The map above shows one of history’s most astounding global shifts; the drop in fertility rate between 1970 and 2014. The total fertility rate (TFR) is the average number of children born to each woman in a country. It’s important because, it’s an easy way to tell if a country is growing or not, excluding immigration/emigration.
A country’s population is stable when TFR is equal to replacement rates. These vary by country but globally work out to around 2.1 children per woman. The reason the replacement rate is slightly higher than 2 is not only do women need to replace themselves and the father but also to factor in children who die before reaching adulthood and women who die before the end of their child bearing years.
With that in mind, you can see that many countries in the world (all in dark blue) are now below replacement level including 3 of the 4 BRIC countries (China, Russia and Brazil), all of Europe (except France, Ireland and Turkey) along with Japan, Canada and Australia, among others.
This means that without immigration all these countries will see long term population decreases.
Globally the TFR has dropped from 4.45 in 1970 to around 2.5 in 2014. If the rate keeps falling, the world population will eventually stop growing and may actually start shrinking towards the end of the 21st century.
Here are several other interesting facts:
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Niger, Chad and South Sudan all experienced TFR increases between 1970 and 2014.
- In 1970, only Finland and Sweden had TFR rates below 2.0 (Czech Republic and Croatia did as well, but were part of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia respectively). By 2014 that number had risen to at least 72 countries.
- The lowest TFR rate in 1970 was Finland at 1.8, but by 2014 Singapore had the lowest rate at just 0.8!
- The highest rate in 1970 was Rwanda which had a TFR of 8.2. In 2014, Niger had the highest rate with 6.89 (Rwanda’s has fallen to 4.62).
- In terms of absolute decreases the biggest drops have happened in Libya, Maldives, Kuwait, Qatar and Bangladesh.
- In terms of relative decreases the biggest drops have occurred in St. Lucia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Brunei and Iran.
- Finally the world’s two most populous countries have both seen their TFR drop significantly between 1970 and 2014. India’s dropped from 5.5 to 2.4 a 56% decrease, while China’s dropped from 5.5 to 1.6 a 71% decrease and well below replacement.
For more stats see the Population Reference Bureau and Wikipedia.
To learn more have a look at the following books:
- Fertility Rates and Population Decline: No Time for Children?
- No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends
- The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution
Which country’s TFR drop surprised you the most? Leave your comments below:
this is a rather scary thoguht when you have population aging and decline then growing. Japan has a 26% over 65 population which puts a burden on young people to take care of, and if they were to bring in migrants then they will wind up like the western world and a have shift in demographics of a foreign majority and native minority.
2-5 kids seems to be ideal. So that their is some growth in the workforce and in case something causes so individuals not to breed. Basically to compensate for some women that choose to be career women then housewives.
Overpopulation is a myth, its crowding in cities people get that idea. Tokyo has 30 million people which is all of canada and all of japan is 4X the population of Canada all living on an island 1/3 of the size of BC and only using 15% of the land since the rest is too mountainous.
And they make it happen with their infrastruture and effeincy, the rest of the world must do the same. As long as they have the health care,jobs and education the larger population of those nations will be a blessing not a curse.It doesnt sound natural when populations go grey, they should always stay green.
James Hayes-Bohanan says
TFR is an average — by definition it include women who have 0, 1, 2, 3, … whatever number of children, for whatever combination of reasons. A TFR of 2.1-2.5 eventually results in steady-state population. The reason there is not a single number is that replacement level varies according to childhood mortality.
Your Japan comparison is invalid as Japan relies massively on food imports and fishing wide swathes of the pacific ocean to keep its population fed. If Japan were a landlocked country forced to provide its own food, its population would quickly starve to death. Actually its fishing industry is already a problem, and most fisheries around the world have collapsed because of overfishing.
And it’s not just food. Japan relies on oil imports (largely from Saudi Arabia) to keep its transportation and industry running. If Japan were forced to procure its own energy needs, its industry and economy would quickly grind to a halt. Please educate yourself.
Places on the planet that have high population density can only sustain that density because of the massive areas of land and ocean that are dedicated to providing food and energy for them, along with massive infrastructure dedicated to transporting materials and energy to population centers. You think you can just pack people in a city and all their needs will be met? You think you can just say ‘efficiency’ and all the problems of providing for millions of people will magically go away? If you think that then you are the one who has never left a city in your life.
