Concerned with the consequences of demographic decline and population ageing, especially with respect to economic growth, national defence and pensions and health care for the elderly, a growing number of governments are seeking to raise birth rates. Whereas nearly 40 years ago 13 countries had policies to raise fertility, today the number has increased four-fold to 56, representing more than one-third of the world’s population.
Women are having fewer than two children on average in 83 countries, representing nearly half of the world’s population. And in some countries, such as Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Singapore, South Korea and Spain, average fertility levels are now closer to one child per woman than the replacement level of about two children (Figure 1).
The demographic revolutions the world is experiencing are profound and far-reaching, affecting virtually every aspect of human society. Whether in politics, business, international relations, environmental affairs or even personal matters, understanding the fundamental demographic changes underway and anticipating their juggernaut consequences can contribute considerably to the setting of meaningful goals, designing effective strategies and achieving genuine progress.