According to a recent study, half of the world’s countries are now faced with a collapse of their population due to a low fertility rate.
The study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published in The Lancet, looked at the evolution of births in 195 countries and territories of the world, from 1950 to 2017. The researchers noted that in 1950 women had an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. Over the last 50 years, this fertility rate has practically halved, falling to 2.4 children per woman last year.
But these figures hide important disparities between countries. For example, the fertility rate in Niger, West Africa, is 7.1 children per woman of childbearing age, but in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus women have on average one child.
When a country’s average fertility rate drops below 2.1, the population starts to decline. That’s what is happening to about half of the world’s countries. “We have reached this turning point, when half of the countries have fertility rates below the replacement level, so if nothing happens, people in these countries will decline significantly,” said Prof. Christopher Murray, principal author of the study, to the BBC.
This is the case, in particular, of France, where the fertility rate is now 1.88 children per woman, while it was higher than 2 at the time of the “baby boom” of the 2000.