Europe, Japan Face Large Population Declines Thanks to "Modernization"

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 18, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Europe, Japan Face Large Population Declines Thanks to "Modernization" Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 18, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Japan and many industrialized nations in Europe are facing the potential of significant population declines. But, underdeveloped nations may face huge population booms that will lead some to call for legalizing abortion and bringing birth control to such countries.

While U.N. estimates still project a worldwide population growth rate of 50 percent, scoffed at by some experts, Japan, for example, could see a 20 percent population decline in the coming decades. That’s according to new information from the Population Reference Bureau.

The PRB also projects a 17 percent decline for population in Russia and a 9 percent decline in Germany. According to the PRB report, Bulgaria could lose as much as 40 percent of its population.

Aging populations are contributing to the overall decline. In Japan, only 14 percent of its population is under the age of 15.

Martha Farnsworth Riche, the former head of the U.S. Census Bureau, tells the Associated Press that the population decline problems stem from "modernization."

With today’s educated workforce and competitive workplace, young adults are thinking more about college and finding a job rather than beginning a family, Riche said.

As more young adults decide to have fewer children and wait until later in life to begin families, and as the prevalence of abortion and birth control reduce the number of babies born, many countries are faced with the challenge of underpopulation.

The underpopulation problem in Europe is already prompting lawmakers to act. Some legislative leaders are putting forward proposals to soften anti-immigration laws while others, such as members of Italy’s parliament, are offering various financial incentives for couples to have children.

Despite shrinking populations in Europe, projections that show a worldwide population increase are based on rocketing populations in underdeveloped nations.

The populations of industrialized nations are projected to increase by only 4 percent, while populations of third-world countries are expected to grow 55 percent. Nations in Africa and southeast Asia are expected to see the largest increases.

That leads abortion advocates to demand that industrialized nations help underdeveloped nations — in party by exporting abortion and birth control to countries where it is illegal.

"World population is going to grow massively in some of the most vulnerable countries in the world. We have to ask how rich countries are going to help," Kirstyen Sherk, of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told the London Guardian newspaper.

But others see population increases as a resource, not a problem.

"In fact, the greatest unmet need in many countries is for workers," explains Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute. "Julian Simon was right when he called people, ‘the ultimate resource.’"