By 2100 a world population decline and a shortage of a “productive population” will be the problem

There are still alarmists and Malthusians who believe that the world will face catastrophe due to overpopulation. They believe that the carrying capacity of the earth has been exceeded, that there will be food shortages, energy shortages and resource shortages in every field; that – in short – the population will not be able to sustain itself let alone to maintain growth.

But like so many alarmist theories (be it global warming or peak oil or peak gas or GM crops) the overpopulation meme builds on beliefs and ignores evidence. The environmentalists are increasingly taking faith-based and anti-science positions. Alarmism invokes political correctness and “consensus beliefs” rather than evidence to silence criticism . Even hard-core environmentalists are beginning to question this myopic adhesion to ideology (Environment360).

Just taking the overpopulation myth as an example, the data and projections in the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2011): World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision. New York (Updated: 15 April 2011) are pretty unambiguous and revealing. Within 100 years world population will be declining. The majority of children being born today in the developed world will live to be over 100 years old. There will begin to be a shortage of  the required “productive population” relative to the “supported populations of the young and the retired” – a problem already evident in Japan and other developed countries. In Sweden (and some other European countries) for example, this proportion is being maintained only by means of immigration and the slight consequent increase in average fertility rates. The “productive population” in Germany would be below the required level were it not for the “guest workers”. The 11 million or so “illegal immigrants” who are nearly all part of the “productive population” in the US  are a vital part of maintaining this balance.

The challenge in 2100 will be to maintain the balance between those “producing” to those “supported” in a declining and aging population. Perhaps immigration or population migrations or  productivity increases by the use of robots and an increase in the age one joins the “supported” population will be parts of the solution. I have no doubt that solutions will be found, but the “overpopulation problem” would have left the stage.

Fertility rates in all regions of the world are already below 2.1 or are on a very clear downward trajectory. By 2050 over two-thirds of the world population will have a fertility less than the magic 2.1 children per woman needed for a stable population. Before 2100, the world population will be in decline.

Between 2005-2010 and 2095-2100 total fertility is projected to decline significantly in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Oceania. 

A very significant fertility decline is projected for Africa – from 4.64 children per woman in 2005-2010 to 2.13 children per woman in 2095-2100.
Significant differences in total fertility between regions are projected to still exist in the 2045-2050 period. Africa’s average total fertility is projected to be almost 3 children, while Europe’s and Asia’s total fertility is projected to be at about 1.9 children.

Total fertility by major regions, 1950-2100 (children per woman)

Figure 7: Average annual rate of population change by major geographical area

Average annual rate of population change by major geographical area

The proportion of world population having a fertility level less than the critical 2.1 had already risen to 48% in 2010. Half the worlds population is currently already “contributing to population decline”!

Population by Total Fertility (millions)

Population by Total Fertility (millions)

With fertility rates declining as they are there is no risk of a runaway population increase.

The medium variant of the 2010 Revision of World Population Prospects, the world population is expected to increase from 6.9 billion in mid-2011 to 9.3 billion in 2050 and to reach 10.1 billion by 2100. 

In fact it is possible that the fertility decrease in Africa may well accelerate if development accelerates. And that would mean that a world population decline from a peak of less than 10 billion could well begin before 2100.

Figure 1: Population of the world, 1950-2050, according to different projection variants

Estimated and projected world population according to different variants, 1950-2100 (billions)

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4 Responses to “By 2100 a world population decline and a shortage of a “productive population” will be the problem”

  1. argylesock Says:

    Interesting data. I’m going to add a link to your post here to a recent post on my own blog.

  2. Shortage of productive people | Science on the Land Says:

    […] My fellow blogger k2p says that by 2100, a world population decline and a shortage of a “productive population” will be the prob…. […]

  3. markgelbart Says:

    No way will the population of humans be in decline by 2100.

    Improved health and nutrition will lead to longer lifespans of people living in third world countries, offsetting any decline in birthrates, which, by the way, I doubt is going to happen,

    In my opinion there are currently about 10 times more people on earth than there should be. The environmental destruction is already a catatrophe.

  4. Jeff Speck Says:

    be sure to click the link and like our World Population Facebook like page

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