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

Sweet Square

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2020 keeps getting better!

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.

What is going on?
The fertility rate - the average number of children a woman gives birth to - is falling.

If the number falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall.

In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime.

Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 - and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100.



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.

"That's a pretty big thing; most of the world is transitioning into natural population decline," researcher Prof Christopher Murray told the BBC.

"I think it's incredibly hard to think this through and recognise how big a thing this is; it's extraordinary, we'll have to reorganise societies."

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.



Which countries will be most affected?
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.

"That is jaw-dropping," Prof Christopher Murray told me.

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.



However, this will be a truly global issue, with 183 out of 195 countries having a fertility rate below the replacement level.

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 study projects:

  • The number of under-fives will fall from 681 million in 2017 to 401 million in 2100.
  • The number of over 80-year-olds will soar from 141 million in 2017 to 866 million in 2100.
Prof Murray adds: "It will create enormous social change. It makes me worried because I have an eight-year-old daughter and I wonder what the world will be like."

Who pays tax in a massively aged world? Who pays for healthcare for the elderly? Who looks after the elderly? Will people still be able to retire from work?

"We need a soft landing," argues Prof Murray.

Are there any solutions?
Countries, including the UK, have used migration to boost their population and compensate for falling fertility rates.

However, this stops being the answer once nearly every country's population is shrinking.

"We will go from the period where it's a choice to open borders, or not, to frank competition for migrants, as there won't be enough," argues Prof Murray.

Some countries have tried policies such as enhanced maternity and paternity leave, free childcare, financial incentives and extra employment rights, but there is no clear answer.

Sweden has dragged its fertility rate up from 1.7 to 1.9, but other countries that have put significant effort into tackling the "baby bust" have struggled. Singapore still has a fertility rate of around 1.3.

Prof Murray says: "I find people laugh it off; they can't imagine it could be true, they think women will just decide to have more kids.

"If you can't [find a solution] then eventually the species disappears, but that's a few centuries away."

The researchers warn against undoing the progress on women's education and access to contraception.

Prof Stein Emil Vollset said: "Responding to population decline is likely to become an overriding policy concern in many nations, but must not compromise efforts to enhance women's reproductive health or progress on women's rights."

What about Africa?
The population of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to treble in size to more than three billion people by 2100.

And the study says Nigeria will become the world's second biggest country, with a population of 791 million.

Prof Murray says: "We will have many more people of African descent in many more countries as we go through this.

"Global recognition of the challenges around racism are going to be all the more critical if there are large numbers of people of African descent in many countries."

Why is 2.1 the fertility rate threshold?
You might think the number should be 2.0 - two parents have two children, so the population stays the same size.

But even with the best healthcare, not all children survive to adulthood. Also, babies are ever so slightly more likely to be male. It means the replacement figure is 2.1 in developed countries.

Nations with higher childhood mortality also need a higher fertility rate.

What do the experts say?
Prof Ibrahim Abubakar, University College London (UCL), said: "If these predictions are even half accurate, migration will become a necessity for all nations and not an option.

"To be successful we need a fundamental rethink of global politics.

"The distribution of working-age populations will be crucial to whether humanity prospers or withers."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-53409521
 

horsechoker

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The past few months has been shite for getting laid if you're not in a relationship.
 

Siorac

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If only there was some sort of illness sweeping the world that kills the elderly before their time and spares kids...
:lol: Dark.

(unless COVID becomes exponentially more terrible, it won't make an appreciable difference. Obviously, we'll need to strengthen it)
 

RedTiger

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This part of the article must be a misprint
And the study says Nigeria will become the world's second biggest country, with a population of 791 million.
250 to 300Mil I can accept but close to 800Mil??!
 

van der star

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I don't see this as a negative in any way whatsoever. A smaller world population can only be a good thing, overall, for the earth.
 

Siorac

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This part of the article must be a misprint


250 to 300Mil I can accept but close to 800Mil??!
Nigeria has a birth rate of 5.3 with a current population of 195M. It's not at all outlandish that they could be above 700 million by 2100.

Just for a bit of perspective: the world population today is 7.8 billion. In 1960, a mere 60 years ago, it was only 3 billion.
 

