Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.
A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.
The strain of longer lives and low fertility, leading to fewer workers and more retirees, threatens to upend how societies are organized — around the notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old. It may also require a reconceptualization of family and nation. Imagine entire regions where everyone is 70 or older. Imagine governments laying out huge bonuses for immigrants and mothers with lots of children. Imagine a gig economy filled with grandparents and Super Bowl ads promoting procreation.
“A paradigm shift is necessary,” said Frank Swiaczny, a German demographer who was the chief of population trends and analysis for the United Nations until last year. “Countries need to learn to live with and adapt to decline.”
Author(s): Damien Cave, Emma Bubola, Choe Sang-Hun.
With a perfect storm of aging residents, low birth rates, COVID-19 deaths and immigration cutbacks, 16 states saw population decreases last year as the United States experienced the slowest national population growth since the Great Depression.
The nation grew only about 7% between 2010 and 2020, similar to the previous historic low between 1930 and 1940, according to new Census Bureau estimates, which do not reflect the 2020 census counts. The agency will release the final 2020 census tally in March.