The population catastrophe is on its way to being averted, because especially women in Asia are starting to have fewer children. A few years ago the UN expected that the total population on earth would peak at 12 billion. Since then it’s turned out that increased wealth very quickly translates into lower fertility rates.
Globalization has lead to increased wealth. That’s why the Asian women are having far fewer children today than just a few years ago. The one-child policy in China has also contributed, while even India, where birth control hasn’t been a huge success, the fertility rates are decreasing. But the Indian population will be growing for many years still, since it’s a very young population and many Indians over the coming years will have childbearing-potential.
Europe has the opposite problem. Birthrates are down and far too few are born to sustain the population of ca. 450 million people long term. At the same time, we’re living longer and longer, and we haven’t extended the time we work later in life in equal amounts – more like the opposite. The dependency load is rising and young families are having too few children. The problem is especially found in southern Europe and Germany. Southern European women have stopped having children while becoming much more active on the job market. It is the other way around in the Nordic countries. Here women work a lot and have a lot of children. Why? The good daycare options and family friendly workday are some of the main reasons. They don’t have that in southern Europe. France is the exception to this, with high birthrates and long workdays. But the French welfare state is helpful in this regard.
The USA is in-between. The population today is ca. 300 million and is expected to grow to 400mil. in 40-50 years. But it’s not the traditional, white middleclass American woman who has a lot of children. They come from new Americans – immigrants. They have many children per woman. It’s also immigration that will contribute with most new Americans over the coming 40-50 years.
Population is also politics. If a country is big, it’ll have the potential to be very powerful. But this won’t happen on its own. It also has to be a wealthy country with a productive population. China has been a dominating power for most of our known history and in many ways, China and India are retaking their traditional roles as powerful states. Their populations are big – almost huge – and with the new roles in a globalized world and the increased economic growth, they’ll also become very rich countries who could take the positions as superpowers.
Europe also has the opportunity to make itself heard. But it requires that the area doesn’t stagnate due to missing financial growth. There’s a clear connection between demographics and growth – the older the population is, the smaller the growth is. That is why children are also politically significant. Babies create long-term power, if they are also translated into economy and progress.
Published here 2017
Head of Research