Fertility rates are dwindling all across the world. Demographers claim that a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.2 births per woman is needed to ensure a stable population for a country. However, many European and North American nations have TFRs well below this level. Although lower TFRs indicate female empowerment and higher development, they can also lead to several socioeconomic issues in the future. As populations will age, the spending on healthcare and pensions will increase. The countries will then need a younger workforce to work and pay taxes to maintain the benefits for the older population.
Although dwindling, fertility rates are not the same in every continent of the world. The continents by TFRs are as follows:
1. Africa - 4.1
At 4.1, the fertility rate of Africa is the highest among the continents of the world. The African population has grown rapidly over the 20th century and into the 21st century. As of 2017, Africa had a population of over 1.25 billion. The population growth rate in the continent is 2.5% per annum. Forecasts claim that by 2050, sub-Saharan Africa alone will have a population of around 2.2 billion that will be three times more than that of the entire European continent. In the 1950s, this region had only 180 million people, that was just one-third of that of Europe. While the population of Africa represented only 7% of the global population in 1913, it is estimated that it will account for 39.4% of the world population in 2100.
2. Oceania - 2.3
Oceania ranks second after Africa as the world region with the second-highest TFR. However, the fertility rates in the region vary widely. In Melanesian countries, fertility rates are nearly equal to that in Africa (4.8 on average). In Micronesia and Polynesia, fertility rates are lower (3.9 and 4.2 children per woman respectively) but still higher than in Southeast Asia. The French and American territories in Oceania have the lowest TFRs of around 2.4 children per woman and are among the most developed areas of Oceania. Australia and New Zealand have the lowest TFRs in the continent at 1.8 and 1.87 respectively.
3. Asia - 2.0
Asia has an average TFR of 2. Fertility has declined in nearly every major Asian country over the past 5 decades. However, the decrease has been highly variable. From 2000 to 2004, the fertility rates in Asia ranged from as high as 6.8 children per woman in Afghanistan to as low as 1.3 in Japan. The TFR also exhibits regional variations in Asia. East Asians have the least number of children while South and Central Asians have the highest fertility rates. TFR in Southeast Asian countries also shows great variation. For example, TFR in Singapore is only 1.5 while that in Laos is 4.8.
4. South America - 2.0
South America is also experiencing an all-time decrease in fertility rates. The phenomenon is most pronounced in the southern cone of the continent. Fertility rates have dropped dramatically in Brazil since the mid-1990s from about 2.5 children per woman to 1.8. Small families are now preferred in the country, a trend that has been fuelled by the highly popular soap operas telecasted across Brazil. Argentina has a TFR of 2.1. Uruguay and Chile also have low TFRs of 2.0 and 1.9 respectively. The northern South American countries, however, have not experienced as great a fall in TFRs as those further south. Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador have some of the highest TFRs in the continent. High levels of illiteracy, poverty, and large rural populations in such countries continue to trigger high birth rates. However, as these nations develop, it is expected that their TFRs will fall.
5. North America - 1.8
North America is no exception to the worldwide trend of falling fertility rates. The United States, Canada, and Mexico, the largest North American countries have TFRs of 1.7, 1.4, and 2.0 respectively. These figures are much lower than what was a few decades back. Caribbean countries also have declining fertility rates. For example, in Belize, the TFR has decreased by over 58% from 5.4 (1980 to 1985) to 2.6 from (2005 to 2010).
6. Europe - 1.6
No continent has experienced a greater decline in the total fertility rate of its population than Europe. Nearly all the European nations have recorded a drastically lowered TFR in the past few decades. France, the most fertile country in the continent, has a TFR of only 1.92. France is followed by Sweden and Ireland with TFRs of 1.85 and 1.81 respectively. Governments of several European countries have taken measures to encourage the people to reproduce.