A report released this week claims that almost all of the developed world will face serious and sustained population decline over the next five decades except for the United States. An above-replacement fertility rate and immigration will account for continued population growth, says the Population Reference Bureau (PRB).
Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute reported on the PRB report in its latest issue of the Friday Fax.
According to the report, entitled "2004 World Population Data Sheet," the U.S. is one of few countries in the world whose fertility rate is not falling.
The report predicts that the U.S. population will grow from its current 294 million to 420 million by 2050. “Among the developed countries, only the United States is likely to see significant growth,” it says.
In contrast, Europe is facing fertility rates that fall well below the replacement level, which is two children per woman. "In many European countries, the annual number of births is [already] less than the number of deaths," says the report.
It appears that the regions of Southern and Eastern Europe will face the most severe population decline. Both regions now have an average fertility of 1.3 children per woman. Northern Europe averages 1.4 children per woman, while Western Europe fairs slightly better at 1.6 children per
PRB projects that because of such low fertility, most Eastern European nations will shrink by about a quarter of their population size. Bulgaria will shrink by about 40 percent, from a current population of 7.8 million to 4.8 million by 2050. A number of Southern European countries, including Italy, Portugal and Greece, are expected to lose at least 10 percent of their current populations.
Such decline is all but inevitable, because these countries already possess too few young people in proportion to older people, says the report.
For Europe, there are now only slightly more people under the age of 15 than over the age of 65, a problem that is even worse in Asian countries such as Japan, where only 14 percent of the population is below age 15, while 19 percent is above age 65. These trends mean that the Japanese population is due to contract by 21 percent over the next 50 years.