Last week, BBC News reported that the world was at the precipice of a “jaw-dropping” global crash in children being born, a prospect that could drastically shrink populations worldwide by the end of the century.
According to researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, by the year 2100, the average number of children to whom a woman gives birth is on pace to drop below the 2.1 threshold needed to replace each generation.
In 1950, women gave birth to an average of 4.7 children during their lifetimes, a fertility rate that shrunk by half to 2.4 in 2017.
As to exactly why birth rates are plummeting, the BBC suggests that 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,” the BBC contends, “falling fertility rates are a success story.”
Researchers, however, sing a markedly different tune.
The Lancet warned that the birth rate may plunge to as low as 1.7 births by century’s end. Researchers also anticipated the number of people on Earth to reach 9.7 billion around 2064 before nosediving to 8.8 billion by 2100.
“That’s a pretty big thing; most of the world is transitioning into natural population decline,” researcher Christopher Murray said in a statement to the BBC. “I think it’s incredibly hard to think this through and recognize how big a thing this is; it’s extraordinary, we’ll have to reorganize societies.”
“I find people laugh it off; they can’t imagine it could be true, they think women will just decide to have more kids,” Murray went on. “If you can’t [find a solution] then eventually the species disappears, but that’s a few centuries away.”
Murray told the BBC that certain countries could be more adversely affected than others, with up to 23 countries seeing their populations cut in half:
Japan’s population is projected to fall from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million by the end of the century.
Italy is expected to see an equally dramatic population crash from 61 million to 28 million over the same timeframe.
They are two of 23 countries – which also include Spain, Portugal, Thailand and South Korea – expected to see their population more than halve.
China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years’ time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will take its place.
The UK is predicted to peak at 75 million in 2063, and fall to 71 million by 2100.
Professor at University College London Ibrahim Abubakar told the BBC that “we need a fundamental rethink of global politics” in order to right the ship.
“If these predictions are even half accurate, migration will become a necessity for all nations and not an option,” he declared. “The distribution of working-age populations will be crucial to whether humanity prospers or withers.”
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