A new study published in The Lancet journal projects the world population in 2100 to be around 8.8 billion, a number 2 billion smaller than current projections by the United Nations. The multinational team of researchers puts declining fertility rates and ageing populations in developed countries at the root of this change.
The study claims that over 20 countries will see their population depreciate by 50% by 2100, with China’s population falling from 1.4 billion today to around 730 million in 80 years. This list includes countries like Italy, Portugal and South Korea among others.
While developed countries see a reduction in their population, many countries and regions on the lower end of the economic spectrum will see their population increase drastically, with Sub-Saharan Africa seeing a 3x increase from the present day.
The study concedes the existence of a variable that could throw a wrench into the works: immigration. If developed countries do not want to see an inverted population pyramid (a la present-day Japan), they will have to introduce more flexible immigration policies in order to increase their population fertility rates. This would also force increased cultural intermixing and assimilation. The fear amongst the populations of developed countries is that easing up on immigration could put a strain on the economy of the host country, but if such a move is implemented accompanied by active efforts to integrate immigrants into the various established industries of the country, they might be able to hold their own weight. This has been evidenced by the long-term immigration of Bangladeshis to India (a key difference being India’s status as a developing nation and the efficiency of Bangladeshi immigrants to integrate themselves into the economy on their own without much aid by the government).
The benefits of this mass shift in population would definitely be felt by the environment, with reductions in projected carbon-emission numbers and less stress on agricultural land. Food insecurity could also see a significant reduction. However, a decline in the working-age population could put significant stress on developed economies, and researchers fear that more authoritarian governments could take desperation measures such as restricting the production and availability of reproductive safety products to the public, opening the gates to a range of different yet equally daunting challenges.