May 21, 2003
Europe Set For Prolonged Population Decline

Europe really is getting old.

It is estimated that by 2050, the number of people over 60 in Europe will have doubled to 40% of the total population, or 60% of the population of working age.

While this article is confused on this point the figures provided are for active (i.e. capable of working) population. The decline Europe's active population will be larger than the decline in the region's total population.

Its population declines from 331 million to 243, North America advances from 269 million to 355 million. Their big elephant is "Greater China" (including Taiwan) which sees its growth rate level out at 2.6 percent, ahead of North America's 2.3 percent, and far outpacing Europe's 1.1 percent.

Note that currently Europe has a larger total and active population than the United States and Canada. But at some point in the next 50 years Europe's working population will decline to a level below the current North American level while North America's working population will surpass Europe's current level.

For Ifri, Europe has two basic problems. The first is its dwindling population. From 2000 to 2050, the institute projects a decline in the EU's active population from 331 million to 243 million. Over the same period, the active populations of Greater China and South Asia move ahead, while the North American grouping rises from 269 million to 355 million.

A declining working population combined with rising working populations and more advancing populations elsewhere will shrink Europe's portion of the world economy to a little over half current levels.

By 2050, Europe's share of the world economy will only be 12 per cent against 22 per cent today.

Europe's population is going to shrink while the world as a whole grows.

Due to the dropping birth rate as well as the prolonged impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the current Revision projects a lower population in 2050 than the 2000 Revision, namely, 8.9 billion instead of 9.3 billion. The European continent is the only region in the world whose population is set to decrease in the years to come, with a growth rate of -0.28 per cent.

Worldwide the elderly will grow as a percentage of total world population.

At the global level, the number of elderly people will grow from less than 1/2 a billion in 2000 to 1 1/2 billion in 2050 which as a share of the overall population is equal to an increase from 7% to 16%.

Of course these are all projections. Note that the world population project for 2050 was just cut by 400 million people which is about a 4 and a half percent decrease. That projection will no doubt be changed again. There are scientific and technological factors that could cause changes in population projections. Among those technological advances that could raise population growth:

  • Technological innovations that make it easier to raise children. Think technological advances that reduce housework, sophisticated tutor computers, more elaborate sensor systems for tracking the kids and warning of imminent dangers, and assorted other advances that unburden moms.
  • Biotech advances that will raise fertility rates for women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and later.
  • The ability to genetically engineer offspring will reduce the uncertainty of the outcome and therefore reduce reluctance. If one can be guaranteed a very bright child with an innately happy and easy disposition then more will opt for children.
  • Dramatic breakthrus in life extension and youthful rejuvenation technologies.

Of course, global thermonuclear war, a bioengineered plague, or out-of-control nanoreplicators could all greatly reduce or perhaps even wipe out the human population. There are no guarantees in this life. But while fertility has been declining for some time due to the effects of technological advances on human society it is possible that some coming technologies will eventually begin to exert pro-fertility influences.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 May 21 02:14 PM  Trends Demographic


Comments
J. Lainez said at December 4, 2003 3:24 AM:

advances in life extension and youth rejuvenation would offset this estimates, and should be studied as to how it would affect world societies, caloric restriction has proven to extend youth already in lab animals, it's only a matter of time before the mechanism is understood, so this predictions are not realistic because of advances already made.

Michael said at May 31, 2004 7:50 PM:

No, you're missing the point, J. Lainez. Youth extension will not offset this by much at all. It may provide older individuals a better life at their advanced age, for certain, but it is unlikely to cause them to seek employment, or to be able to maintain the level of activity and education (both at once) required to operate in a future economy. Certainly the retirement age will be increased, but that will be as much due to financial necessity as anything.

julia said at June 17, 2004 9:27 PM:

One quite realistic thing worth mentioning is the possibility that the traditional European demagogue would find an interest in politically promoting higher birth rates. The nature of politics and politicians of course very much confines policies to the short term, but as Europeans become more worried about the lack of economic growth and their dwindling power on the world scene, our rulers just might find it in their interest to plan for the future.

1. European companies and businesses might realise that growth is unlikely to be sustained while the population shrinks, thus prompting them to lobby for population growth policies. Without economic growth few companies and businesses will be able to grow.

2. European elderly might realise that the pension system is unlikely not to fail as the proportion of pensionists doubles or triples, co-inciding with a shrinking economy. I realise that the aged voters of the future are unlikely to develop flexible minds, but it is nevertheless possible.

3. Every European voter will and is already suffering from the stagnation in the continent, and once he realises that there is a viable solution to be found in increasing the rate of births, he just might push for change.

There are numerous incentives that have the potential of encouraging a higher birth rate. And it is important to note that it is necessary to increase the birth rate of middle classes, not only the classes with the lowest incomes who now are the only Europeans who still are willing to procreate.

1. Taxes. Very high taxes on people with no children, very low taxes for people with many children. Make it profitable to have children.

