Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Western birthrates improve to "steady"

Recently we ran a youtube video on Europe's birthrate and subsequent cultural decline in the face of high birth rates among Muslims.

The Woodrow Wilson Center has published a counter perspective stating that Muslim birthrates are also declining in Europe.

A few quotations of note:

Something dramatic has happened to the world’s birthrates. Defying predictions of demographic decline, northern Europeans have started having more babies. Britain and France are now projecting steady population growth through the middle of the century. In North America, the trends are similar. In a society in which an average woman bears 2.1 children in her lifetime—what’s called “replacement-level” ­fertility—­the population remains stable.

One fact that gets lost among distractions such as the Times story is that the birthrates of Muslim women in Europe—and around the world—have been falling significantly for some time. Data on birthrates among different religious groups in Europe are scarce, but they point in a clear direction. Between 1990 and 2005, for example, the fertility rate in the Netherlands for Moroccan-born women fell from 4.9 to 2.9, and for ­Turkish-­born women from 3.2 to 1.9. In 1970, ­Turkish-­born women in Germany had on average two children more than ­German-­born women. By 1996, the difference had fallen to one child, and it has now dropped to half that number.

The decline of Muslim birthrates is a global phenomenon. Only two Arab countries still have high fertility rates: Yemen and the Palestinian ­territories. In some Muslim ­countries—­Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Lebanon—fertility rates have already fallen to ­near-­European levels. Algeria and Morocco, each with a fertility rate of 2.4, are both dropping fast toward such levels. Turkey is experiencing a similar trend.

In Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, the fertility rate for the years 2010–15 will drop to 2.02, a shade below replacement level. The same UN assessment sees declines in Bangladesh (to 2.2) and Malaysia (2.35) in the same period. By 2050, even Pakistan is expected to reach a replacement-level ­fertility rate.

Iran is experiencing what may be one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in human history. Thirty years ago, after the shah had been driven into exile and the Islamic Republic was being established, the fertility rate was 6.5. By the turn of the century, it had dropped to 2.2. Today, at 1.7, it has collapsed to European levels. The implications are profound for the politics and power games of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, putting into doubt Iran’s dreams of being the regional superpower and altering the tense dynamics between the Sunni and Shiite wings of Islam. Equally important are the implications for the economic future of Iran, which by ­mid­century may have consumed all of its oil and will confront the challenge of organizing a society with few people of working age and many ­pensioners.

Across northern and western Europe, women have suddenly started having more babies. Germany’s minister for the family, Ursula von der Leyen, announced in February that the country had recorded its second straight year of increased births. Sweden’s fertility rate jumped eight percent in 2004 and stayed put. Both Britain and France now project that their populations will rise from the current 60 million each to more than 75 million by ­mid­century. Germany, despite its recent uptick in births, still seems likely to drop to 70 million or less by 2050 and lose its status as Europe’s most populous country.

In Britain, the number of births rose in 2007 for the sixth year in a row. Britain’s fertility rate has increased from 1.6 to 1.9 in just six years, with a striking contribution from women in their thirties and ­forties—­just the kind of hard-to-predict behavioral change that drives demographers wild. The fertility rate is at its highest level since 1980. The National Health Service has started an emergency recruitment drive to hire more midwives, tempting early retirees from the profession back to work with a bonus of up to $6,000. In Scotland, where births have been increasing by five percent a year, Glasgow’s Herald has reported “a mini baby boom.”
In 2007, France’s national statistical authority announced that the country had overtaken Ireland to boast the highest birthrate in Europe. In France, the fertility rate has risen from 1.7 in 1993 to 2.1 in 2007, its highest level since before 1980, despite a steady fall in birthrates among women not born in France. France’s National Institute of Demographic Studies reports that the immigrant population is responsible for only five percent of the rise in the ­birthrate.

A similar upturn is under way in the United States, where the fertility rate has climbed to its highest level since 1971, reaching 2.1 in 2006, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. New projections by the Pew Research Center suggest that if current trends continue, the population of the United States will rise from today’s total of some 300 million to 438 million in 2050. ­Eighty-­two percent of that increase will be produced by new immigrants and their U.S.-born descendants.

By contrast, the downward population trends for southern and eastern Europe show little sign of reversal. Ukraine, for example, now has a population of 46 million; if maintained, its low fertility rate ­will whittle its population down by nearly 50 percent by mid-century. The Czech Republic, Italy, and Poland face declines almost as ­drastic.

In Russia, the effects of declining fertility are amplified by a phenomenon so extreme that it has given rise to an ominous new ­term—­hypermortality. The report ­predicts that within little more than a decade the ­working-­age population will be shrinking by up to one million people annually. Russia is suffering a demographic decline on a scale that is normally associated with the effects of a major ­war.

Perhaps the most striking fact about the demographic transformation now unfolding is that it is going to make the world look a lot more like Europe. The world is aging in an unprecedented way. A milepost in this process came in 1998, when for the first time the number of people in the developed world over the age of 60 outnumbered those below the age of 15. By 2047, the world as a whole will reach the same ­point.