What does the expression “Demographic Winter” mean?
The phrase “Demographic Winter” denotes the worldwide decline in birthrates, also referred to as a “birth-dearth,” and what it portends.
Demographer Philip Longman (author of “The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity”) observes: “The ongoing global decline in human birthrates is the single most powerful force affecting the fate of nations and the future of society in the 21st. century.”
Worldwide, birthrates have declined by more than 50% in the past 30 years (since 1979). There are now 59 nations, with 44% of the world’s population, with below-replacement fertility
Sometime in this century, the world’s population will begin to decline. (The United Nations Population Division says that, worldwide, we could achieve below-replacement fertility by 2030.) At a certain point, the decline will become rapid. We may even reach what demographers call population free-fall in our lifetimes.
Russia is losing three-quarters-of-a-million people a year. Its population (currently 145 million) is expected to fall by one-third by 2050.
The term “nuclear winter,” popularized in the 1980s, alluded to the catastrophic environmental impact of a nuclear war. The long-term consequences of Demographic Winter could be equally devastating.
What is replacement fertility, and why is the number 2.13 so important?
Replacement fertility is the point of equilibrium at which a country’s population is neither growing nor declining. In order to maintain current population, the average woman must have 2.13 children during her lifetime. She needs to replace herself and a man. Because some children will die before reaching maturity and having children of their own, slightly more than two children are needed – hence 2.13.
A birthrate of more than 2.13 equals population growth. A birthrate of less than 2.13 means long-term population decline.
If birthrates are declining, why does the world’s population continue to grow?
If it’s already in motion, car in neutral will continue moving forward for a while, especially if it’s going downhill, even if gas isn’t being injected into the engine.
Today’s population growth is due to two factors: 1. higher fertility rates in the 1950s and 60s, and 2. people living longer than ever before.
The thing to remember is this: Declining birthrates will equal a declining population worldwide at some point in the next few decades. In the West (especially in Europe) population decline will become a reality much sooner. In some countries, such a Russia, it’s already happening.
A nation’s demographic future can be seen in its current birthrate. In Europe, the number of children under 5 has declined by 36% since 1960. Worldwide, there are 6 million fewer children, 6 and under, today, than there were in 1990. If present trends continue, the United Nations estimates that by 2050 there will be 248 million fewer children in the world then there are now.
Where are birthrates lowest?
Of the 10 countries with the lowest birthrates, 9 are in Europe. Overall, the European fertility rate is 1.3, well below replacement level (2.1). No European nation has a replacement-level birthrate.
Italy’s fertility rate is 1.2. Spain’s is 1.1. That means in the not-too-distant future, absent massive immigration, these countries will lose half of their people in every generation.
Russia’s birthrate fell from 2.4 in 1990 to 1.17 today – a decline of more than 50% in less than 20 years. Each year, there are more abortions than live births in the Russian Federation.
While birthrates are also plummeting in developing nations, most still have above-replacement fertility – for the time being.
The U.S. fertility rate is just at the replacement level, due in part to higher immigrant birthrates. How long this will continue is anyone’s guess. It’s also important to note that all of the factors driving down birth rates elsewhere in the world are present here as well.
What are the consequences of demographic decline?
Economist Robert J. Samuelson wrote in a June 15, 2005 column in The Washington Post: “It’s hard to be a great power if your population is shriveling.” Samuelson warned: “Europe as we know it is going out of business…. Western Europe’s population grows dramatically grayer, projects the U.S. Census Bureau. Now about one-sixth of the population is 65 and older. By 2030, that could be one-fourth and by 2050, almost one-third.”
By the mid-point of this century, 16% of the world’s population will be over 65. In developed nations, today, 20% of the population is over 60. By 2050, the proportion of elderly will rise to 36%. By then, these societies will have two elderly for every child.
If present low birthrates persist, the European Union estimates there will be a continent-wide shortfall of 20 million workers by 2030.
Who will operate the factories and farms in the Europe of the future? Who will develop the natural resources? Where will Russia find the soldiers to guard the frontiers of the nation with the largest land mass?
Who will care for a graying population? A burgeoning elderly population combined with a shrinking work force will lead to a train-wreck for state pension systems.
This only skims the surface of the way demographic decline will change the face of civilization. Even the environment will be adversely impacted. With severely strained public budgets, developed nations will no longer be willing to shoulder the costs of industrial clean-up or a reduction of CO2 emissions.
What factors contribute to demographic decline?
A number of social trends of the post-war era have converged to create a perfect demographic storm.
Men and women are delaying marriage, making it less likely they’ll have more than one or two children. Today in the West, almost one in two marriages ends in divorce. The children of divorce are less likely to marry and form families themselves. More married women are putting off having children for careers. After 35, it becomes progressively harder for women to conceive.
The news and entertainment media tell young adults that satisfaction comes from careers, romance, travel and “personal growth” – not from having children. It’s rare that Hollywood even portrays large families (today, more than 2 children). The culture’s message is live-for-moment and lives primarily for yourself, with no sense of obligation to generations past or concern for posterity.
The growth of cohabitation also has an impact. (In Scandinavia, almost as many couples are living together as married.) Cohabitation is not conducive to childbearing or childrearing.
For the past 20 to 30 years, children have been taught that over-population (the so-called population bomb) will wreak havoc on the environment and economic development. Not surprisingly, children thus indoctrinated frequently choose to have fewer children when they reach maturity.
