A study in the Lancet forecasts total world population will decline A LOT over the next 70 years. China’s population, for example. could drop by half. 700 million fewer people than their peak population year in 2024. As the study somewhat blandly puts it…
Our forecasts for a shrinking global population have positive implications for the environment, climate change, and food production, but possible negative implications for labour forces, economic growth, and social support systems in parts of the world with the greatest fertility declines.”
“Possible Negative Implications?” Wouldn’t “multi-decade deflationary mega- shock?” be a more appropriate descriptor?
If China’s population really does fall in half over the next 70 years, that would require something like half the housing stock, no? That doesn’t suggest a great outlook for Chinese Real Estate. Or global demand for steel, concrete, dishwashers, etc…. China’s working age population has already peaked and their total population peaks in 2024. That is a tough look for the country “everyone” expect to challenge the US for Global supremacy. The GDP forecasts in here have China taking the #1 spot in 2025 and giving it back to the US by 2100.
Worth a look at the charts and tables in the Lancet study below. What is creating those abandoned rural towns in Spain, Italy, Japan, etc… Even if their forecast is off by 25% it is pretty scary stuff.
The study might be wrong. Other studies aren’t so negative. As they note, their lower numbers stem “a third due to faster declines in sub-Saharan African fertility and two thirds due to the lower level of TFR (Total Fertility Rate) expected in populations with fertility lower than the replacement level, especially China and India.”
- Chinese women are not showing new enthusiasm for more kids (COVID has set back Chinese fertility per a recent FT series).
- More education + access to contraception usually means lower fertility regardless of income trends. That is driving their lower African estimate. Note that India saw fertility crash as girls got even a few years of education.
And, even if they are wrong, some form of demographic slowdown is going to happen. Unless large numbers of women/families suddenly change their minds about babies for some miracle reason. COVID actually reduced birth rates in China and there is no sign of a rebound yet per a recent FT story.
Also note this is where the economic debate was in…. 2018-2019. Deflation was the main worry. Now everyone is running around worrying about inflation. But the long-term demographic trend hasn’t changed at all.
Our findings suggest that, because of progress in
female educational attainment and access to contraception
contributing to declining fertility rates, continued global
population growth through the century is no longer the most
likely trajectory for the world’s population. By contrast, world
population might peak just after mid-century and substantially
decline by 2100. The difference in population forecasts between
our reference scenario and the UNPD forecasts is a third due to faster declines in sub-Saharan African fertility and two thirds due to the lower level of TFR expected in populations with fertility lower than the replacement level, especially China and India. Our findings show that some countries with fertility lower than replacement level, such as the USA, Australia, and Canada,
will probably maintain their working-age populations through
net immigration. Our forecasts for a shrinking global population have positive implications for the environment, climate change, and food production, but possible negative implications for labour forces, economic growth, and social support systems in parts of the world with the greatest fertility declines.”