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The global average fertility rate is decreasing

According to this recent Bloomberg article, the world is expected to add more than 3 billion people by 2100. At the same time, the global average fertility rate is dropping. In 1960, it was five live births per woman. As of 2017, it had dropped to 2.43.

About half of all countries are now below the rate of replacement, which means they’re relying on immigration (places like Canada) and/or they’re relying on labor productivity gains to keep their economy growing (places like China).

The article is also fascinating in that it begins to consider the economic and cultural forces that shape the above fertility rates. Women in Saudi Arabia, for example, have one of the lowest labor force participation rates in the world. Only about 25% are in the workforce.

If you’d like to read the full article, you can do that here.

Image: Bloomberg

1 Comment so far

  1. Jakob P.

    I think Bloomberg misses part of the picture by only looking at the reduction of fertility rates as a negative condition to be rectified. If you look at it from a climate change angle, or from a “feed the world” angle, it’s clear that we can’t just keep growing if we want humanity to survive in the long run. Maybe we even want negative growth for a while to balance out the strong worldwide population growth we’ve seen in the past century.

    I think the question is not “how can we get from a worldwide 2.4 fertility rate back up to something larger”, but more like “how can we sustainably make it to 2.1 (replacement rate) without inflicting war and suffering on too many people”. But at some point we have to stop growing, or a lack of resources will force a reversal on us.

    Let’s come up with ways to automate the work that we needed working-age people to do, ways to improve security and quality of life in sub-Saharan countries so they also come down from famine- and disease-induced 5+ fertility rates, ways to integrate immigrants into our culture and work life while we work on stabilizing worldwide population and economies so it stops being a growth-driven ponzi scheme.

    Mandatory note that having fewer children (and maybe adopting/mentoring an existing one instead?) is by far the largest impact that most of us can have on reducing CO2 emissions. More than going vegetarian, switching to an electric non-SUV and cutting your international flights, combined.


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