Pexbo

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How is that a bad thing?
It's in the article. Too much oldies and not enough young people to pay for it.
The article is a bit disingenuous about that point though. It basically says:

You might think it’s a good thing {for environmental reasons} but actually it’s a bad thing {for societal reasons}.

If your original thought was this is good news for the planet, I doubt you will be persuaded that it’s a bad thing because society will have to figure out how to adjust to the imbalance.
 

Zarlak

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I don't see this as a negative in any way whatsoever. A smaller world population can only be a good thing, overall, for the earth.
It depends whether your focus is on the Earth, or on humanity. If your thought process is feck humanity, then sure you're right which the article acknowledges. But if you're concerned with both, then this brings with it some pretty big problems we should be aware of and start tackling.
 

OleBoiii

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I wrote a university paper on this 10 years ago. Back then it was already common knowledge to some people, but the vast majority were completely unaware. It was damn frustrating trying to pass on what I had learned, as most people simply didn't believe me, as I'm not a scientist or an expert on the field.

Even today, when talking to people I consider knowledgeable, most of them are baffled. The only difference is that they tend to believe me now.

Automation. Climate change. Low fertility rates. Even in isolation these are big challenges for how we structure society. Together they can prove to be catastrophic.
 

ivaldo

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Isn't this discounting the expectancy of a reduction of work due to automation?
 

OleBoiii

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Isn't this discounting the expectancy of a reduction of work due to automation?
How will the pension system work? How will the tax system work with 40-50% of jobs potenially lost to automation(and probably not replaced)?

On top of this, we may need 2-3 times as many nurses and doctors. These positions are hard to automate. Nurses and surgeons in particular. In countries with universal health care, all these nurses and doctors will be paid primarily with tax money.
 

ivaldo

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How will the pension system work? How will the tax system work with 40-50% of jobs potenially lost to automation(and probably not replaced)?

On top of this, we may need 2-3 times as many nurses and doctors. These positions are hard to automate. Nurses and surgeons in particular. In countries with universal health care, all these nurses and doctors will be paid primarily with tax money.
Why wouldn't the system work with increased taxation?

It's quite the opposite. McKenzie Institute beleive 800m nursing jobs worldwide could become obsolete by 2030 due to advancements in technology. We've also seen significant strides in remote care in the last 6 months. Long term, this will me less routine visits, less hospital support staff required, and greater flexibility for the healthcare professionals we do have to go where they are most needed.
 

entropy

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It depends whether your focus is on the Earth, or on humanity. If your thought process is feck humanity, then sure you're right which the article acknowledges. But if you're concerned with both, then this brings with it some pretty big problems we should be aware of and start tackling.
This is too general of an assessment. For most parts, it really depends on the specific country and the socio-economic factors there. A Drop in fertility rates can mean different things in different countries.
 

Redplane

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The sad thing about this is that it probably also means people aren't getting it on enough. No wonder the world s so depressed and wound up.

The title of this article should be : "Jaw dropping decline in sexy time".
 

George Owen

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How will the pension system work? How will the tax system work with 40-50% of jobs potenially lost to automation(and probably not replaced)?

On top of this, we may need 2-3 times as many nurses and doctors. These positions are hard to automate. Nurses and surgeons in particular. In countries with universal health care, all these nurses and doctors will be paid primarily with tax money.
Jobs don't need to be replaced. Machines already create the majority of the world's wealth.

The few corporations that gonna own the majority of the machines (thus, wealth) are gonna be the ones who primarily going to fund the social services in the future (UBI (will replace pensions), Universal healthcare, etc).

Unless, of course, corporations become bigger than governments and refuse to share the wealth, in which case we gonna end up living in dystopia.
 

dumbo

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I wrote a university paper on this 10 years ago. Back then it was already common knowledge to some people, but the vast majority were completely unaware. It was damn frustrating trying to pass on what I had learned, as most people simply didn't believe me, as I'm not a scientist or an expert on the field.

Even today, when talking to people I consider knowledgeable, most of them are baffled. The only difference is that they tend to believe me now.

Automation. Climate change. Low fertility rates. Even in isolation these are big challenges for how we structure society. Together they can prove to be catastrophic.
Alright Nostradamus.

