Item Link: Access the Resource
Year of Publication: 2022
Publication City: London, UK
Publisher: Population Matters
This Population Matters White Paper debunks the common myth that falling fertility rates and resulting population aging are harmful and lays out the array of benefits and opportunities associated with declining populations
Foreword by Adair Turner, Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, former Chairman of the United Kingdom’s Financial Services Authority, member of the UK’s Financial Policy Committee and the House of Lords:
Children born in 1900 in even the most advanced economies would be lucky to live to their 50th birthday. Many born today can expect to live for a century and if we can lift all of humanity to high-quality living standards that will become the standard worldwide.
Over the same period, economic progress and the empowerment of women have seen fertility rates plummet in most countries; indeed in every nation which is economically successful and where women are well educated and free to choose, fertility rates have fallen below replacement levels. The world’s population is still growing, and will do for many decades, but by the end of the century it could stabilise, with declines before then in more prosperous countries.
Faced with this reality the media is full of doomsday forecasts about the negative impact of stable or declining populations, which supposedly threaten pension system crises and economic stagnation. But in fact the biggest demographic threat to rising prosperity is rapid population growth in poorer countries with still high fertility rates, and population stabilisation or gentle decline will deliver significant benefits to human welfare.
The biggest reason to welcome this demographic shift is that it results from the free choice of empowered people, and in particular women. But ceasing endless population growth will also reduce humanity’s future pressure on the natural environment, ease the challenge of adequate housing provision, and make it easier to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions while supporting prosperity growth in developing countries.
Like all changes, demographic slowdown creates new policy challenges, and in countries with fertility rates far below replacement levels, those may become severe. But as this White Paper sets out, for countries facing gradual population decline they are completely manageable if governments adopt sensible policies, such as increasing retirement ages in line with rising life expectancy.
Meanwhile, warnings that we will be short of workers to support future retirees fail to recognise the huge potential for automation and the benefit that workers will receive in higher wages in a world with less surplus labour supply.
Human welfare is best served in societies where women are empowered, smaller families are the norm, and populations are stable or gently declining. And if governments design a sensible policy response, our changing demographics pose no threat to sustained and enhanced prosperity.
Download the full report here or from the link above.