Death's Wages: UNPD Population Projections Continue to Drop

Steven Mosher
By Joseph A. D'Agostino
PRI Weekly Briefing
9 May 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 17
Reproduced with Permission

At his press conference April 28, President Bush used some statistics to demonstrate the need for his Social Security reform plan. "There's a lot of us getting ready to retire who will be living longer and receiving greater benefits than the previous generation," he said. "And to compound the problem, there are fewer people paying into the system. In 1950, there were 16 workers for every beneficiary; today there are 3.3 workers for every beneficiary; soon there will be two workers for every beneficiary. These changes have put Social Security on the path to bankruptcy."

Forty years of contraception, abortion, feminism, and two-income or one-parent families have taken their toll. The 105-page Highlights of the United Nations Population Division's World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision outline the demographic crisis overtaking the world, not just the United States and her collapsing Social Security system.

It's very simple to state: People aren't having enough children to sustain the long-term economic prosperity of the world or most of its individual countries. In many cases, particularly in Western Europe and Japan, they aren't having enough children to ensure the survival of their national cultures-perhaps not even their nations-into the next century. Pension and health care systems will just be the first things to break down.

Experts have been predicting dire consequences of world "overpopulation" for two centuries now, and they have never come true. Now, after decades of population control, family planning, feminism, and anti-family economic realignment, rapidly declining fertility levels will inevitably produce demographic disaster due to the opposite problem.

UNPD has revised its prediction for the world's population in 2050 down to 9.1 billion from the 9.3 billion by 2050 it predicted in its 2000 revision. The world will hit 6.5 billion sometime in July of this year. UNPD has tended to be candid about the world's coming underpopulation and aging crises in recent years, and indications are that new UNPD Director Hania Zlotnik will continue this high-quality devotion to science. But UNPD does continue to cling to at least one unrealistic assumption. The new medium variant projection counts on fertility rates rising in developed countries even though there is no reason to think that they will. Says the report:

"In developed countries as a whole, fertility is currently 1.56 children per woman and is projected to increase slowly to 1.84 children per woman in 2045-2050. In the least developed countries, fertility is 5 children per woman and is expected to drop by about half, to 2.57 children per woman by 2045-2050. In the rest of the developing world, fertility is already moderately low at 2.58 children per woman and is expected to decline further to 1.92 children per woman by mid-century, thus nearly converging to the fertility levels by then typical of the developed world." Replacement rate fertility is 2.1 children per woman in the absence of major wars, famine, and epidemic.

What justification does UNPD have in saying that fertility levels will rise in developed countries? Perhaps the agency believes that large-scale immigration into Western Europe will continue, and that these immigrants will have so many children that they will raise greatly the total fertility rate of the entire developed world. UNPD projects a net migration of about 73 million people into wealthier countries: "Because deaths are projected to exceed births in the more developed regions by 73 million during 2005-2050, population growth in those regions will largely be due to international migration." The immigration projections may be less than some might expect, but remember that fertility rates are dropping fast in the developing world, too-and the backlash against large-scale immigration is growing in Western Europe and the United States.

In any case, UNPD doesn't say. It says it just assumes that fertility rates everywhere will converge on the number 1.85: "Total fertility in all countries is assumed to converge eventually toward a level of 1.85 children per woman. However, not all countries reach this level during the projection period, that is, by 2050." It's hard to foresee social changes in developed countries that will lead to such a dramatic turnaround in fertility by 2050.

UNPD predicts that population growth in the developed world has come almost completely to a standstill: "Almost all growth will take place in the less developed regions, where today's 5.3 billion population is expected to swell to 7.8 billion in 2050. By contrast, the population of the more developed regions will remain mostly unchanged, at 1.2 billion."

Developed countries' combined population will remain stable as immigrants flood in to replace the native populations that are dying off. And dying off they are: "Fertility levels in the 44 developed countries, which account for 19% of the world population, are currently very low. All except Albania have fertility below-replacement level and 15, mostly located in Southern and Eastern Europe, have reached levels of fertility unprecedented in human history (below 1.3 children per woman)." Majority Muslim Albania is the only developed country whose people care enough about their future to procreate their descendents.

A few developed countries have seen some fertility rate increases over the past 10-15 years, but not enough to raise them above replacement level. "Since 1990-1995, fertility decline has been the rule among most developed countries," says UNPD. "The few increases recorded, such as those in Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands and the United States, have been small."

UNPD's low variant projection, which historically is more accurate than the medium variant projection that it holds out as most likely to be right, estimates a world population of only 7.7 billion by 2050, due to an estimated total fertility rate 0.5 child less than the projection used in the medium variant. The developed world will drop to less than 1.1 billion people in that time.

Regardless of what happens in total numbers, dramatic aging of the world's population, particularly in the developed world, will certainly occur. Even taking UNPD's higher medium variant numbers, "The primary consequence of fertility decline, especially if combined with increases in life expectancy, is population aging, whereby the share of older persons in a population increases relative to that of younger persons," reports UNPD. "Globally, the number of persons aged 60 years or over is expected almost to triple, increasing from 672 million in 2005 to nearly 1.9 billion by 2050. Whereas 6 out of every 10 of those older persons live today in developing countries, by 2050, 8 out of every 10 will do so. An even more marked increase is expected in the number of the oldest-old (persons aged 80 years or over): from 86 million in 2005 to 394 million in 2050. In developing countries, the rise will be from 42 million to 278 million, indicating that by 2050 most oldest-old will live in the developing world."

The percentages don't look good, either. "In developed countries, 20% of today's population is aged 60 years or over, and by 2050 that proportion is projected to be 32%," says UNPD. "The elderly population in developed countries has already surpassed the number of children (persons aged 0-14), and by 2050 there will be two elderly persons for every child. In the developing world, the proportion of the population aged 60 or over is expected to rise from 8% in 2005 to close to 20% by 2050."

Where will the money to support all these elderly people come from? Who will pay the rapidly rising health care costs, for example? The problem in the United States, which is much better off fiscally than almost any other nation due to its relatively high fertility rate and excellent economy, is only a fraction of that faced by other nations. Mass euthanasia of the old and all those unable to work-"useless eaters," in the Nazis' phrase-could become the world norm.

The wages of birth control, abortion, and feminism is death.