Healthcare IT

Global Decline in Fertility Rates

13 Jun, 2024 | Statistics

As fertility rates continue to drop, a major worldwide population shift has occurred in recent decades. Families in the past frequently had many children, but current patterns show the opposite. Research shows that worldwide fertility rates have been declining since 1950, and this trend is predicted to continue until the end of the century. A number of causes, including shifting societal ideals, economic situations, and improvements in gender equality, have contributed to this transition, which has major consequences for populations and economies worldwide.

Factors Influencing Fertility Rates

A major contributing factor to a decline in fertility is the economy. Families choosing fewer children can be attributed to a number of factors, including the direct cost of having children, the perceived danger of child mortality, and changing beliefs toward gender equality and self-fulfilment. The relative impact of these factors varies across time and regions. For instance, developed countries with higher economic affluence tend to have lower fertility rates due to lifestyle choices that prioritize career and personal fulfilment over large families.

A stable population requires a replacement-level fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman. A nation's population starts to decline when its fertility rate drops below this point. 46% of nations had fertility rates below replacement in 2021 and by 2100, that percentage is expected to increase to 97%. This implies that by the end of the century, almost every nation will see a decrease in population, posing a number of social and economic difficulties.

At present, Niger (6.73 births per woman), Angola (5.76), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (5.56 births per woman) have the highest fertility rates. On the other hand, Japan (1.20), Puerto Rico (1.17), and South Korea (1.07) have the lowest fertility rates. The differences in fertility rates show the varying demographic trends and economic conditions across different regions.

Challenges of Population Growth

Birth rates are strongly influenced by social structures, urbanization, and economic development. In high-income countries, slow economic growth is partly attributed to stagnant or declining population growth. A shrinking workforce can lead to reduced economic output and increased dependency ratios, where fewer working-age individuals support a growing elderly population. In contrast, countries with high fertility rates often have younger populations, which can contribute to economic growth by expanding the labour force and increasing productivity.

However, there are drawbacks to growing populations, like the depletion of limited resources and the deterioration of the environment. More resources are needed to support a larger population, which could impede long-term sustainable growth. Thus, controlling population increase is essential to balance resource preservation and economic growth. Policies aimed at encouraging higher birth rates, known as pronatalist policies, have been implemented in several countries to counteract declining fertility. For instance, Japan has introduced initiatives to encourage marriage and parenthood, including a government-supported dating app.

Despite these efforts, Japan's fertility rate has decreased from 1.26 to 1.20, with only 727,277 births recorded last year in a country of 123.9 million people. Russia's approach includes financial incentives and subsidies as part of a 10-year program launched in 2006 to halt population decline. Singapore shifted from anti-natalist policies in the 1960s-70s to pro-natalist policies in the late 1980s, including the "Have Three or More" plan and financial incentives for childbirth.

Similarly, Hong Kong has introduced several financial incentives to encourage childbirth and address low birth rates. The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HKHA) supports families with newborns by purchasing subsidized flats, and the government has increased the Working Family Allowance to alleviate financial burdens on families with children. Despite these efforts, around 17.5% of the global adult population experiences infertility. Increasing access to fertility treatments could help address declining birth rates and support those struggling to conceive.

Globally declining fertility rates signify a major shift in the population with far-reaching effects. Fertility rates are influenced by policy, social beliefs, and economic considerations, but tackling the problems of population decline calls for a multifaceted approach.

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