Births crisis: Nearly every country to shrink by 2100, study warns

Sub-Saharan Africa to account for one in every two children born in 2100, Lancet study says.

People around the world are having fewer children [Ints Kalnins/Reuters]

Fertility rates in nearly every country will be too low to sustain their populations by the end of this century, a major study has warned.

By 2100, populations in 198 of 204 countries will be shrinking, with most births taking place in poor countries, the study published in the Lancet showed on Monday.

Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to account for one in every two children born in 2100, with only Somalia, Tonga, Niger, Chad, Samoa and Tajikistan able to sustain their populations, according to the study carried out by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

“The implications are immense. These future trends in fertility rates and live births will completely reconfigure the global economy and the international balance of power and will necessitate reorganising societies,” said Natalia V Bhattacharjee, co-lead author and lead research scientist at the IHME.

“Global recognition of the challenges around migration and global aid networks are going to be all the more critical when there is fierce competition for migrants to sustain economic growth and as sub-Saharan Africa’s baby boom continues apace.”

The demographic shift will lead to a “baby boom” and “baby bust” divide,  the study’s authors said, where wealthier countries struggle to maintain economic growth and poorer countries grapple with the challenge of how to support their growing populations.

“A large challenge for countries in sub-Saharan Africa with the highest fertility is to manage risks associated with burgeoning population growth or risk potential humanitarian catastrophe,” said Austin E Schumacher, co-lead author and acting assistant professor at IHME.

“The huge shift in numbers of births underscores the need to prioritise this region in efforts to lessen the effects of climate change, improve healthcare infrastructure, and continue to reduce child mortality rates, alongside actions to eliminate extreme poverty and ensure that women’s reproductive rights, family planning and education for girls are top priorities for every government.”

The study based its findings on surveys, census data, and other sources of information collected between 1950 and 2021 as part of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, a decades-long collaboration involving more than 8,000 scientists from more than 150 countries.

Source: Al Jazeera