Saturday, 3 March 2012

New Demographic Study

A new demographic study has produced several surprise findings. The first is that the spread of what is termed "Sub-Replacement Fertility" is far more rapid than previously thought. In essence what this means is that birthrates are falling below "population stability" levels which are where births balance deaths and average life expectancy is long enough for three and even four generation overlaps. This generally means that each woman in the world needs to have 2.1 children. However, increasing numbers of women are choosing to have only one, to start having a family late or to not have any children at all.

While this is generally a "developed world" phenomenon, it isn't necessarily confined to it, and even within it, there are exceptions. The USA being one.

The second finding is that there are an increasing number of "gender imbalances" among the very young. That doesn't mean we are seeing the emergence of what is often refered to as "gender dysphasia" or an increasing number of children who are "Gay," but that the natural "balance" between the sexes is changing. China is the best example, with a rigid "one child" policy, the balance of male to female births has changed dramaitcally in the last 40 years. But China is not alone, right across Asia more and more boys are being born with fewer and fewer girls. This is not confined the Asia either, it is also noted in parts of the Middle East and in Europe.

For China it could be a serious problem. Not only is the population now static, it will soon begin to decline rapidly as both age takes its toll and the falling birth rate increases the tempo. In the west, "gender determination" technology has been subtly at work for some while, and while we still don't see the sort of balance seen in Punjab (126 boys to 100 girls) the western rates are also edging upward.

For the moment a lot of this is concealed by migration, but the authors of this study have identified a trend which seems likely to see the planet's human population fall back a little from the present 7 billion, which, at least in my view, would be no bad thing as it would reduce the strain we place on the world's resources.

A third major finding concerns death rates, and these are showing a sustained and in some places accelerating, increase. With birthrates below the 2.1 for "population stability" (In Europe it stands at 1.4, in China it is around 1.5 and even in parts of Latin America is below 2) which, coupled with the excess of males will impact in time to see a sudden "step" reduction in populace. The return of some diseases once thought to have been eradicated and the arrival of some new ones isn't helping the balance either. Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, cardio-vascular disease, drug and alcohol abuse (even in supposedly "dry" countries) are all major contributers together with famine in overpopulated and very dry parts of Africa and, of course, cancer.

The exception is the USA, with its rich mix of populations, the Hispanic section has the highest birthrate, at around 2.7, Afro-Americans at around 2 and the Anglo-Europeans at 1.8 are the exception to the trend even in South America (Average around 2.0) and outstrip Canada at 1.5.

Of course, there are huge implications in these figures. One is that the "growth" economists rely on is not sustainable as the population shrinks. Someone is going to have to rethink that whole concept. Tax income for governments will also shrink as fewer enter the workforce and more retire at the other end. There will have to be a major rethink of a lot of services, provisions and even how jobs are structured, what they are and how they are sustained/supported from incomes. I forsee that many "non-productive" jobs will have to go. If you aren't producing or doing something translatable into cash on the table - it won't be sustainable.

One thing is for certain in all of this, the world's human population is undergoing a major change, what it will look like in 100 years is anybody's guess. It won't look anything like the situation at present seems certain. The good news is surely, that the planet as a whole will benefit, with less strain on water sources, natural forests, the oceans and grasslands, quite a lot of other inhabitants may see their chances of survival improve.

1 comment:

  1. Is it possible to link to your source?

    Also be careful about using the phrase "increasing numbers of women are choosing...". Most women don't have a choice!