Fertility and Our Future

All of my life, I’ve read about our growing population and how it was going to strain our resources. So I was surprised to read the BBC’s “Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born” by James Gallagher.

Some of the points made in this article are —

 — Twenty-three countries are expected to see their populations halve by 2100. For example, Italy’s population is expected to virtually crash from 61 million to 28 million by the end of the century.

— Our population is aging dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born. I saw evidence of this when I was in Japan in 2016. Virtually every major sidewalk had rubber strips as guides for the blind, and elevators contained hassocks for people to rest on as they waited for their floor.

— World population is now expected to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064 (still an awful lot of people to feed), but then fall to 8.8 billion by 2100.

So what’s going on?

There was a time, before the Industrial Revolution, when most people lived in the country and farmed and large families were an asset; the more children, the more helpers. Also, many children died before reaching adulthood. Plus, in the days before Social Security, parents had to make sure someone would be around to care for them in old age. All that has changed.

And in this 21st Century, women being educated and joining the workforce is at an all-time high. Put all these factors together, include greater access to contraception, and women are simply having fewer children.

There is one area where this isn’t true — Africa. If projections hold, Nigeria will become the world’s second biggest country with a population reaching 791 million.

If these trends do continue, we’re going to have some serious decisions to make. Will we be able to care for that many elderly? Will anyone be allowed to retire? Or will a nation’s economy depend on how many immigrants it can attract?

Fortunately, we still have time to figure something out.

From the BBC, https://www.bbc.com/news/health-53409521?

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