October 31, 2011
Fertility Declining, Despite Expected Arrival Of Seven-Billionth Person
Despite the expected arrival of the seventh-billion person on Monday, a Texas A&M University professor says that the rate of human reproduction is actually slowing down, according to a Reuters report published Sunday.
According to the news agency's Jim Forsyth, sociology and demographics professor Dudley Poston says that the fertility rate is "below two" in 75 different countries worldwide. That, Forsyth says, is "far below the rate of 2.2 to 2.3 considered optimal to hold the population steady, factoring in the number of females who have no children or who don't live to reach childbearing age."Poston tells Reuters that Europe and east Asia are "poster children" for the demographic shift, but they are hardly the only regions of the world experiencing the decreasing birth rate. He says that they are also being seen in Brazil, China, and the Islamic Middle East, Forsyth reports.
Poston added that Japan was "losing more people today than they're gaining," that the fertility rate in the United Arab Emirates is 1.8, and that the birth rate in South Korea was an "alarmingly low" 1.1.
In 1970, Reuters notes, the average global fertility rate was 4.5.
"Poston says a combination of factors led to what may be the most significant demographic shift ever," Forsyth wrote. "In the industrialized West, improved methods of birth control and greater opportunities for women in the workplace and in society meant the end of 5,000 years of women generally being considered society's baby-makers."
"In China, there has been aggressive enforcement of a 'one child' policy, drastically reducing population growth rates, and leading to a surplus of males," he added. "Worldwide, urbanization has reduced the need for large families beneficial in rural agricultural areas“¦ Reasons for significant growth rate declines in places like Iran, where the rate has fallen from 7.0 in 1974 to 1.9, remain more of a mystery, but Poston says they probably can be traced to cultural changes that can be very difficult to reverse."
Poston also told the Reuters reporter that the human population did not top one billion until about 1800, due to disease, warfare, and high infant mortality rates, and the two-billionth human was not born until 1930.
The Texas A&M professor noted that while it took 12 years to go from six billion to seven billion people, it will take 14 years to reach the eight-billion milestone, making it the first time in history that it took longer to reach the next billion-person milestone than it did to surpass the previous one. The time span will increase again, to 18 years, between the eighth-billion and ninth-billion person.
"We have been growing very, very fast in the world and now we're starting to slow down," Poston said, adding that the impact of population decline could be felt within four decades time.
"That is going to be the issue in the future," he added. "We are going to have to start thinking for the first time in human history about fewer."
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