Some demographers are warning of burgeoning population growth that will tax the world's resources. But in many of the world's richest nations, population is in decline. A result is that their wealth could be significantly diminished.
The Population Reference Bureau reports in its annual study that while world population will increase by 45 percent over the next half-century, most of that growth will be in developing countries. The increase in industrialized countries will be 4 percent, and in some — Japan, Russia, Germany, Italy — will see a drop.
The United States will dodge the trend; its population will increase by 43 percent due to immigration and a higher birth rate than prevails in Europe, where trouble is brewing. An ever-smaller percentage of workers relative to the total population there will mean shrinking productivity and enormous, burdensome costs in paying pensions for the elderly and otherwise maintaining welfare states, political scientists note. The population decline could mean that Europe declines.
How all of this actually plays out will depend on how willing governments are to reverse what they have preached and practiced in the past — and whether unforeseen occurrences make mincemeat out of demographers' prognostications.