Suddenly There Aren’t Enough Babies. The Whole World Is Alarmed.

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from The Wall Street Journal,

The world is at a startling demographic milestone. Sometime soon, the global fertility rate will drop below the point needed to keep population constant. It may have already happened.

Fertility is falling almost everywhere, for women across all levels of income, education and labor-force participation. The falling birthrates come with huge implications for the way people live, how economies grow and the standings of the world’s superpowers.

Birthrates are falling fast across countries, ​with economic, social and geopolitical ​consequences.

In high-income nations, fertility fell below replacement in the 1970s, and took a leg down during the pandemic. It’s dropping in developing countries, too. India surpassed China as the most populous country last year, yet its fertility is now below replacement.

“The demographic winter is coming,” said Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, an economist specializing in demographics at the University of Pennsylvania.

​Many government leaders see this as a matter of national urgency. They worry about shrinking workforces, slowing economic growth and underfunded pensions; and the vitality of a society with ever-fewer children. Smaller populations come with diminished global clout, raising questions in the U.S., China and Russia about their long-term standings as superpowers.

Some demographers think the world’s population could start shrinking within four decades—one of the few times it’s happened in history.

Donald Trump, this year’s presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has called collapsing fertility a bigger threat to Western civilization than Russia. A year ago Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida declared that the collapse of the country’s birthrate left it “standing on the verge of whether we can continue to function as a society.” Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has prioritized raising the country’s “demographic GDP.”

Governments have rolled out programs to stop the decline—but so far they’ve barely made a dent.

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