India’s burgeoning population is on the verge of plummeting, an official report has revealed, offering a new promise that the dreaded explosion in human numbers is being defused.
The country’s latest national family health survey reported that, for the first time, the number of births per woman fell below 2.1, the replacement rate required to keep populations stable.
The historic development in the world’s second most populous country has been closely followed by an instruction from the Chinese government to have more children. Together, they provide dramatic evidence that, rather than increasing catastrophically, as has long been predicted, the world’s population is heading into decline for the first time since the Black Death.
India’s survey, released by its health ministry, shows a dramatic drop from a birth rate that stood at six children per woman for many decades, before starting to decline fifty years ago.
It shows that thanks to contraception and the education of women, who then entered the labor market, the birth rate fell to 2.1 in the countryside, where two-thirds of the population live, and to 1.6 in cities. The replacement rate is greater than two to account for child deaths.
India’s population will not start declining immediately, as it enjoys a huge boost from past growth rates, leaving it with a disproportionately young population with many women of reproductive age and younger. But experts predict it will start to decline in the coming decades.
China is already further along this path, and its numbers are expected to start declining over the next four years. The government is already worried about the potential reduction in its workforce.
This year, it instituted a “three-child policy” (replacing a 2015 two-child policy which replaced a 1980 one-child policy). This week, an official government website called on its 95 million Communist Party members to comply.
The instruction, which disappeared after a backlash, read: “No member of the party should use any excuse, objective or personal, not to marry or have children, nor may use an excuse for not having children. have one or two children. “
The two developments contrast with centuries of warnings. Over 1,800 years ago, the Christian polemicist Tertullian warned that the world could hardly sustain “its teeming population” – then less than 300 million compared to our current 7.9 billion. Thomas Malthus published his famous Population test in 1798, shortly before the world’s population exceeded one billion. And in 1968 (when it was still less than half of what it is now) the hapless Paul Ehrlich predicted an inevitable “hundreds of millions” of starvation deaths over the next two decades, adding that ” cancer population growth “must be” cut “.
In fact, human numbers now threaten to implode rather than explode. A massive study by the University of Washington in Seattle recently concluded that by the end of this century, 57 countries would have populations at least 25% lower than they are today.
Twenty-three people, including Spain, Japan and Thailand, are said to be half the population and even China is down 48% – a staggering 686 million souls.
In total, he predicts that there will then be 8.79 billion people alive, about a billion more than today, but two billion fewer than expected. The world’s population would peak in 2064, before falling for the first time since the Black Death in the 1300s.
The numbers would only be higher today in Africa and the Middle East, with Nigeria becoming the second most populous country after India. But the decline would continue, because 183 of the 195 countries in the world would then be below the replacement threshold of 2.1 children.
But that would bring its own problems, as populations age. By 2100, as many as 145 countries would have more elderly people than working-age people to support themselves, with huge implications for taxation, health spending and social security.
One of the few mitigation strategies available, the report adds, would be to encourage immigration – and some experts believe rich countries would compete to attract young people from abroad.