Here’s a glimpse into the future: Families will have fewer children, wait longer to have them, and their current lifestyles will give way to new ones.
These are not the predictions of a fortune teller. They are the conclusions of an NBC News analysis of data just released by the National Center for Health Statistics and other official statistics.
If these data are correct, expect to see major changes in the markets, government policies and budgets. Although the analysis was made using data compiled in the US, their conclusions very likely will apply to other countries as well.
Some people might be surprised to learn that populations in many major countries are declining. Others will happy to learn that the world is not running out of room for people.
But they may not be as happy to learn that the social norms in place for millennia will change big time. And those could spell a great deal of trouble for the world.
“I want to emphasize that the biggest problem the world will face in 20 years is population collapse, not explosion,” Elon Musk emphasized in a recent conference.
Jack Ma, head of China’s Alibaba, has the same opinion. “The world’s population is going to face huge challenges,” he said. And he added this will be a problem even in China, where he predicts a collapse in the population that will accelerate.
Why the drastic changes and why now? Economics, politics, health, and morals are all part of the answer. With this direction becoming increasingly obvious around the world, it’s hard to figure how global populations will not decline in the coming years. It’s also difficult to figure how traditional norms could return any time soon.
As The World Turns
News about slower population growth has been around for years, but now these stories have shifted from projections to fact.
The latest data in China state that at the end of 2022, there were 1.41 billion people, about 850,000 fewer than at the end of 2021, according to CBS News. These numbers are unusual because last year there were more deaths there than births.
“This was the lowest number of births since at least 1950, despite efforts by the government to encourage families to have more children,” according to Zero Hedge.
This was the first decline in China’s population since 1961, the final year of The Great Famine and when Mao Zedong still held the country’s reins.
The birth rate in China is now the lowest since records began – it’s even lower than it was in the 1980s and 1990s when China had an official one-child-per-family policy. If this trend continues, China will lose 40% of its population every generation.
“This is a truly historic turning point, an onset of a long-term and irreversible population decline,” said Wang Feng, an expert on Chinese demographic change at the University of California, Irvine.
Some very informed people warn this means trouble. According to Elon Musk, “If people don’t have more children civilization is going to crumble,” he says. “Mark my words.”
Population decline could lead to the economic collapse of numerous nations throughout the world, and this would happen despite rising life expectancies.
Not Only China
Japan is facing a problem very similar to China’s, but even worse, as its population has declined every year since 2010. Nearly the entire EU, Russia, South Korea, China and Australia are among the other industrialized countries trying to cope with the problem of falling population. And so is the US. This problem would be even worse but is being offset in part by immigration.
Here’s an example. Economists are of the opinion that in general, retirees consume products made by younger employees but don’t add greatly to economic output. As populations age, they are concerned that funding for retirement programs will likely get a higher percentage of budgets.
Almost every developed country is experiencing this issue to at least some extent. At the same time, poor countries essentially are the only ones whose populations are growing rapidly.
Economist add this could lead to lower standards of living, as pressures on budgets increase, and the number of retirees become disproportionate compared to the number of employees and to young people.
The birth rate in Japan, much of Europe, and China is well below the 2.1 children per family needed to maintain the population. But countries need a large and stable work force to keep the economy moving. Is this why millions of people are allowed to immigrate into western countries?
In any case, CBS reports that couples are expected to delay having children because of economic uncertainty. “This doesn’t look like a ‘blip’ but like a trend,” it adds.
Blessed Events, But High Costs
There are various explanations for this social phenomenon, and following are two of them. One is a significant drop in fertility rates in both men and women; as a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for women to become pregnant.
Another reason is the expense of raising a child. According to some estimates, this number now exceeds $300,000, and considering rising inflation it may very well go even higher. Obviously, the Orthodox have even higher costs because of tuition bills, kosher food, etc. For middle-income people, these add significant financial pressures to their lives.
When populations fall steadily, there are major ramifications: for manufacturers of products for both the young and the elderly; for auto sales, home sales, and pretty much everything else, too. There is evidence of this in China, Japan, South Korea, and other countries.
If this trend accelerates, workers - even those with special skills - will have to be replaced by automation. Machinery will be used increasingly on US farms to help the aging farmer population. More people will be employed to help the elderly, and the educational system could look very different. And with many jobs being phased out, basic income could easily become an idea endorsed by politicians of all parties.
For investors, these changes potentially offer exciting opportunities. Others, unaware of these trends, could be in for a shock.
Hopefully, whatever changes lie ahead will be introduced gradually, and with the thoughtfulness and sensitivity society will need.
Sources: cbsnews.com; data.worldbank.org; nbcnews.com; statista.com; zerhhedge.com; YouTube: Elon Musk’s Terrifying Statement About Population Collapse