The coming population bust

A growing number of media sources are beginning to note that the world is no longer in danger of overpopulation. Instead, the trends show the primary danger is the opposite: too few babies.

Check out this story:

In Japan, people buy more diapers for the elderly than babies. China, which long enforced a one-child policy, recently raised its child limit to three; the nation expects its population to peak and then decline in 2030. And the population growth rate in the U.S. is at historic lows, reminiscent of the Great Depression era.

A new study published in npj Urban Sustainability explores the future of underpopulation and how it’s likely to affect sustainability goals. Using demographic data from United Nations reports, the study argues that the underpopulation problem is dynamic and twofold: Populations are simultaneously shrinking and ageing.

“Globally, people above 65 years old are the fastest-growing segments of the population and in 2019, for the first time in human history, they outnumbered children younger than 5 years old,” the researchers wrote. “In 2020, 9% of the global population was above 65 years old, accounting for 728 million people. This population is projected to increase more than twofold, reaching 1.55 billion in 2050 and accounting to 16% of global population, at medium fertility rates.”

Or how about this from the New York Times:

All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in human history that will make first birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore.

Maternity wards are shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea cannot find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties are being razed, with the land turned into parks.

Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seems to be expanding and accelerating. Although some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

The implications of these demographic trends are myriad. As the Church continues to look for converts, expect much of the growth to take place in Africa, one of the few regions that will continue to grow in the coming decades. The Church will be increasingly diverse.

Meanwhile, I think we must all take a look at our assumptions regarding immigration in the U.S., Canada and Europe. I am NOT in favor of open borders, but I am in favor of increased, controlled immigration in which people from other countries are encouraged to move to Western countries in an orderly, legal fashion. There is a massive labor shortage in the U.S., and plenty of jobs to go around for new immigrants. The Church’s position on immigration appears prophetic and on point.

At the same time, we must stop with the apocalyptic visions of an ever-growing population destroying the environment for decades to come. The environmental extremism that motivates so many people on the left is out of touch with the reality of an earth with a shrinking, not growing, population. As I have written on these pages, the Church’s position on the environment sees a need for a balanced approach where the Earth is conserved but where ideology does not drive policy making.

Latter-day Saints are having fewer children than they did a generation ago, but we are still producing more babies than most. In 1960, Utah had a fertility rate above four. Now, that rate is closer to two. But Utah’s fertility rate is still one of the highest in the U.S. Church leaders who have encourage Latter-day Saints to have as many children as possible were, once again, prophetic.

A world with a shrinking population of young people creates many challenges. Retirement will have to be put on hold for people worldwide because there will not be enough young workers paying into retirement plans. Social Security reform is inevitable. Most people will work into their 70s and even their 80s. More older voters will mean an emphasis on policies favored by older people. People will spend a lot more time discussing health care and a lot less time discussing fashion trends aimed at the young.

It seems clear to me that the Church has prepared its people for this brave new world. As I have shown in this post, Church doctrine appears in line with the realities of an underpopulated world. But many other people, stuck in ideologies based on secular calamities, will be increasingly out of touch with reality. That may be the biggest challenge of all.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

9 thoughts on “The coming population bust

  1. I remember being taught by my YW leaders 35 years ago that eventually only LDS women would be the ones having children. I never could quite wrap my head around that untill the last 10 or so years. We have destroyed the family and why we get married. We have separated sex from maternity and paternity so that it’s just a pleasure for the adults, we have let the toxic principles of feminism seep into our hearts such that generations of women feel like the only way they are valuable is if they’re “in a career”. I’m not advocating for a return to the “Father Knows Best” days, but we’ve got to reorder how we see things. Get married when you’re young, have as many kids as you can.

  2. Abortion is a key reason for Earth’s depopulation. In the USA alone, 65 million abortions since Roe v Wade came into effect some 50 years ago.
    There aren’t enough young people to pay for Social Security, Medicare, or infrastructure.

    Only vast amounts of legal immigration can solve this problem in the short term. If every woman of childbearing age were to now have three children, it would take a generation ft or them to join the workforce.

    So, regardless of Republican fears of immigrants, it is currently our only solution for the near term.

  3. reduced energy use, reduced demand for food, reduced water demands, massive inflation as a result of very bad government policies taking away from the retirement savings of those who have tried to be independent. Wow, all the apocalyptic fears that have been promoted from the fear mongering side of the “intelligencia” will come to naught (except poverty that results from government trying to address the fears of the mongers).

  4. Whenever a commodity becomes scarce, schemes get proposed to “equitably” redistribute as much of the quantity as is known to exist.

    Children are no exception.

    Buckle up, folks. The day is coming when the powers that be will decide that children are too precious of a commodity to have their upbringing entrusted to those unenlightened conservative/Christian “breeders” who unfairly control the supply of children through a mere accident of nature.

    “Brave new world”, indeed.

  5. I agree with JimD. “Buckle up” is the sentiment that I seem to express the most these days. Think things are clown show now? Buckle up.

  6. The Proclamation seems more and more prophetic every day:

    “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose….

    “We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

    We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

  7. This seems apropos:

    And I love John C. Wright’s comments on that essay:

    and, Yes, the populatiion bust will be the trigger that causes the Ponzi scheme of Social Security to collapse.

    “Summer of Love” (1967) is now 54 years old. I think the results are in.

    How has the “Sexual Revolution” worked out?

  8. Book, re: Social Security. I wanted to get into that in the OP, but my post was getting too long. It is difficult to imagine any scenario where our feckless politicians get together to handle the time bomb that is Social Security. It is especially difficult at a time when people are accepting multi-trillion-dollar yearly deficits forever. As long as we can continue to print money, who cares, right? The value of the dollar has consistently gone down over time, and we are seeing real consumer price inflation this year that is noticeable to most people, but where is the groundswell of support for dealing with the underlying problem causing the inflation (ie, the deficit)? I am not seeing it. Will we ever see it? I am doubtful. Twenty years from now when the federal budget and deficit are three times their current size, will we see it then? The only thing that could change the situation is a massive financial crisis, much bigger than the 2008 crisis. But even then, people are going to want their Social Security money.

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