The Future of Low Birth-Rate Populations
Everywhere in the world populations of largely European origin are currently experiencing not only their lowest ever fertility levels, but what seem likely to be their longest ever periods of fertility at below-replacement levels. Although it is widely assumed that the fertility of these countries will return to replacement levels within 30 to 35 years there is at present no empirical evidence that this will happen. The inevitable demographic results of this fertility pattern are an older age structure and a decline in numbers. Many see this as leading to labor shortages and wage inflation, even to weakened national defense and the disappearance of European peoples and cultures. Numerical declines and older age structures are inevitable in today's low-birthrate populations. But they are unlikely to be either as great or as disruptive as commonly anticipated. Moreover, the policies proposed to avoid such demographic developments are clearly unsuitable. The inevitability of these changes--new in human history--must be accepted before societies can adjust to them and realize the benefits that inhere in them. The Future of Low-Birthrate Populations assesses the demographic situation, the policy alternatives and the significance of future changes in fertility and mortality rates, and then discusses what can be done to minimize the losses and maximize the gains attendant upon a dwindling and aging population.
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