UNITED NATIONS LOW VARIANT PROJECTS WORLD POPULATION DECLINE
by Robert L. Sassone
(American Life League's representative to the UN Conference on Population
and Development to be held in Cairo, September 5-13, 1994)
Fertility projected far below replacement level
The population debate may have just changed. Previously, the debate was
between those who feared population growth and those, including this
author, who after analyzing the alleged problems, such as food, resources,
energy, alleged global warming, etc., did not fear population growth.
Both sides assumed population would continue growing for many years, but
instead there is now reason to expect population decline. The most
important problem is likely to be a vast increase in the number of elderly
people and too few workers.
Changing its previous projections, the UN is now projecting possible world
population decline. Perhaps this most important population news ever
casts serious doubt on the now outdated and apparently incorrect
projections relied on by the leaders of the 1994 UN Population Conference.
The August 1994 United Nations projection of future world population,
World Population Prospects: The 1994 Revision, projects a declining total
world population about the year 2045 in its low-variant projection.
There are about 25 leading indicators that both change and predict future
fertility and population. UN projections do not directly consider the
future influence of these 25 leading indicators, but instead extrapolate
recent population trends into the future. The leading indicators all have
operated and seem to be continuing to operate to decrease future
fertility. Since the leading indicators and the reduced fertility they
cause and predict have not been considered by the UN, all past UN
population projections for times more than 25 years in the future have
been high. The UN makes four projections--high, medium, low and constant
fertility. The low-variant projection has been by far the most accurate
UN projection for times more than 25 years in the future, so the low
variant will be used in this article.
Fertility rate is the total number of children born to the average woman.
A fertility rate of 2.1 is necessary to maintain population.
Fear of vast population increase is the reason given for the UN Population
Conference. Now, however, if population is going to fall too much,
regardless of what we do, it seems fair to ask: "Why spend billions to
force a too-low future population down even more?" The decline in
projected population and greater-than-expected declines in fertility and
birth rates in nearly all countries contradict the justification given for
efforts to force down future world population size.
World fertility and birth rates have been declining since 1955. No
region's or country's population growth has been caused by increased birth
rates. World population growth is mostly caused by the decline in the
Population decline follows below-replacement fertility by about 30 years
Although our experience is limited, prolonged below-replacement-level
fertility rate seems to be followed about 30 years later by a decline in
population. For example, the fertility rate in Russia fell below
replacement level in 1960-65. About 30 years later, in 1993, Russian
deaths exceeded births by about 800,000, causing population decline.
The European fertility rate fell below replacement level in 1975-1980.
The UN projects Europe to begin losing population in the years 2000-2005.
The fertility rate of less-developed regions, where the vast majority of
the world's people live, is expected to fall below replacement level in
2015. The UN projects population in the less-developed countries to begin
declining about the year 2045.
UN projections only go to 2050. Projected fertility rates in the years
2000-2050, however, are so low that they indicate massive world population
decline after 2050.
In just two years since its 1992 revision of world population prospects,
fertility has fallen so much that the UN has reduced its projected world
population for the year 2025 by nearly two hundred million people. In
1994, fewer babies are being born even in areas such as Latin America and
East Asia. All Asia is projected to have fewer births about 1995. Africa
is the only area where there are still relatively high fertility rates.
The leading indicators causing fertility to drop are so strong that every
African country's fertility rate is expected to drop far below replacement
level by about 2040.
Efforts to increase fertility to prevent population decline have failed.
No major country whose fertility rate has dropped below replacement level
has ever succeeded in increasing it above replacement level.
Too many elderly, too few workers
The U.S. and Europe now have an elderly dependency ratio of about 20
elderly per 100 of working ages 15-64 and have trouble financing elderly
pensions and medical care for the elderly. By 2050 the ratio of elderly
will more than double to more than 40 elderly per hundred workers.
Accordingly, the decline in fertility is likely to cause the worst
economic problems in world history, far worse and more long lasting than
even the great depression of the 1930's.
### Mr. Sassone is available for comment and can be reached through
American Life League's Media Office -- (703) 659-4171.