2. Cheap and accessible day care services and schools. This will make it easier for career women to have many children.

3. Propaganda, IVF services, scholarships and free housing for students with families.

Would such policies in Europe turn the tide? Parts of these polices are practiced in various countries, I do not know if they have their effect, but it seems clear to me that it is rather a matter of to what degree policies of this kind are implemented. I believe most people would have children if otherwise they were facing for example a 70% income tax.

Guy said at October 21, 2004 1:17 PM:

I agree with Julia's comments - the existing elites in European societies are completely unable to deal with the looming population decline crisis. Their cultural and political reference points are all rooted in 20th Century thinking, i.e. controlling population growth, encouraging women to have less children, promotion of abortion as a right, the tantamountcy of civil rights over civic duties etc.

The the elite is incapable of making the mental and philosophical U-turn to deal with the conseuquences of its policies, and spends its time drily describing fiscal measures to offset some of the symptoms of population decline, However, Europeans as a whole are fully aware of what a declining ageing population means, and see it in more realistic terms - a loss of influence in the world, gloomy declining societies, economic stagnation and eventual replacement by more fertile peoples. Given the European penchant for national pride and political -isms, I think it is unlikely that Europeans will continue to accept this whimpering surrender of 2000 years of history, and political radicalism will assert itself as the means for Europeans to survive into the next century. Expect to see the old politcial and cultural order re-arranged, in particular:

1) A clampdown on immigration from the Middle East into Europe

2) Prohibition of abortion in all but the most extreme cases - and extensive benefits and privileges bestowed on mothers, particularly poor/single mothers. Expect to see young single mothers assigned a caseworker, subsidised cars, free parking free child care, home tuition if she is studying ... in other words, a removal of all those terrifying obstacles that lead young pregnant women into the arms of abortionists.

3) A rearrangement of the tax base to skew taxes heavily onto single people and childless couples.

4) A reduction in spendingon pensions and the elderly, the underlying thought being that they are the generation who failed to reproduce and so they should be punished.

5) Extension of votes to parents for their children, to offset the overweening and unbalanced influence that an excessive grey population segment may exercise on democracy.

There really isn't any other answer unfortunately. I am not suggesting that the European Union will collapse, or that revolution will engulf the Benelux, but I am suggesting that there will be a radical realignment of political and cultural thinking in Europe, that will sweep away the stagnant philosophies of the 20th Century.

Guy said at October 21, 2004 1:32 PM:

Randall, your comment:

"The ability to genetically engineer offspring will reduce the uncertainty of the outcome and therefore reduce reluctance. If one can be guaranteed a very bright child with an innately happy and easy disposition then more will opt for children."

Is pretty bizarre, a combination of Stepford Wives and 1960's Star Trek. Was that meant as a joke?

I am not sure if you have children, but I don't know ANYONE, myself included, who would want to modify the genetic form of their children. And likewise, I don't know anyone who would not have a child because they worry that the child won't have an innately happy and easy disposition!

I suspect a more accurate description of the impact of genetic engineeringon future populations will be to cure genetic disorders. It is an undeniable human truth that to play with genetics or evolution to build a more perfect humanity is the preserve of madmen. Prometheus, Frankenstein ... watch the film Gattaca. You will not find much enthusiasm in your fellow human-beings for such foolishness.

Randall Parker said at October 21, 2004 3:16 PM:

Guy,

There are already people out there modifying the genetic form of their children. Do the acronyms IVF and PIGD mean anything to you? With In Vitro Fertilization and Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis embryos are selected based on whether particular genetic variaions are present. Also, tens of millions of people (maybe even hundreds of millions) are intervening to select the sex of their children. Microsort provides a way to heavily tilt the odds. In other countries ultrasound combined with selective abortion is used for this purpose.

I do know people who would genetically engineer their children if they could. Once it becomes possible to do so then I expect many more people will opt to do so. I would be surprised if within 50 years the majority of babies being born will still be genetically the result of accidental combinations of genes from two parents.

Guy Langley said at October 25, 2004 5:14 PM:

"Do the acronyms IVF and PIGD mean anything to you?"

Yes they do, IVF is a treatment to help couples with fertility problems have children. It is morally hazardous in the eyes of some because it involves creating dozens of embryos and then discarding most of them in the implantation process.

PIGD is a proces whereby a fertilized egg is screened for around two dozen genetically determined diseases. It is extremely hazardouse because removing cells from an embryo can destroy the embryo so is only used in cases where there is a very high risk of intherited genetic disorder.

How you jump from these very risky and expensive technologies to a population happily creating "a very bright child with an innately happy and easy disposition" sounds a bit too fantastic and over-optimistic, like all those future-pundits in the 60's predicting that by 2000 we would be colonizing the stars. I confidently predict that these technologies will continue to be confined to these isolated and desparate cases, and that the moral arguments over them will continue.

"In other countries ultrasound combined with selective abortion is used for this purpose."

