China’s population fell for the first time in over six decades, according to figures published on Tuesday.
But it is not the only one.
Many countries — especially in Europe and Asia — will see their populations decline in the coming decades, if forecasts for 2100 published by the UN last July prove true. In others, population is already declining.
Populations already in decline
Eight countries with more than 10 million inhabitants have seen their populations decline over the past decade. Most are European.
Alongside Ukraine, whose population has plummeted due to the Russian invasion, the number of people in Italy, Portugal, Poland, Romania and Greece is on the wane.
There are many reasons behind these falls, some unique to each country, but they all share low fertility rates, meaning women are having fewer babies on average than before.
Fertility rates of between 1.2 to 1.6 children per woman are recorded in these southern and eastern European countries, according to the World Bank. A fertility rate of more than 2 is needed to keep a population stable.
Added to this phenomenon is a huge migratory exodus in Poland, Romania and Greece, with more people leaving to go and live abroad than stay at home.
Outside Europe, Japan is also seeing its ageing population decline. This is largely due to a low fertility rate of 1.3 children per woman and low immigration.
Japan lost more than 3 million people between 2011 and 2021.
The same goes for the Middle East. In Syria, the population has been devastated by more than a decade of grinding war, with millions of refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries and beyond.
Approximately 606,000 men, women and children have been killed in the fighting, estimates the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
Those that will decline tomorrow
China — currently the world’s most populous country — has fretted for years about the effect of its ageing population on the economy and society, but population was not expected to go into decline for almost a decade.
Tuesday’s revelation that there are now fewer people in China is predicted to turn into a lasting trend, impacting population for years to come.
China is forecast to lose almost half of its people by 2100, plunging from more than 1.4 billion to 771 million inhabitants.
Russia, Germany, South Korea and Spain are all set to join this downward movement, with their populations beginning to decline by 2030.
Europe’s population as a whole would begin to decline as early as this decade.
But there are some exceptions.
While European, American and Asian populations should all have begun to decline by 2100, the number of people in Africa will continue to soar.
The African continent will increase from 1.4 to 3.9 billion inhabitants by 2100. Some 38 per cent of the world’s population would then live in Africa, compared to around 18 per cent today.