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.
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: