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“Jaw-Dropping” Fall in Fertility Rate



Icon of the Embryo in the Doctor's Hand | “Jaw-Dropping” Fall in Fertility Rate | Featured

New data, released by the University of Washington‘s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, shows a staggering drop in the fertility rate. Many countries can expect to see their population halved by the end of the century. Increased birth control practices among working, educated women can cause this drop.

Professor Christopher Murray, who led the study, called the results “jaw-dropping”, and warned that a plummeting birth rate will have major implications for society. Primarily, a shrinking population of young people will care for a huge number of the elderly.

Small, Developed Countries Most Affected

Among the most affected countries are smaller ones with developed economies. The women in these societies are generally highly educated and independent. They are also using contraception to prevent pregnancy. Additionally, some also choose to get abortions when they become pregnant.

Japan serves as one key example. For a long time, many have considered a “demographic time bomb” due to its naturally low birth rate and low rate of immigration. Japan’s population is thought to have peaked in 2017 at 128 million. Research predicts that the population will be closer to 50 million by the end of the century.

Italy and Spain are the two European countries expected to see a dramatic drop. Both used to produce many babies per year. Their predominantly Catholic citizens had a stigma against birth control and put a premium on big families. Today, however, fewer people than ever are religious in these countries. With that, the birth rate is expected to more than halve.

China, thanks to its One (now two) Child Policy, is expected to also see a dramatic decline in its population, even as it continues to develop into a mature economy. The country’s population will nearly halve to around 700 million by the end of the century.

Why It Matters

The main issue with a falling population is that fewer young people will be around to care for more and more elderly. The number of people working to support retirees will gradually shrink, putting more and more strain on these workers.

As professor Murray explained, “The inverted age structure (more old people than young people), and all the uniformly negative consequences of an inverted age structure, will create enormous social change.”

Many countries are recognizing the challenge of the coming years and are also taking steps to address it today.

Countries Respond

Already, wealthy countries with falling birthrates are trying to juice their populations another way: with immigration. Especially in Europe, countries have offered attractive incentives to lure young immigrants to the country in order to keep the population growing or at least stable.

“We will go from the period where it's a choice to open borders, or not, to frank competition for migrants, as there won't be enough,” said Professor Murray of the challenge of shrinking birth rates.

Other countries are trying to incentivize having more babies. Sweden has managed to increase its fertility rate from 1.7 to 1.9 babies per woman. The country credits generous maternity and paternity leave, free childcare, and other incentives. Even with all this, the fertility rate falls well below 2.1, the number needed to keep the population stable.

At the current trend, Africa will be the one exception to the rule. The continent is then expected to triple its population by 2100. Additionally, Murray says immigrants from the country will be in high demand.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  • Mason says:

    Africa is not a country, sorry. But does anyone think that the current state of bigotry worldwide will provide opportunities for Africans to be welcomed as immigrants, even after the next 80 years? Discrimination isn’t leveling off, or improving much, is it?

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