s; Afghanistan is world's primary opium producer, accounting for 90% of the global supply; Southeast Asia - responsible for 9% of global opium - saw marginal increases in production; Latin America produced 1% of global opium, but most was refined into heroin destined for the US market; if all potential opium was processed into pure heroin, the potential global production would be 577 metric tons of heroin in 2005
This page was last updated on 15 May 2008
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