The Corner

“Europe’s” Baby Bust?

On an overcrowded planet (oh yes, it is), ageing populations and falling birthrates are pretty good news, and there’s no reason to think that (mainly if we accept that a healthier, longer-lived population can, quite literally, live with a later retirement age) this demographic shift cannot take place smoothly, and, contrary to the usual establishment dogma, without resort to the quick, and illusory, fix of mass immigration. There’s also absolutely no reason to think that this ‘birth dearth’ is, as a number of commentators have taken to arguing, a very specifically ‘european’ phenomenon (some sort of supposed european spiritual or cultural deficit is, absurdly, usually blamed for all those “empty” nurseries). Don’t believe me? Well, take a look at these statistics from an article two years ago by Phillip Longman in Foreign Affairs that was linked to by Instapundit today.

“The developing world, as it becomes more urban and industrialized, is experiencing the same demographic transition, but at a faster pace. Today, when Americans think of Mexico, for example, they think of televised images of desperate, unemployed youths swimming the Rio Grande or slipping through border fences. Yet because Mexican fertility rates have dropped so dramatically, the country is now aging five times faster than is the United States. It took 50 years for the American median age to rise just five years, from 30 to 35. By contrast, between 2000 and 2050, Mexico’s median age, according to UN projections, will increase by 20 years, leaving half the population over 42…Fertility rates are falling faster in the Middle East than anywhere else on earth, and as a result, the region’s population is aging at an unprecedented rate. For example, by mid-century, Algeria will see its median age increase from 21.7 to 40, according to UN projections. Postrevolutionary Iran has seen its fertility rate plummet by nearly two-thirds and will accordingly have more seniors than children by 2030…All told, some 59 countries, comprising roughly 44 percent of the world’s total population, are currently not producing enough children to avoid population decline, and the phenomenon continues to spread. By 2045, according to the latest UN projections, the world’s fertility rate as a whole will have fallen below replacement levels.”

Mr. Longman’s conclusions on what this might mean are very different to mine, but the data above are well thinking about.

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