Yes, large portions of the Earth are currently uninhabited, but that’s irrelevant because they would not be capable of sustaining massive populations anyway. How would you maintain a Tokyo-size city in the arctic tundra? How would you power it? Feed it? How would you sustain a NY-size city in the middle of the Sahara? Just providing the water alone would be a mind-boggling undertaking. Not impossible, but very difficult and probably pointless and not worthwhile.
Actual rigorous analyses of population have concluded that the Earth is currently about 2.5x overpopulated, which means that the natural resources available on Earth are 2.5x less than required to sustain human population indefinitely. This doesn’t mean we’re all going to starve next year, but rather it means that resources are going to become more and more expensive and harder to obtain in the future, and people are going to on average live worse lives, at least until the population and economy re-aligns itself to reality.
“….people are going to on average live worse lives, at least until the population and economy re-aligns itself to reality”.
That’s easy to do….. We just have to have some desire to bring down the population in a peaceful, non-violent way. (No wars or catastrophes needed.) Availablity of birth-control methods, vasectomies, and tubal-ligations are key. These self-imposed limits are for the good of the planet…and in the LONG TERM good for all life on it.
Of course overpopulation isn’t a myth! As long as the problems are none of my business and they don’t touch *my* money.
Anymore high-horsed hypocrites?
How many is too many?
what about Israel, Ive seen their numbers and its growing despite forced urbanization of bedouin arabs which took down thier fertility rates.
And what is the cause of a growing fertility rate? By the evidence given it seems war brings it up like with ww2 with the baby boomers.
What would also be interesting would be a Population Momentum Factor map, showing whether the population will grow much after replacement level is achieved due to the significantly large young population (in %) that causes replacement level to still let the population grow.
Stewart Hughes says
well,, the population is still growing at 1 % a year,,,, is better to have a stable population,, africa has a 2.5 % growth rate,, very high,,, once africa rate is down, the all world will stabilize…
we canot destroy the world via over population
Stewart Hughes says
africa population needs to be stabilized…
Mark Kiernan says
We need lower numbers because more and more jobs are being filled by automation and robots. Creating more people means creating more unemployed
Why do you assume humans need to work? In an ideal world, machines and algorithms would control all production of the two things we need the most, food and energy. It would then be in our own interests to share the maintenance of the machines that provide our food and energy. Those with the aptitude for science and engineering to maintain and improve the machines do it out of passion for their feild of interest and the rest of the humans can pursue other activities.
But idle hands make………?
Not idle hands. Idle hands with free energy and food can make art, do sports, be adventurers, or simply do nothing. There is nothing wrong with doing absolutely nothing.
Matt L. says
I liked software engineering fine, for quite a while, I would never, ever, have done it had it not benefited me in pay resulting in a car, a house, vacation and travel ability). Consider all of the jobs in the world… policeman (being shot at), sewer cleaner, even sewer plant operator, or a foreman of a construction site. This is all hard work. And it’s rewarded not by ‘I love my job!’ – but by pay. If the conception you have of the future involves humans doing unpleasant tedious things, so you can float down the lazy river at the water park with a pina colada prepared by (a guy who just loves to serve drinks!) wearing a bathing suit made by someone who loves running loud machinery, using materials made by someone who loves operating a giant heating vat of raw petroleum to produce nylon and dyes and whatnot. If you really think about it… your entire concept of a utopia is absolute non-sense. Whether or not YOU see it, WE the sane do see it.
I’d definitely create/maintain software for free if money wasn’t necessary.
The world’s birth rate needs to increase.
Are you insane? There’s eight billion of us. That’s at least twice as many as the planet can support in the long term.
Wrong, also birth rates have been falling for a long time. Unless we start having more children there won’t be enough people.
Eric Ross says
Enough people for what?
For one replacement.
John G. says
We’re not in danger of not having enough people in the world.
Says what “expert”? Perhaps you figured it out? Explain, if you could.
Jeremy Cormier says
this is fantastic news if we can shave off about 7 billion people in 500 years that would be great
Dizi Luschund says
You can shave off one right now. Do it! Save the planet!
The number of ‘workers’ needed to produce ‘stuff’ for consumers all around the world continues to decline. The family size (number of births) follows and reflects this in countries where education and access to contraceptives is higher. If we could get Big Corps (and their puppets the MSM and politicians) to STOP saying we “NEED GROWTH”, then there is hope for the future of the planet…and therefore humans.
Eric Nicolas Schneider says
INCORRECT. Reproduction Rate is NOT fertility.