Sure if you're a littleun right now then that report paints a bleak future. However if this signals the end-time for humanity (which it doesn't but let me indulge my anti-natalist fantasies) then all I can say is that the bottom rung of any Ponzi scheme will always shoulder the risk, and here it's the babes.

A threat to the species: meh, a threat to the earth: meh, a reduction in net suffering: I dig it. Bring on the rapture, I'll be dead soon anyway.
 

berbatrick

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Jobs don't need to be replaced. Machines already create the majority of the world's wealth.

The few corporations that gonna own the majority of the machines (thus, wealth) are gonna be the ones who primarily going to fund the social services in the future.

Unless, of course, corporations become bigger than governments and refuse to share the wealth, in which case we gonna end up living in dystopia.
15 million merits from black mirror is a good example of a future western world. technology driven and automated economy, with an invisible ownership class, some cultural talent is the only way to reach it, and advertisement-filled dystopia for all others.
 

acnumber9

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Unless, of course, corporations become bigger than governments and refuse to share the wealth, in which case we gonna end up living in dystopia
There’s always going to be a cap to how high that can go. They still need people to be able to afford to give them money.
 

OleBoiii

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Why wouldn't the system work with increased taxation?
The problem is that about half the jobs(maybe significantly more) that will survive automation are already fairly low paying jobs. We're talking teachers, chefs, most blue collar workers and nurses(or so I thought) etc.

If half the jobs are gone, then wouldn't that mean that taxes would have to at least double in order for the system to not crash completely? If you're in a low paying(or even average paying) job, then why bother to work? Unless you're among the top 10% highest earners, you're not gonna be better off than the people on social care(or UBI in all likelihood), unless these people suddenly are way worse off than they are today.

Ultimately the top 1% would have to take the bill. This should be a no-brainer, but seeing as human history essentially just is one long battle between the top 1% and the rest, I'm not convinced that they will. And if they do, they will probably go for a model that would leave the vast majority in poverty.


Unless, of course, corporations become bigger than governments and refuse to share the wealth, in which case we gonna end up living in dystopia.
:nervous:
 

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This has nothing to do with 2020, this has been a thing for decades. Every year there is at least one major article about it.

Will anything be done? Well, you cannot force women to have children, can you. As someone mentioned, there will be even more migration than now, but what will happen to the pension system is anyone's guess.
 

hobbers

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Wah wah automation

Wah wah falling fertility rates

Like, you can't wah wah at both. Come on. Clearly society will move to being a lot of older people being cared for by robots. Far better than wanting the human population to continue exploding and kill the planet even faster.
 

OleBoiii

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I still don't understand how we are going to automate nurses in this century. Diagnostics is a very small part of health care in terms of actual workers on the floor. Automating the vast majority of a nurse's role is only possible if we invent AI with the intelligence and fine motor skills of a human. On top of this, compassion should not be underestimated.

But if we reach that point within the AI field, then we potentially have way bigger issues :lol:
 

OleBoiii

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A thought experiment before I go to bed.

The ideal society, based on how many first world countries are structured, looks something like this:

25%: kids, students or people who are too sick to work.
60%: workers(i.e. tax payers)
15%: retired

The average life expectancy is around 80 years. Most people get to retire in their mid/late 60's and spend a little more than 10 years in retirement before their death.

In first world countries with a particularly low fertility rate for many years now, it will look something like this by the year 2050:

20%: kids, students or people who are too sick to work.
40%: workers(i.e. tax payers)
40%: retired

You can raise the age of retirement, but how much? Life expectancy is also rising.

__________________________________________________________

Now imagine that automation removes 50% of jobs above(without replacing them with new jobs). On top of this: the number of kids keeps going down, and the number of retired keeps rising.

I'm not saying that it can't be fixed. I'm just saying that society will look extremely different in the future. We may also see a very ugly transition period where a lot of people suffer.
 
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Eyepopper

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The sad thing about this is that it probably also means people aren't getting it on enough. No wonder the world s so depressed and wound up.

The title of this article should be : "Jaw dropping decline in sexy time".
We're wanking ourselves into extinction mate, its tragic. I never thought I'd say it, but we need to up the taxes on lube and fleshlights by like 200%.