Birthrates in Japan and industrialized nations going down, but why?

By now, most people who keep up with global demographics knows that birthrates are going down. This is a trend reflected worldwide, with even developing countries seeing a decline as their economies improve and access to contraceptives increase.

Japan has seen itself become the face of that trend. With a rate of 1.4 children per woman, Japan’s birthrate is very low, though not the lowest. That honor belongs to Macau, Portugal and South Korea, which are each at 1.2 children per woman.

But at this pace, Japan is set to lose one-third of its population within 50 years.

Save for Afghanistan, the 10 countries with the highest birthrates are all located in Africa. Niger tops the list with a birthrate of 7.6 children per woman.

Current trends show that Africa will be home to more than 2 billion people by 2100. The impact that will have on Africa’s environmental heritage remains to be seen. Much of the population remains superstitious, uneducated and lacking in basic medical access.

Worldwide, the average is 2.45 per woman. Replacement rate, but not much more than that.

Causes of falling birthrates

So why has this happened?

Some people blame more women joining the workforce. Some blame people waiting to have families. People propose about anything, but the Atlantic probably explains it best:

But there’s another, simpler explanation for the country’s low birth rate, one that has implications for the U.S.: Japan’s birth rate may be falling because there are fewer good opportunities for young people, and especially men, in the country’s economy. In a country where men are still widely expected to be breadwinners and support families, a lack of good jobs may be creating a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they—and their potential partners—know they can’t afford to.

In the U.S., we may be heading toward a similar route. Gen Xers and Millenials are both facing uncertainty when it comes to the job market. Gen Xers are approaching the end of their fertile years and Millenials are entering the 30s, when it becomes harder to conceive.

The benefits of this is that it potentially leaves more room to reinvigorate wilderness that has shrunk rapidly due to human expansion, at least outside of Africa.

The downside is that automation has not caught up to compensating for the lack of workers. It is an unpredictable and as usual with technology, things could change overnight.

But as of now, expect trends to continue and Japan to keep shrinking.

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