According to researchers, the world is experiencing a crash in births. Falling fertility could have a “jaw-dropping” impact on societies including shrinking populations that could be halved by the next millennium. (1)
A LOOK AT FERTILITY RATES DROPPING
Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found global fertility rates had already dropped by almost half to 2.4 births in 2017. Their study also points to numbers falling below 1.7 births for women by 2100. This is concerning because once the number drops below 2.1, it impacts the population. To put things into perspective, in 1950 the rate was 4.7 children. (2)
WHY ARE FERTILITY RATES DROPPING?
There are many contributing factors including easier access to modern contraception. However, girls and women experiencing improved education also contributes to declines in fertility. The research shows that by 2064 the world population will probably peak reaching approximately 9.7 billion. From there it begins to drop steadily reaching an estimated 8.8 billion by 2100. This represents a lower estimate by about 2 billion compared to previous projections. (2)
FERTILITY RATES DROPPING IN 183 COUNTRIES
The modelling research also shows that 183 of 195 countries studied are likely to reach total fertility rates (TFR), below the required replacement level of 2.1 births per woman by 2100. As a result, the populations for these countries will need to compensate their declining populations through immigration. “Continued global population growth through the century is no longer the most likely trajectory for the world’s population,” says research lead and IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. “This study provides governments of all countries an opportunity to start rethinking their policies on migration, workforces and economic development to address the challenges presented by demographic change.” (2)
FERTILITY RATES DROPPING IMPACT
Population growth is key to having enough people of working age to fill workforce demand. According to the United Nations Population Division, this challenge is combined with a growing strain placed on health and social support systems due to a growing population of elderly people. This concern is based on an expected shift in the global age structure as people over 65 will represent an estimated 2.37 billion by 2100 compared to 1.7 billion under 20 years. Again, this points to the need to support liberal immigration policies in areas where the working age population is expected to experience significant decline. (2)
According to predictions, countries with liberal immigration policies such as Canada, USA and Australia will be more successful at maintaining their working age populations despite reaching lower fertility levels. (2)
THE CONSEQUENCES OF FERTILITY RATES DROPPING
“The societal, economic, and geopolitical power implications of our predictions are substantial,” says IHME Professor Stein Emil Vollset, first author of the paper. “In particular, our findings suggest that the decline in the numbers of working-age adults alone will reduce GDP growth rates that could result in major shifts in global economic power by the century’s end.” However, despite declines, he stresses that policies to adapt population growth must be careful not to compromise women‘s reproductive health or their rights. (2)
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