Low Birth Rates: What Does it Mean?
With a global population of over 7 billion people that continues to rise, it may seem odd to consider that there are countries that experience very low birth rates, and whose populations are actually stagnant or even declining as a result. In reality, however, there are numerous countries, especially across parts of Europe and East Asia, where low birth rates have caused a major decrease in population.
The birth rate, also known as the crude birth rate, evaluates the figure of live births that occur during a given year for every 1,000 members of the population estimated during the same year. Natural change, then, is determined is by subtracting the crude death rate from the crude birth rate, leaving a change in population that is not due to immigration or emigration.
Germany and Bosnia are two such European countries characterized by exceptionally low birth rates. As mentioned, low birth rates affect not only countries in Europe, as East Asia has also experienced low rates within such countries as Japan and South Korea.
The major factors that contribute to this trend are high costs of living, increased opportunities for women, and other factors such as an aging population. The economic structure could suffer if such trends are continued, as older, retired populations grow larger than younger, employed producers. We will see how costs are affecting birth rates globally, as well as how this factor can cause economies to become damaged.
One of the factors that has the potential to foster low birth rates in a country is the cost of raising a child there. Many parents expect the fact that the educational needs of their children are requisites that must be met in order to secure their offspring’s future. Striving to equip the next generation with the knowledge necessary to become a well-rounded individual and contribute to the greater good of society as a whole can prove to be an expensive endeavor. Simply put, the better educated a person is, the greater their chances of success in life will be. For this reason, couples lacking the finances to ensure the pedagogic needs of their children may avoid becoming pregnant altogether.
As we continue to see a decrease in the populations of many countries with low birth rates, there is increasing concern for the future economic growth of a country. One troubling consideration arises from the realization that fewer people will be able to join the workforce in coming years. Without adequate numbers of people to fill positions within certain occupations, then a decrease in the overall productive capacity of a country is likely to occur. Additionally, low birth rates mean a smaller younger population relative to the elderly. Within the framework of social welfare programs common among many developed countries, this will mean the less numerous working young will be strained to support the financial needs of a relatively larger population of elderly retirees.
Prospects for the Future
While it seems that the dense, yet still growing, global population will increasingly strain our resources, there are still countries experiencing unique problems caused by the exact opposite. Each country on this planet is a vital part to the world as a whole, and a steady population is essential for the ideas, visions, and dreams of those countries’ peoples to live on. With the proper attention directed towards problems they face because of low birth rates, the situation can be mended for a brighter future.
The numbers in the graph below are from the World Bank.