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A billion "phantom people" - and the business with the identity gap

Nobody has counted exactly, because it is impossible.

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A billion "phantom people" - and the business with the identity gap

Nobody has counted exactly, because it is impossible. The United Nations assumes that the world population will reach the threshold of eight billion people on Tuesday, November 15th.

Another forecast is that India is expected to overtake China as the most populous country next year. All estimates, because there is no reliable data from many countries.

According to the World Bank, around a billion people have no passport or proof of identity - with enormous disadvantages for their lives.

The UN and the World Bank have recognized the problem. By 2030, the "global identity gap" is to be closed, as the unregistered phantom people are called. The goal is to have 100 percent of all births and 80 percent of all deaths in current registers by then, according to the UN.

An extremely ambitious project, especially since, according to the new UN forecast, 8.5 billion people will live on earth by 2030. By 2050 it could even be 9.7 billion.

It is unclear whether the number of roughly one billion phantom people will actually be registered and issued with IDs by then. The United Nations repeatedly refers to the right of every human being to be recognized as a person before the law. But to do that, he has to be able to identify himself.

In fact, there are large regions worldwide in which people are not recorded completely. Children and women in particular are missing from the files.

It is estimated that half of the one billion phantom humans live in Africa, in the sub-Saharan region, i.e. in the states south of the Sahara. Roughly 300 million people without proof of identity also live in Southeast Asia, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, says the head of the Munich-based Giesecke Devrient Group (GD), Ralf Wintergerst.

It is based on international statistics. However, according to the new UN forecast, the sub-Saharan states with the incomplete registration will contribute half to the growth of the world population by 2050.

For G D, the phantom people are potential future business. The group prints banknotes and passports and is active in many fields related to security.

In the Veridos joint venture with the state-owned Bundesdruckerei, new customers and orders are constantly being sought on the identity market. The spectrum ranges from a twelve-year contract won in 2018 for a modern passport and border control project in Bangladesh, which was worth 340 million euros at the time, to new colorful identity cards for Costa Rica.

GD sees immense advantages for the states and the people living there in an effective ID card system. G D boss Wintergerst points out that "in Germany we live in a privileged space", while for a billion people without identity documents, many things are not possible.

For example, you cannot open a bank account, conclude a mobile phone contract, or start a trip that involves crossing a border. People without documents are slowed down in several ways.

But states also benefit when their citizens have forgery-proof ID cards. Whether for the school system, for banks, or for the tax system, a clear identity of the person is important.

"In order to build up an economy, it is necessary to register adults and children," says Wintergerst. "Registration gives people access to social systems." Secure identities could also prevent election manipulation.

According to the experts, in order to close the billion-dollar identity gap, registration should take place at birth. However, an estimated 237 million children under the age of five worldwide do not have a birth certificate. The top countries with incomplete birth registers are the Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

G D with his daughter Veridos belongs to the small group of companies that compete worldwide in the identity market. The French groups Thales and Idemia, with sales in the billions, are also part of the top trio.

Behind this is a competition for technologies and complete offers from the registration of the population to the printing of modern ID cards and the development of border controls. It is no longer just about a simple passport photo, but also about biometric controls, such as face recognition.

Added to this is the race against counterfeiters. They do their business with people without IDs and provide them with illegal documents, for example, to flee to Europe.

While many people are longingly waiting for identity papers, there is also the opposite - the deliberate destruction of passports. A phenomenon that is currently being observed more and more with illegal entries into Germany.

According to a spokesman for the Federal Police, almost two-thirds of all people who entered Germany illegally via Bavaria were unable to produce any identification papers. Last year it was 50 percent.

Presumably, the people would have had documents when they started their journey, but wanted to conceal their entry route in order to then apply for asylum in Germany. People even got out of planes who suddenly no longer had the ID that was required for boarding.

"Everything on shares" is the daily stock exchange shot from the WELT business editorial team. Every morning from 5 a.m. with the financial journalists from WELT. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.

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