You don't see any moral quandary in aborting baby girls for being girls? You think that's OK, a good thing? I suppose if you believe in a womans right to choose, then its OK if she aborts the baby for any reason, including because she thinks females are worth less than males. If she want's to fry the baby and eat it for breakfast too, that's OK, that's her "CHOICE"

Randall Parker said at October 25, 2004 5:31 PM:

Guy, you keep confusing the normative with the empirical. If I make some empirical claim you then claim that I approve of whatever I'm claiming. You also claim that the things you most disapprove are not going to happen on a large scale. I claim these things are already happening on a large scale.

Guy:

but I don't know ANYONE, myself included, who would want to modify the genetic form of their children.

I said:

With In Vitro Fertilization and Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis embryos are selected based on whether particular genetic variaions are present. Also, tens of millions of people (maybe even hundreds of millions) are intervening to select the sex of their children.

And I said:

I do know people who would genetically engineer their children if they could.

You said:

You don't see any moral quandary in aborting baby girls for being girls? You think that's OK, a good thing?

My normative beliefs on this matter are really besides the point. Obviously millions of Chinese and Indians do not see a moral quandary and I know I have no control over them and neither do you.

Tens and hundreds of millions of people are going to genetically engineer their offspring. That is my prediction. I see evidence in what people already do and what they already allow their fellow citizens to do (e.g. by the fact that PIGD isn't illegal) to suggest to me that my prediction is correct.

coy_Gal said at January 21, 2005 3:32 PM:

There should also be a clampdown on immigration from the South, SouthEast Asia, & Africa as well. :sigh:

Chuck said at February 23, 2006 6:05 PM:

I believe that the lack of procreation in civilized societies is the natural outcome of our human nature to have "stuff" rather than children. We are all simply selfish and self-centered creatures who do not want the bother and expense of too many children. Today, we can choose not to have children so that we can have more time and money! It is no deeper than that!

What is really scary is that male birth control is only about 10 years away. Once that is available, the birth rates in industrialized countries will drop like a rock. After all, with marriage out-of-date and couples simply living and working together, what incentive does the man have to donate his sperm to the woman? What he gets in return is a monthly child support bill for the next 20 years. Responsible men are not that naive! A male birth control pill will "level the playing field" in the pregnancy game. The number of "accidental" pregnancies will dramatically plummet, meaning that the birth rate will be cut even further.

The bottom line to all of this is that our social institutions will not survive. Social Security, Medicare, and all other socialist programs will simply cease to exist because they were built upon the foundation of an expanding population of tax payers. With any shrinking population, socialism is no longer viable. In the early 20th century when the socialist models were planned, no one dreamed that there would ever be truly effective birth control, or a desire to not have any children at all.

Chuck

Shiloh said at February 27, 2006 4:57 AM:

I think European Wolves are coming back to nest in East German Villages...and I simply can't wait!!!!!!! ...cause they wd be lesser pestillence than Communism

Bryan said at May 5, 2009 6:48 AM:

How about searching the Word of God for some light on the subject?

Robbie Mann said at July 9, 2009 6:39 AM:

"Technological innovations that make it easier to raise children. Think technological advances that reduce housework, sophisticated tutor computers, more elaborate sensor systems for tracking the kids and warning of imminent dangers, and assorted other advances that unburden moms."

It seems that the person who has written this article is a complete idiot. In the day and age of technology (which has unfortunately developed too far), people are more alone and isolated than they ever were, people are having less and less children, people only communicate via ridiculous e-mails and mobile phones instead of cherishing true communication and a true human touch, humans have been turned into androids who simply nod their head to corporate based capitalism and its exhaustive regime of work for corporate profit. Instead of true hobbies, people are hooked on the internet and technology all day long, instead of spending quality time especially with other human beings they are either at work for 12 hours a day or either are trying to get in touch with human beings via the internet. Why through the internet? Why NOT try to get in touch truly with a human being.

Furthermore, as far as concerns population decline, it is a well known fact that the swine flu virus is a technologically created virus created in laboratories and released on purpose into the atmosphere by pharmaceutical cartels sponsored by governments, whose only desire is to make huge profits for multinational companies, pharmaceutical firms, create utter dependence and submission of people on army-style governments and with the aim of killing almost 2 billion people as this virus is forecast to kill. Unfortunately, we have all been taken in for a ride, now let us see how we will extricate ourselves from this modern day poison. Already the US is preparing FEMA Concentration Camps.

Jeff Thomas said at July 31, 2009 9:45 PM:

If you notice the smart people are childfree but the ones with low I.Q are breeding like rats and the government is promoting those kinds with tax breaks,welfare,section 8 housing etc.

Why I want to bring a child to this world full of war,rapists,killers,tortures,selfish people.

Also today's generation is lost in TV,internet,Ipods,video games etc.They have no love, like Zombies.

They spend their life as corporate slaves just trying to survive.

Most women are selfish, sleep with anyone & like career instead of family.

I don't want to bring a child to this world of corporate slavery , hunger,misery,disease & death.

I don't want to pay for ridiculous baby sitting, school, doctor fees etc.

There is no guarantee that my kids will even come to visit me in nursing home.

They will be selfish or living in another country for job.

Post a comment
Comments:
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
URL:
Remember info?

                       
Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright