Low global fertility rates may have "jaw-dropping" impact on societies, researchers say

by Bryan Brammer · Jul 20th, 2020 4:30 pm
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Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

Last Updated Jul 21st, 2020 at 4:12 pm

The world may be looking at a global crash in children being born due to the falling fertility rates that could dramatically shrink every country's population by the end of the century, researchers say.

According to researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the average number of children that a woman gives birth to is on pace to drop below the 2.1 threshold by the year 2100.

In 1950, women were giving birth to an average of 4.7 children during their lifetime. Researchers have shown that this fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017. Their study further projects this rate to drop to 1.7 by the end of the century, The Lancet reported.

The researchers also anticipate the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before plummeting 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 told 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."

There are approximately 23 countries that may see their populations halved by the end of the century, including Japan, China, Italy, and the U.K.

  • Japan's population is projected to drop from 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million.
  • Italy's population is expected to see a sharp decline from 61 million to 28 million.
  • China's population will peak in about four years at 1.4 billion before dropping to 732 million.
  • The U.K. is predicted to peak at 75 million in 2063, before falling to 71 million.

"I find people laugh it off; they can't imagine it could be true, they think women will just decide to have more kids," Murphy said. "[The numbers are] jaw-dropping."

Professor at University College London Ibrahim Abubakar said that in order to be successful in maintaining the current worldwide population, "we need a fundamental rethink of global politics."

"If these predictions are even half accurate, migration will become a necessity for all nations and not an option. The distribution of working-age populations will be crucial to whether humanity prospers or withers," Abubakar said.


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