Monday, May 4, 2009

The Coming World Population Decline

The book, The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperty and What to Do About It by Philip Longman is a visionary book with a serious message that needs to be heard and acted on immediately.

World population is set to deline drastically in the next century and this is a serious economic and social problem that is not even on the radar screen of most people. For example, when asked how long it will take for world population to double most Americans say 20 years or less. The propoganda put about by environmental groups is having its effect and most people are convinced that the world needs less people in order to survive. The truth, however, is quite different.

Forecasts by the UN show that the world population rate could turn negative during the lifetime of people in their 40's and 50's. There has been an unprecedented fall in fertility rates over the last generation. Before reading this book, I thought that this fall in birth rates was a Western phenonenon, but it is actually a world-wide phenomenon. What has already happened, not somebody's projections based on assumptions, will cause population rates to fall at first slowley and then, inevitably unless something changes, precipitiously.

Women must bear, on average, 2.1 children to replace the population. But today 59 countries, comprising 44% of the world's population are below this rate and this phenomenon continues to spread. By 2050, the UN projects that 75% of all countries will be below replacement rates.

Russia's population is already decreasing by 750,000 per year. Japan's population is expected to fall by one third - the rate of death caused by the Black Death in medieval Europe. Germany will lose the equivalent of the population of the former East Germany in the next half century. Westerners assume that the failure to maintain the population will be fixed by immigration. But immigrants will not be as plentiful in the future as in the past. In the Middle East, for example, falling fertility rates are everywhere. Turkey's fertility rate is declining and is now 2.32 children per woman, barely ahead of replacement level. Iran's fertility is below replacement level, as is the Middle East's as a whole.

China is facing crisis. By mid-century China could easily be losing 20-30% of its population per generation. Because of abortion for sex-selection, the ration of male to female births is now 117-100, which means that 17% of the next generation of Chinese men will not be able to marry. India's fertility rate has dropped a fifth since the first half of the 90's and its population will be aging at three times the rate of the US during the next half century.

African fertility rates are also falling and the HIV/AIDS pandemic is reducing life expectancy - a potent demographic combination. UN projections for Africa as a whole show fertility declining to 2.4 chlidren per woman, which may well be below replacement levels, given the shorter life expectancy in Africa (eg. 32 in Zambia and 58 in South Africa, compared with 80.5 in Japan).

The message of this book is counter-intuitive, but the logic is compelling. The effects of lower fertility rates are hidden at first and then become obvious only when it is too late to do anything about the problem. The baby boom of the post-war US resulted in the population increasing both in that generation and in the next because even though fertility rates were lower, the sheer number of women in that "boomer" generation produced high real numbers. But in the next generation the real effect of lower fertility rates will begin to be evident. All over the world, the story is similar. Once the absolute number of people begins to decline, a modest increase in the fertility rate will not compensate and decline snowballs.

In the next post, we will look at the implications of population decline.

2 comments:

Peter Dunn said...

Mark Steyn has written on this phenomenon and he speaks of 1 grandchild per every 8 grandparents in some European countries--the consequence of birth rate at ~1 child per woman. This is unsustainable, because there will insufficient young people to care for the old.
For Europe, within in one generation, the continent will become part of Dar es Islam because the Muslim population is largely not assimilated and it is multiplying much faster. Already the Islamic parity has been almost reached for those under the age of 40. I think this means that we will see indigenous Europeans become a persecuted minority or an apartheid system.

The situation in China is alarming too because we may see them go to war just to obtain brides. This is an insane consequence of the abortion policy of China. Absolute insanity.

Peter Dunn said...

I miscounted, can you believe it? It's not eight grandparents not for every grandchild, but 4 per every grandchild, as you say in your next post.