Religious observance has been shown to correlate with higher birthrates. The increasing secularization of Western societies has been accompanied by lower birthrates.
Thus, every aspect of modernity works against family life and in favor of singleness and small families or voluntary childlessness.
Can’t the problem be fixed by increased immigration?
In a demographic sense, this is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The host country gains people, but the home country loses. The developing world, which has seen its own birthrate, cut in half since 1970 (from almost 6 to barely 4) can ill afford to lose large numbers through emigration.
Mass immigration changes the national character of the host country. Immigrants tend to have a lower education level than natives. Many never learn the language of their new home or identify with its history and heritage. (Instead of being French-Algerian, they remain an Algerian who happens to be living in France.)
Citizens of developed countries often worry about the loss of national identity.
Can’t demographic winter be countered by governments encouraging people to have more children?
This is being tried in Western Europe and Russia. The Russian Federation pays families a bonus of 250,000 rubles (the equivalent of $9,200) for every child after the first – in a nation where the average monthly wage is only $330. It’s not working.
Couples decide to have children for all kinds of reasons – religious, emotional, cultural, etc. Money isn’t one of them.
Children are a life-long commitment. While governments should make childrearing easier, by lowering the tax-burden on families (out of self-interest if not fairness), cash incentives don’t work.
If the United States has near-replacement fertility, why should we care?
All of the factors that are leading Europe into the depths of Demographic Winter are present in the United States as well, including high divorce rates, the rise of cohabitation, families putting off procreation to pursue careers, an anti-family culture and voluntary childlessness.
We may be a few decades behind Europe, but we’re heading in the same direction.
National economies are interconnected to such an extent that the impact of economic collapse in one country or region can be felt around the world.
The social, political and economic decline of previously stable nations can destabilize entire regions and create perils for neighbors and far-ways allies. The United States is connected to Europe economically and through multiple security treaties.
What Is “Demographic Winter: Decline of the Human Family”
“Demographic Winter: Decline of the Human Family,” is an hour-long documentary which explores every aspect of demographic decline based on interviews with hundreds of academics, scholars, researchers, elected officials and civil and religious leaders from more than 33 countries.
Produced by Barry McLerran and directed by Rick Stout, “Demographic Winter” brings together a number of disciplines to examine and analyze what could be the greatest threat confronting humanity in the 21st century.
What role did declining birth rates play in the current economic crisis?
Economist Harry S. Dent notes that 70% of GNP in the U.S. is consumer-driven. As the Baby Boomers aged, they began spending less, moving to smaller homes and planning for their retirement. Gen-X can’t fill the gap of the decline of spending by 81 million baby-boomers. This contributed to the slump in the housing market – when Boomers began selling rather than buying, there was a glut on the market and home sales began to decline. “Demographic Winter” predicted the financial crash of 2008 to within 18 months. The “Demographic Bomb” forecasts worse in store for our economy.
Can the economic impact of declining birth rates be seen outside the United States?
Yes, in Japan, which has a birth rate of 1.25. Of the 10 nations with the lowest birth rates today, Japan is the only one outside of Europe. It also has the highest ratio elderly to children in the world. As the rising sun sets, where will the next generation of consumers and producers come from? While much of the industrialized world saw their economies grow in the 1990s, from 1990 to 2005, Japan’s stock market fell 80%. Between 1990 and 2005. Its real estate market lost 60% of its value.
What is the population control movement and how has it promoted demographic winter?
The population control movement includes organizations, governments and international bodies (like the United Nations), dedicated to lower birth rates. Their methods range from the voluntary to the coercive – including forced sterilization in Peru and China’s one-child-per-family policy, which has included forced abortions. Over the course of decades, population controllers have persuaded the public, through fear and hysteria, that there are too many people in the world and drastic action must be taken to curb population growth. Their fallacies have been institutionalized and become the “standard wisdom” of Western elites.
Who is Paul Ehrlich and what is his relation to declining birth rates?
An etymologist by training, Paul Ehrlich is the author of the 1968 best-seller “The Population Bomb,” and the father of the modern population control movement. In “The Population Bomb,” Dr. Ehrlich argued that population would quickly outstrip resources, leading to global starvation. (“The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famine … .hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.”) Ehrlich also argued that if voluntary limitations on population didn’t work, coercion would be necessary – a refrain taken up by the movement he spawned. He described human population growth as a cancer that would require drastic action to treat. Currently a professor at Stanford, Erhlich continues to argue that (absent draconian measures) population growth will doom the planet – this notwithstanding that none of his more sensational predictions have come to pass.
What is “The Demographic Bomb: Demography Is Destiny”?
Released in July of 2009, “The Demographic Bomb” is the long-awaited sequel to “Demographic Winter: the decline of the human family.”
It continues the examination of rapidly falling birth rates (and both the causes and consequences thereof) where “Demographic Winter” left off. “The Population Bomb” focuses on the economic impact of declining birth rates — especially as they relate to the current global economic crisis – and the role played by the population-control movement in this disaster in the making.
Like “Demographic Winter,” “The Demographic Bomb” includes input from distinguished economists, historians, demographers and other social scientists. It also includes the views of Dr. Erhlich, as well as the current and past heads of the United Nations Population Division.
To order a copy of “Demographic Winter: the decline of the human family” and “The Demographic Bomb: Demography Is Destiny,” or view a trailer for either documentary, go to http://www.demographicwinter.com