Birth Rates: The world’s is in a slow decline

The Lancet has published a study on birth rates world wide, concluding that all nations will see reductions in population over the next eighty years.  Like we didn’t know that already.

Fertility, mortality, migration, and population scenarios for 195 countries and territories from 2017 to 2100: a forecasting analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study


Our findings suggest that continued trends in female educational attainment and access to contraception will hasten declines in fertility and slow population growth. A sustained TFR lower than the replacement level in many countries, including China and India, would have economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical consequences. Policy options to adapt to continued low fertility, while sustaining and enhancing female reproductive health, will be crucial in the years to come

[. . .]


Global population is likely to peak well before the end of the century. Given that we forecasted that societies tend towards a TFR lower than 1·5, once global population decline begins, it will probably continue inexorably. Within the declining total world population some countries will sustain their populations through liberal immigration policies and social policies more supportive of females working and achieving their desired family size. These countries are likely to have larger overall GDP than other countries, with the various economic, social, and geopolitical benefits that come with stable working-age populations.

The notion that it is a “problem” reeks of a boomer and corporatist capitalist whine: “Who is going to fund my pension?  Work cheap and pay massive taxes so I don’t have to?”  We should be praising Millennials and Zoomers for being environmentally, socially and fiscally aware instead of attacking them for not breeding.  Voluntary population reduction is a lot less painful than starvation, war, and environmental collapse.  You can’t fault people for saying, “I can’t afford a kid, so I won’t have any.”

The other boomer/capitalist whine is, “Who is going to pay to fix everything?”  How about you lot?  Let’s tax all wealth over $50 million at 50%, 40% from $20-50 million.  Capitalism is NOT more important than survival of the planet or species. You can’t eat or breathe dollars, no matter how rich you are.

A “writer” at the BBC has an equally capitalist-based take on it, below the fold.

Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born

The world is ill-prepared for the global crash in children being born which is set to have a “jaw-dropping” impact on societies, say researchers.

Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century.

And 23 nations – including Spain and Japan – are expected to see their populations halve by 2100.

Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born.

[. . .]

As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling down to 8.8 billion by the end of the century.

And how is this a problem?  Even if we haven’t reached peak oil or peak phosphorus, food shortages are inevitable.  The only way to prevent mass starvation is having fewer mouths to feed.  Birth control is far more humane and less prone to causing war than starvation and genocide.

Why are fertility rates falling?

It has nothing to do with sperm counts or the usual things that come to mind when discussing fertility.

Instead it is being driven by more women in education and work, as well as greater access to contraception, leading to women choosing to have fewer children.

In many ways, falling fertility rates are a success story.

Yes, a success of education and self-determination for women.  Small wonder men oppose it, women who have to bear and raise children are easier to control.

Why is this a problem?

You might think this is great for the environment. A smaller population would reduce carbon emissions as well as deforestation for farmland.

“That would be true except for the inverted age structure (more old people than young people) and all the uniformly negative consequences of an inverted age structure,” says Prof Murray.

The “writer” makes the false assumption that human population can grow without limit, that the pyramid scheme that is “the economy” can grow infinitely.

Wrong.  At some point in every pyramid scheme, there comes a crash.  Voluntary reduction in birth rates is the least painful way.  There’s no environmental collapse and no starvation, which also means more resources to care for an aging population.  Once they’re gone by old age, the problem is solved. shows the population distribution by age for countries and continents.  Countries are at very different extremes, such as Haiti (80% under age 40) or Japan (an inverted pyramid and aging population).  The most extreme has to be Cambodia, where you can see the effect of the Khmer Rouge’s mass murder of their populace in the 1970s.  And, predictably, Taiwan is not listed or lumped in with the PRC.  It’s not listed as the Republic of China, ROC, Chinese Taipei, nor any other common pseudonym.  Taiwan’s population pyramid is very similar to Japan, with a birth rate below the death rate.



  1. kestrel says

    To me this is great. I think if we keep going the way we are, we’re going to run out of potable water long before we run out of food. As far as what is “wrong” with women having careers and not having as many children, I will never get why some people think that’s a bad thing. I suppose those people don’t think of women (as well as others) as human beings.

    It has always been astounding to me that some people think we can just keep expanding and that everything will be just fine. Remember Forest Gump? Well, life really is like a box of chocolates. Once you eat them all, they are gone, forever. Much better to save some for the future.

  2. says

    all the uniformly negative consequences of an inverted age structure

    In the modern era there are huge opportunities for technology to look after older people. No longer do they die shortly after a life of unrelenting toil, instead they can be productive and active well into their eighties.

    Traditionally there was a need for young people to look after their infirm elders, in the future a small number of carers will be able to look after a much greater number of clients. It will be an opportunity for smart solutions, not endless growth.

  3. Dunc says

    Conventional crude oil production peaked in 2008. We just pretended it didn’t by switching to counting something called “total liquids”, which includes a bunch of things (like lease condensate and natural gas liquids) that aren’t oil and can’t really substitute for it. That’s why the price briefly spiked to nearly $150 bbl.

    The world economy shitting the bed in 2008 is, of course, an entirely unrelated coincidence. /s

  4. says

    At what point do we start to realize it may be profoundly immoral to bear children into the world that is coming to be? They didn’t ask for it, and for most people it’s going to be Mad Max world.

    • says

      I think it is already immoral to have children right now given how a few decades from now they could experience mass famines.

      Some people will always insist upon having more kids regardless of how terrible the climate becomes. Just look at religions that ban birth control!

      Alternatively, look at what is happening right now with COVID-19. I think that currently it is immoral to travel or gather in large crowds unless it is absolutely essential and necessary. Other people disagree with me and don’t give a fuck about the mass deaths they cause. I have no doubt that some people will want to have kids with their genes even in the middle of famines and mass deaths among the climate refugees.

  5. says

    Within the declining total world population some countries will sustain their populations through … social policies more supportive of females working and achieving their desired family size.

    There are some nasty implications in this one. It is true that some people would enjoy having more children but choose not to have them due to having too little money to take care for an extra kid. But it is wrong to imply that “desired family size” must be, on average, more than two kids per woman. Personally, I have achieved my “desired family size” long ago, and I am non-married and childfree.

    “That would be true except for the inverted age structure (more old people than young people) and all the uniformly negative consequences of an inverted age structure,” says Prof Murray.

    People aged between about 23 and 65 must financially support everybody who is either older or younger. More elderly people and fewer kids to support isn’t really more expensive or harder for working-age people than having more kids and fewer elderly people. Everybody needs food and shelter, elderly people generally have higher medical bills but also much lower education bills, so overall they aren’t really much more expensive to support compared to young people.

    A very quick population decline could cause problems for the elderly if there were very few working age people, but this is not what we have, and a gradual decline due to low birth rates isn’t inherently problematic. It’s not like you cannot have a society with fewer jobs for school teachers and more jobs for nurses who specialize in caring for the elderly.

    The only reason politicians want fewer elderly people and more kids is the fact that currently childcare bills are dumped on parents but you cannot as easily dump on family members the bills associated with supporting the elderly.