The world is ill-prepared for the coming global crash in children being born. Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century. 23 nations – including Spain and Japan – are expected to see their populations halve by 2100. and there will be as many people turning 80 as there are being born.
What is going on?
The fertility rate – the average number of children a woman gives birth to – is falling. If it falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall.
In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. By 2017 the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4. A Lancet study projects that it will fall below 1.7 by 2100.
As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. “That’s a pretty big thing; most of the world is transitioning into natural population decline,” researcher Prof Christopher Murray told the BBC. “We will have to reorganise societies to address it”.
The falling fertility rate is being driven, not by falling sperm counts, but by more women in education and work, and greater access to contraception. Key population forecasts for the end of the century are as follows:
Japan’s : fall from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million.
Italy: from 61 million to 28 million over the same timeframe.
23 countries – including Spain, Portugal, Thailand and South Korea – populations will more than halve.
China, peak population 1.4 billion in 2024, then droppingto 732 million by 2100. India will take its place as largest country.
The UK: 75 million in 2063, and falling to 71 million by 2100.
183 out of 195 countries will end the century with a fertility rate below the replacement level.
This is good for carbon emissions and for deforestation of farmland, but it also means more old people than young people on the planet. The number of over 80-year-olds will soar from 141 million in 2017 to 866 million in 2100. (James Gallagher, Health and science correspondent, BBC 15 July 2020)
My big question: Who will pay tax in a massively aged world? Who will pay for healthcare for the elderly? Who will look after the elderly? And will anyone ever again be able to retire?