Societal change is a critical area of convergence that is likely to play a major role in shaping the future. Three building blocks provide an example: declining fertility rates, an aging population, and a fall in working age population. This article connects those dots visually. In looking at the global decline in fertility rates, the article illuminates the impact to global stability, as a given area needs an overall total fertility rate of 2.1 to keep a stable population. But why are women having fewer children? According to Dr. Max Roser, the founder of Our World in Data, most of the literature boils down to three main factors:
- Women’s empowerment, particularly in education and the workforce
- Lower child mortality
- Increased cost to raising children
The article points to Iran as an example. In the 1950s, women had an average of three years of schooling and raised seven children on average. By 2010, Iranian women averaged nine years of schooling and the fertility rate in the country dropped to 1.8. In countries like Nigeria where women’s education is still lagging, the average is more than seven children. This decline in fertility rates converges with increased life expectancies to create an aging population. The article states that since 1950, the global median age has grown from 25 years to 33 years. As we look toward the future, this scenario drives economic risks, including rising healthcare costs and a smaller global workforce. Per the article, a report by the World Bank suggests that the world’s working-age population peaked back in 2012. Since then, it’s been on the decline.
A smaller working population puts more pressure on those who are working to support those who are collecting pensions. This could ultimately lead to an economic slowdown if countries don’t prepare and alter their pension systems accordingly, to account for our aging population.
Pablo Alvarez — Charted: The Global Decline of Fertility Rates
This is a very good example of the sheer number of building blocks that we must contend with across multiple domains.