April 13, 2024

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Declining fertility is a growing global phenomenon, a study suggests

Declining fertility is a growing global phenomenon, a study suggests

As in the majority of countries, fertility is insufficient to maintain population, a wide-ranging study published Thursday underscored, with disparities increasingly marked from one part of the world to another.

“Fertility is declining worldwide,” summarizes the work, published in the scientific journal The Lancet, noting that more than half of the countries already observe fertility rates too low to maintain their population size.

And “in the future, fertility rates around the world will continue to decline,” he adds.

The study is based on statistics from the Global Burden of Disease, a broad project funded by the American Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and aimed at bringing together health data from most countries.

The researchers not only estimated current fertility rates in these countries, but also tried to calculate future developments based on several predictor variables, such as educational levels or infant mortality.

They conclude that by 2050, three-quarters of countries will not have sufficient fertility rates to maintain their population. By 2100, most countries will be affected.

Researchers predict that the population of poor countries will continue to increase in the long term, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, while it will decrease in developed countries. This disparity, according to them, will have “significant consequences at the economic and social levels”.

The work comes as many countries, such as France, are concerned about the evolution of their populations, where President Emmanuel Macron has called for a “demographic restructuring”.

However, the Lancet study's predictions should be taken with caution, underscore World Health Organization (WHO) researchers in the same journal.

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They criticize several choices of methodology, particularly highlighting the weakness of data currently available in many poor countries. And, basically, they believe, “we should favor nuance, not sensationalism, when talking about declining fertility rates.”

They also emphasize that such an event can provide benefits (environment, food, etc.), as well as disadvantages (retirement systems, employment, etc.). Note in particular that there is “no obvious way” to act on it.