Fertility Rates

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    Siblings in the remote area of Gairi, Dolakha District, Nepal

    Siblings in the remote area of Gairi, Dolakha District, Nepal.

    © 2011 Sirish B.C., Courtesy of Photoshare

    In 2011, the United Nations predicted that the world’s population would grow to 9.3 billion by 2050. In the newly published Population Prospects: the 2012 Revision, however, the UN has now increased its projection of world population to 9.6 billion by 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100. This means that nearly 4 billion more people will inhabit the earth by the end of the century.

    But what about fertility decline?

    This projected increase comes despite rapidly decreasing fertility rates in many countries. Japan’s birth rate, for example, has fallen to 1.39 children per women, well below the replacement rate. Though Japan is an oft-cited example of fertility decline, journalist David Brooks noted last year that almost half the global population lives in countries with birthrates below the replacement level. Even in the Middle East, where we often hear about the “youth bulge,” birth rates are falling dramatically. On average, Brooks pointed out, a woman in Oman has 5.6 fewer babies today than a woman in Oman 30 years ago. Fertility rates in Morocco, Syria, and Saudi Arabia have declined nearly 60 percent, and in Iran, fertility rates have fallen more than 70 percent. The authors of the UN report expect that the population of developed countries will change very little between now and 2050, hovering just below 1.3 billion.