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.