For years we have been told that the world population is set to peak before the end of the century, before undergoing a steep decline. It will be the first time in recorded history that the population declines due to a natural cause like low birthrate. There have been slight population declines before in recorded history due to diseases and wars, however they were quickly reversed due to the natural growth of the population. A decline due to low birthrate is unprecedented and will have long lasting consequences for the globe. It is very hard to reverse such a decline as it is caused by a deep shift in the demographic structure of the population.
The UN and other organisations have given various predictions regarding the globe's population in the 21st century. Some have predicted it to peak at 9 billion while others say it will continue to rise until it reaches 11 billion by the end of the century. However, latest data is showing that both predictions are too optimistic. The population growth is slowing rapidly and a decline could begin way before these numbers are reached.
The COVID 19 Pandemic played a key role in slowing down the global population growth. The Pandemic had a very high death toll which has sped up the population decline in several countries, while slowing growth in others. A lower fertility rate during the Pandemic is also responsible for further slowing growth. One of the greatest examples of this decline is Russia. Russia lost more than a million of it's population during 2021. This is attributed to the very high death toll of COVID in the country much of which is thought to have gone unreported.
Other regions that have recorded population declines much earlier than expected are South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. All of these regions reported declines for the first time in 2020. This is in addition to the population of Japan which has been declining for years and the speed has only increased. The world's most populous country, China, has also been dealing with slowed population growth. Infact, many experts say China's population has already reached its peak and could start declining in the coming years. Most shockingly, India, which was predicted to keep growing until it reaches 1.8 billion, has now reached a fertility rate below replacement level for the first time and is expected to peak much earlier at 1.6 billion.
The natural population decline is an unprecedented event that humanity will witness in this century. It is bound to create unexpected challenges and cause people to come with innovative solutions. Countries facing steep declines have already started focusing on this. Japan and China are investing highly in robotics and artificial intelligence to help automate much of the work. This will help in adjusting to a much more aged population and a lower workforce. Countries are also increasing their willingness to accept immigrants and foreign workers to compensate for their lower work force. As we go forward we will see much more of this as the world deals with a fast declining population.