World is not prepared for ‘jaw-dropping fertility crash’ says report

Photo Credit: Anokarina on Flickr under CC licence

The world is facing an unprecedented crisis and a population crash which scientists say will require a re-organisation of societies, according to a new study.  

It’s forecasted that 23 countries will see their populations shrink by more than 50% including Spain, Italy and Japan – with massive negative knock-on effects for economic growth, jobs and the ability of societies to support healthcare and welfare systems.

Research published today in the Lancet from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that the world’s fertility rate has already nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 – but it projects a further fall to below 1.7 by 2100.

Prof Christopher Murray told the BBC : “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? ”

The falling fertility rate – the number of children born to each woman – has already prompted governments to extend the retirement age to 67 from 65, a situation this report indicates will become more severe as people live longer but populations shrink as peole have fewer children.

The report also points out that populations will age dramatically and that the fall in the number of people living in developed countries will no longer be offset by immigration since falling fertility rates is a global problem.

It forecasts that Japan’s population will fall from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million by the end of the century, while the number of people living in Italy will dramatically crash from 61 million to 28 million in the same period.

China will also see its population halve by 2100 – and at that stage 183 out of 195 countries will have a shrinking population.

Prof Ibrahim Abubakar, University College London told the BBC that  “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,” he added.

Hungary has seen some success in working with families to have children by focusing on providing supports to marriage and child-rearing.



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