We all know that (higher) education etc leads to 1-2 kids on average in Europe. We also know that this is a time of re-orientation, away from stable getting laid as kid machine marriages, of divorce and SELF-DEVELOPMENT AND LEARNING beyond just parenting. In India the mere fact of no lighting in the rural home is said to be reason to have sex as other things lack and the uneducated men impregnating women all the time. In other countries MERE MALE EGO makes them impregnate women for reasons of status. Etc. The shift to fewer kids in educated populations evolving beyond the macho sultan never seeing his kids to caring aware dads and moms living a balanced multifaceted life and true presence love for the kids is fantastic – from survival to LIVING.
There is NOTHING EVIL in have 1-2 instead of 8 children. In fact, if we had 8 kids in Germany the small country of 80 million would quickly rise to needing 3 planets to feed it. The stable population argument is a DUMB MYTH sustained by those who want a DEFUNCT GDP INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY in which the YOUNG workers FEED THE OLD PENSIONERS. Whereas in India and Africa a sleeping mat and bowl of rice SUFFICE to do this, a german pensioner is well more expensive. My teacher Dad gets paid 5,000 a month for hanging out, creating “no countable value” for society, because society doesn’t make it possible (see encore dot org for better ways). At least he’s not COSTING since he is not terminally ill as many other robot victims illiterate about avoiding alzheimer, cancer etc through YOGA and a healthy LIFETIME and SELF, another typical symptom and syndrom of the unsustainable industrial society. INSTEAD – CREATE A NEW PROPER ECONOMIC MODEL THAT DOES NOT RELY ON INPUT FROM YOUNG WORKERS. Simple.
THE FERTILITY however HAS DROPPED but it has to do with SPERM / EGG amount ****WHETHER***** someone CAN HAVE KIDS or NOT biologically. Sperm amount in men HAS DROPPED in Europe by 50% (chemical in water) and women become infertile also (as the Earth, so her daughters) leading to the fact that 1 IN 7 german couples cannot have kids today. But that has NOTHING to do with the decrease in kids. They have sperm donors etc. —–
This is quite a stunning ILLITERACY of the mapmakers, but such is the state of education in UNSUSTAINABLE CIVILIZATIONS that people don’t understand the bigger picture and what’s going on in themselves and their neighbours.
SIDDHARTHA when he is asked for his qualifications:
“I can FAST and I can THINK.”
Stewart Hughes says
yes, this way is going there wont be any more white people in the next century,,
we need to go togueter,,, what is the purpose of styduing all this and that if we cant even find a womans we love ,, becasue they are not even being born
C. S. says
Good catch on the fertility rate … rather than birth rate.
I don’t in the children of the future will have the same ROI as the baby boomer generation. I wonder if the lower ROI will cause less interest in investing in innovation. A least not daring innovation.
Poor people are worried about getting money. Rich people are worried about keeping what they have.
Stewart Hughes says
we need to invest in constuction so people can live better and choose to have more chilndren or not,,
if the fert rate goes below 2.1 we may have future big problems,,
Zware Gustav says
About 300 million people on the planet could be sustainable, and make for a wonderful life, while still fullfilling our destination – whatever that may be. Let’ s strive for it!
Dizi Luschund says
Go in the garage and turn the car on, that’s a good contribution. Just close all the doors and go to sleep.
Jetje Jarig says
Keep up the good work!
Food for thought: what global problem is not caused by overpopulation or would deminish by declining worldpopulation?
Jake Prior says
My Africa geography isn’t perfect, but all the counties you say had an increase between 1970 and 2014 appear to show a decrease on the maps. Something needs editting I guess. All the best.
It would be interesting to compare this data with decreases/increases and high/low taxation rates. When the state puts their grubby little hands on nearly 50% of your income (Canada), the incentive for making offspring decreases.
Michael Stradley says
I doubt there is any correlation. France has higher taxes than Germany, but maintains a high birth rate while Germany’s has plummeted. Singapore has just about the lowest taxes on the planet and also has the lowest birth rate on the planet.
The planet needs people? Wow…how about mars or Jupiter? Nope?
Fine. We cane make it to Zero, one way or another!
It is sad to see a fun map let down by so much of the text associated with it. Fertility does not equal birth rate, just for a start. I hope the map does actually show the number of children which have been born, on average, of course, per currently living woman in each of the countries. That would be interesting, and do-able, up to a point. But it doesn’t really tell us so very much, unless we know about the survival rates of the children. And the age profile, at least of the female population.
Fertility Test Singapore says
Thank you for this article.