It Is All About Fertility

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Maybe you do not notice, but the world is changing(1). Fast. It has nothing to do with technology and innovation. It’s an old-fashioned business. It’s all about fertility.

Most Populous CountriesAccording to UN, world population reached 7.3 billion in July 2015. The world has added 1 billion people since 2003 and 2 billion since 1990: 100m more than was estimated in the UN’s last report two years ago. The global population is expected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to the medium projection variant.

Most of the increase in world population can be attributed to a short list of countries. Nine countries are expected to account for more than half of the world’s projected population increase over the period 2015-2050: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States of America, Indonesia, and Uganda. More than half of this growth comes from Africa, where the population is set to double to 2.5 billion.

Nigeria 2100Nigeria’s population will reach 413m, overtaking America as the world’s third most-populous country. It could reach more than 750m by 2100, making it truly the Giant of Africa. India will surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2022, six years earlier than was previously forecast. China’s population will peak at 1.4 billion in 2028; India’s four decades later at 1.75 billion. Interestingly, Africa will be the only region still rowing beyond 2050

Future population growth is highly dependent on the path that future fertility will take. More and more countries now have below-replacement fertility. Eighty-three countries had below-replacement fertility during 2010-2015, accounting for 46% of the world’s population. The most populous countries with below replacement fertility are China, the United States of America, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Japan, Viet Nam, Germany, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Thailand. Forty-eight countries or areas are projected to experience population decline between 2015 and 2050.

The slowdown in population growth brought about by a reduction in fertility is associated with population ageing. Europe today has the oldest population, with a median age of 42 years in 2015, which is expected to reach 46 years in 2050 and then 47 years in 2100. In Europe, 24% of the population is already aged 60 years or over and that proportion is projected to reach 34% in 2050 and 35% in 2100. Globally, population aged 60 or over is the fastest growing. The number of persons aged 60 and above is expected to more than double by 2050 and more than triple by 2100, increasing from 901 million in 2015 to 2.1 billion in 2050 and 3.2 billion in 2100.

Overall, international migration is a much smaller component of population change than births or deaths. However, large and persistent economic and demographic asymmetries between countries are likely to remain powerful generators of international migration within the foreseeable future. Net migration is projected to be a major contributor to population growth in many high-income countries. (By the way, this is why USA will keep growing and being meaningful.) Between 2015 and 2050, total births in the group of high-income countries are projected to exceed deaths by 20 million, while the net gain in migrants is projected to be 91 million. Thus, in the medium variant, net migration is projected to account for 82% of population growth in the high-income countries.

Fertility is a sort of Moore’s law. While you keep growing fast enough, the rest is all but irrelevant… Wise countries will take advantage of the demographic dividend. Unfortunately, it does not seem the case for Europe!


(1) The Economist, Global population forecasts, Daily Chart Aug 4th 2015


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