Just recently, it was possible to see a substantial number of reports in various media outlets predicting the growth of the birth rate throughout the world. These projections for many countries were explained by increased migration flows, and specifically reports spoke about a spike in the total population in Europe associated with an increase in the number of incoming refugees.
At present, there are 7.8 billion people that live on the Earth. While the global population continues to grow at about 82 million people annually, this is still largely due to the strong population growth seen in sub-Saharan Africa, which will double its population by 2050. But growth at a global level is increasingly slowing down.
Therefore, while the UN and other think tanks previously predicted a population explosion, and possible overpopulation on the planet, now it is more frequently possible to run across forecasts that are diametrically opposed to that. For example, according to several recent studies, the world’s population over the second half of this century will just keep declining, from 9.7 billion in 2064 to 8.8 billion by the end of the century.
A study published in the scientific journal The Lancet indicates that the global fertility rate will decline by almost one third by 2100. In 23 countries (including Japan, Thailand, Spain, and Ukraine), the population will decrease by half, and in another 34 countries it will decrease by 25-50%. The study indicates that Japan’s population most likely reached its peak at 128 million in 2017, and will drop to below 53 million by 2100. As for Italy, for example, during that same period its population will decline from 61 million to 28 million people.
The Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers presented the results of an assessment done on the country’s population, and according to that over the past thirty years Ukraine has already lost one third of its population: in comparison with the previous 2001 census, the population of Ukraine decreased from 52 million by 11 million people, and today amounts to just over 37 million. Further prospects for population decline in this country appear even more pessimistic.
Latvia and Lithuania continue to grow emptier, setting world records. Experts predict a demographic catastrophe for them, and reasons include a shortage of vital specialists, an increase in the number of retirees, and young people emigrating: since the collapse of the USSR, these former Soviet republics have lost up to one third of their population. Chiefly able-bodied citizens are the ones abandoning the Baltic countries, migrating to the West in search of a “better life”. As a consequence, Latvia, for example, is one of the ten countries in the world that is experiencing a breakneck population decline and population drain from the country.
Even the children of the President of Latvia, Egil Levits, live in Germany and Great Britain. So what can other young people be expected to do?
With regard to Lithuania, another Baltic former Soviet republic, some experts believe that after the USSR collapse and it gained access to the EU Lithuania became a peripheral area that was doomed to lead a wretched life. This former republic is among the world leaders in population drain, suicide, and alcoholism – factors that are clearly interconnected. The opinion even exists that “the European Union artificially maintains a low standard of living in Lithuania in order to use the republic’s resources to help develop other zones in Europe”. Today approximately 390 thousand Lithuanian citizens live in extreme poverty, with monthly incomes of less than 240 Euro per person, and less than 500 Euro per family – and these indicators are critically low in terms of typical European ones.
According to published statistics, the Baltic states spend the least in the EU on welfare payments for their populations. In Latvia, this line item of expenditures amounts to 14.5% of GDP, in Lithuania it is 14.7%, and in Estonia it is 15.1%. For the sake of comparison, in France it is more than one third of GDP. Both Latvia and Lithuania have been regularly rocked by protests staged by doctors and teachers in recent years. Along with that, the Baltic countries, influenced by Russophobic propaganda initiated in the West, are increasing their defense budgets and regularly procuring weapons and military equipment from NATO partners (mainly from the United States and Britain); as a rule, these are old models, and sometimes they are already “pre-owned”, meaning that the equipment has to be sent off for repairs to the very countries from which it was purchased.
At the same time, thirty years ago – before making the abrupt transition to the camp of “Russia’s adversaries” – the Baltic countries (as well as Ukraine) had a well-developed economy, largely oriented towards Russia, while now they have been virtually destroyed. In this kind of situation, and to urgently save the region’s population, local experts have begun to make more and more calls claiming that only deviating from the Russophobic policy taken by these countries under Western influence can save the area’s population. Incidentally, just like withdrawing from NATO, making the transition to the category of neutral countries would free up the budgetary funds that are so necessary for these countries today, and that they now spend on weapons to counter the so-called “threat from Russia”, which continues to be just the fruit yielded by Russophobic propaganda by the United States and Great Britain.
Among the reasons due to which there will be a decrease in the planet’s population, the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and the expected far-reaching economic recession – which in upcoming years could considerably reduce the birth rate – are the ones most frequently pointed out. Economic uncertainty often leads to people delaying childbearing, or choosing to remain childless. In countries that have been particularly affected by the virus, the surfeit range for mortality rates may be 10-20% at the end of the year, experts from the Vienna Institute of Demography at the Austrian Academy of Sciences believe.
In the United States, due to the ongoing sharp decline in American incomes, there has been a strong drop in the birth rate, which will lead to new problems for that country’s economy. In the past few years, the total fertility rate in the United States has already declined from 2.1 to 1.7 children per woman. The Brookings Institution published a negative forecast: in 2021, according to scientists, 500,000 fewer Americans will be born than demographers initially expected.
Against this backdrop, other reports from leading international media are causing people to pay attention. In particular, Bloomberg points out that with nearly 43 million Americans loosing their jobs and essential livelihoods, the combined wealth of American billionaires in recent months has increased by hundreds of billions of dollars, and has now reached 3.51 trillion USD. This is also stated in a report published on the website of the American Institute for Political Studies IPS, which indicates that the process of billionaires amassing wealth is accelerating, while other Americans are facing sharp declines in their savings.
Forbes calculated that by the day right after the US presidential elections, the fortunes of just the top ten richest people in the United States grew by more than 33 billion USD.
However, these transformations will certainly lead to a change in the existing world order, and to new scenarios in geopolitics and the world economy. These will force many to ruminate on the geopolitical and geo-economic aspects of population decline, and the consequences of increasingly concentrating the world’s wealth in the hands of a miniscule quantity of people.
Vladimir Odintsov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.