Why does the birth rate keep falling and the world’s population is (still) growing

Environmental Protection Agency

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1 billion more people in 11 years. A United Nations report released today confirmed that the world’s population is growing by staggering numbers. The world population is expected to reach 8 billion in November. But if you zoom in on the birth rates, the great stagnation of world population growth began a long time ago.

On average, women are having much fewer children than before. Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where the birth rate is more than double that of Europe and North America, that number has fallen steadily since 1980. It has fallen from nearly seven children on average to 4.5 today.

According to the United Nations, the global average is now less than 2.5 births per woman:


In this article, four questions and answers about the recent population growth rates of the United Nations.

Why is the world population rising so fast?

This is due to a combination of the fact that people live (a lot) longer on average and that a relatively large number of children are still being born in certain regions of the world. The above 4.5 children per woman in sub-Saharan Africa is historically a low average, but still represents strong population growth.

In the above graph, you can imaginatively plot a horizontal line at 2.1 deliveries per woman. This is the minimum number of children necessary to maintain the population, according to the United Nations.

Europe and North America have been below this level for nearly half a century. For this reason, on average, the population here can only grow as a result of migration and further extension of life expectancy.

But in Africa and parts of Asia, the birth rate is still above the tipping point of 2.1. At the current rate, the United Nations expects the world’s population to stabilize at around 10.4 billion people before the end of this century.

Why is growth stabilizing so fast?

Between 1960 and 1970, you can see almost all of the lines in the graph go down pretty much. This is partly due to the advent of birth control pills and other contraceptives. But this is also linked to the decline in child mortality that has already begun and the rise of education, explains Professor Emeritus of Demography Peter Hoymeiger.

“Where children used to be a kind of social security for parents and contribute income, children became more expensive because they also had to receive an education. In addition, having many children also became less necessary, because more of those who survived than From before “.

Simply put, the richer and more educated the population becomes, the fewer children are born to each family on average. This has been happening on a large scale for years. The proportion of the world’s population living below the poverty line has more than halved since 1990. The UN goal is that by 2030 only 3 percent of the population will live in extreme poverty.

To what extent does religion play a role in birth rates?

In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there has always been traditional opposition to birth control, Hooimeijer continues. “We still see that Muslims in East Africa, for example, have more children on average. But that only applies to the poorer part of the population. You see it in the Christian population, who also have more children than the average.”

UN statistics reinforce the picture that higher education and income have a greater impact on birth rates than religion. In conservative Muslim-majority Saudi Arabia, for example, the average number of children per woman has fallen from just over 7 to just over 2.

What are the prospects for the Netherlands?

While the population is shrinking in some European countries, this has not yet happened in the Netherlands. However, the current birth rate is below the tipping point of 2.1 births per woman. The Dutch population will continue to grow for the time being as a result of immigration and increasing age.

Statistics Netherlands predicts that in 2070 there will be between 18.8 million and 22.2 million people living in the Netherlands. These numbers are far apart, because it is difficult to predict the number of immigrants over such a long period.

An aging population brings with it problems. This phenomenon will exacerbate the already severe shortage of personnel. Health care costs will also continue to rise, as older adults are increasingly dependent on medical help for longer. But global statistics indicate that sooner or later all countries will have to deal with this.

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