United Nations Warns About Declining Population

by Austin Ruse
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Going against decades of warnings about high fertility rates and overpopulation, the United Nations has just released a report warning of an evolving new problem -- population decline. The Population Division of the UN Secretariat says in its report, “Replacement Migration”, that the only hope in many countries for maintaining existing levels of working-age populations is immigration at levels many may find alarming.

The UN Population Division maintains population estimates and projections for every country in the world. Its numbers are used to help formulate UN policy related to population questions. Its current report says there are two ongoing trends that are both “striking” and “critical”: “population decline and population aging”. The study looked at demographic data from eight countries: France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The study reflects policy decisions made by governments over the past half century to decrease the fertility rate of their citizens. The result is that many countries are experiencing the new phenomenon called “below replacement fertility” whereby populations are no longer having enough children to replace themselves. The UN has reported that 61 nations now fall below fertility replacement and this number is expected to continue growing.

The long-term results of below-replacement fertility are aging populations, and eventual population decline. Additionally these countries face the decline in the overall number of active workers, those between 15 and 65 years old.

The study predicts that over the next half century the median age of the Japanese population will increase from 41 years to 49. Italy is expected to age from a median of 41 to 53. The percentage of Japanese elderly, those over 65, is expected to climb from 17 percent to 32 percent while in Italy the percentage of the population over the age of 65 will grow from 18 percent to 35 per cent.

The study predicts that “the numbers of migrants needed to offset declines in the working-age population are significantly larger that those needed to offset total population decline”. It goes on to point out that “the levels of migration needed to offset population aging are extremely large, and in all cases entail vastly more immigration than occurred in the past”. Japan, for instance, is expected to need 10.5 million immigrants per year to offset the depletion of working-age citizens. The European Union will need 13 million per year.

Because of the two factors of population aging and decline, along with the expected resistance to massive immigration, the report suggests that policy makers will have to grapple with a number of critical issues in the coming decades. It is suggested that retirement ages will have to increase, that retirement and medical benefits will have to change, and that financial support paid by workers for retired persons may also have to increase dramatically.

The report seems to contradict what many see as aggressive population control programs promoted by UN agencies like the United Nations Population Fund.

The full report is available from the United Nations web site at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/migration/migration.htm.

Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute
866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 4038
New York, New York 10017
Phone: 212-754-5948 Fax: 212-754-9291
c-fam@c-fam.org www.c-fam.org

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Posted 10 Sep 2000.

Copyright 2000 by C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute). Used with permission.
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