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Fertility Rates Are Dropping Dangerously Worldwide

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In 1996, five years before he received the Nobel Prize in economics, George Akerlof in “An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States” labeled contraception the “technology shock” that gave us the death of the ‘shot-gun marriage’ and the rise of single motherhood. A  second paper refined his argument still more. One of his coauthors was his wife, Janet Yellen, who later became Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, the central bank of the United States.  Central banks around the world now must deal with the slowing velocity of money as marriage and birth rates fall in developed countries, leading to less spending on children and new homes, phenomena closely linked to rates of contraception.  These unintended consequences are playing out in the most unforeseen ways, one of which is the growing shortage of native-born workers in the developed economies of the world, a vacuum drawing young legal and illegal immigrants from poorer homelands in search of a better life. 

Below we give the data on fertility and contraception rates.  2.1 children per woman is the “replacement” fertility rate, which would keep a nation’s population stable.

Fertility are dropping world-wide at an alarming rate inching towards the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman.  The present world fertility rate is 2.4 and is declining at a steady 5.25% per decade. At this rate the whole world will be below replacement rate within 30 years.  Once below it seems no county has been able to get it back up despite its best efforts. In other words we will face a world economy of constantly contracting markets. A company with contracting markets is in trouble. Economies with contracting markets are similarly in trouble.  There is time to correct this (one generation) but so far no nation has figured out how to do it.

What follows is fertility and contraception rates for 

  • The regions of the world, rank-ordered by rates of fertility
  • Individual countries, further divided into two: 
  • The six most populous countries, that together make up more than half the world’s population
  • 12 notable individual nations

 

All the Regions of the World, Rank-Ordered by Fertility Rates

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest regional  fertility rate in the world at of 4.7, which despite an average drop of 0.5 children per decade. Its contraception rate is 33%, steadily rising from 15% in 1990.  At present rates it would take more than 40 years for this region to drop below replacement fertility rates.  In the meantime, its young people will migrate to the high-income economies of the world. 

Central/South America has a steadily falling fertility rate, now at 2.9, and a contraception rate of 75%.

Middle East/North Africa has a fertility rate of 2.84 which has plateaued for a decade but may be falling again. Its contraception rate is 58%. 

South Asia has a fertility rate of 2.4 but is in a steady downward trend likely to drop below fertility within a decade.  Its contraception rate is 52%.

East Asia/Pacific nations has a steady fertility rate of 1.8, and a contraception rate of 76%.

The Russian Federation has a steadily increasing fertility rate, now at 1.75 combined with an increasing rate of contraception, now at 68%.

North America has a fertility rate of 1.73 and an average contraception rate of 76%

Western Europe/EU  has a fertility rate of 1.6 (steady rate). The average contraception rate is 74%.

 

6 Most Populous Countries, Rank-Ordered by Fertility Rates

Together these six nations contain more than half the world’s population.

Pakistan (212 million) has a 3.65 fertility rate; a drop of 46% since 1977 when its decline began.  It dropped 15.4% in the last decade. It is likely to take 20 years before it will drop below replacement rate.

Indonesia (268 million) has a fertility rate of 2.34, a drop of 59% since 1960; between 1999 and 2009 it remained unchanged but dropped again — by 6.4% in the last decade. Though its rate of decline is lower, it will likely drop below replacement around the same time as Pakistan, in 15 to 20 years.

India (1.35 billion) has a 2.24 fertility rate which is a drop of 60.7%, very steady slope of decline: 20% drop in the last 10 years.  It will drop below replacement rate soon.

US (327 million) has a 1.8 fertility rate. This is the lower end of a bandwidth it has maintained for almost 50 years. Its contraception rate is at 76%.

Brazil  (209 million) has a 1.74 fertility rate; a drop of 71% since 1960 when rates started falling. Its rate of decline seems to be falling off. Its contraception rate is at 80%.

China (1.68 billion) now has a 1.68 fertility rate, a slow but steady increasing rate in the last 20 years.  However, it has a serious male-female imbalance. Given its draconian abortion policies, its contraception rate of 90% to 86% over the last decades renders comparisons with other countries problematic.

The US, China and Brazil have similar fertility rates and are significantly below replacement rates. India and Pakistan are falling steadily while Indonesia, though getting close to replacement rates is moving downward at a slowing rate. 

 

13 Other Notable Countries (Ranked A-Z)

Canada has a 1.5 fertility rate. It dropped to replacement rate in 1971, dropping further to 1.5 by 2000 and staying there since. Its contraception rate has risen steadily to 85%. It has a strong immigration culture.  

The Czech Republic’s fertility rate grew by 44% between 1999 and 2017, or by 12.4% in the last 10 years. Its contraception rates though highly variable have always been high— between 95 and 69%.  Its most recent rate is 86%.

Hungary now has a fertility rate of 1.53 rising from 1.23 in 2011 (a rise of 24.4 % in 6 years), combined with a decreasing rate of contraception, now 61 % — a significant decrease from 1993, when it was 89%. 

Ireland has a fertility rate of 1.8, fluctuating between this and 2.0 during the last 20 years. It’s rate of contraception is now 73%. 

Italy has a fertility rate of 1.34 and a contraception rate of 65%.

Japan has a fertility rate of 1.4 and a contraception rate that is dropping significantly, now at 40%.  

Mexico was at 2.157 in 2017 and likely has already dropped below 2.1. Its rate of contraception is now at 67%, having risen steadily from 39% in the mid 1970’s to around 70% by 2000. 

Poland has a 1.4 fertility rate. It is one of the few countries with contraception rates that seem to be dropping: 75% in 1977; 73% in 1991 and 62.3% in 2014.  

Russian Federation has a steadily increasing fertility rate of 1.75 combined with an increasing rate of contraception, now at 68%. This might be explained by a shift from abortion as the main means of family planning during the Communist era to contraception now. Russia has had a 52.3% growth in fertility since 1999, which includes a 24.4 % growth in fertility rate since 2007.  In 1999 the fertility rate was 1.157 (the lowest in the world at the time). Now the Russian rate is closing in on Ireland (1.81). However Russia’s hopes for a rise in Russian-speaking people’s fertility may not be happening.  

Singapore has a fertility rate of 1.16 and a contraception rate of 62%. It had a punitive 2-child policy decades ago but when fertility fell to  1.4 in the mid-1980s its government reversed course, almost reaching replacement in 1998 but since falling back even lower. 

Slovak Republic  has a fertility rate of 1.5%, 16.5% increase in the last decade and 24.3% growth in last 15 years.  Its rate of contraception is among the highest, at 80%.

Spain  has a fertility rate of 1.3 , up from a low of 1.16 in 1995 then to a high of 1.45 10 years later, but now down again to 1.3 Its  contraception rate was at 78% in 1978, and is now at 65%. 

Sweden has a fertility rate of 1.85 and a contraception rate of 75%, masked by what is likely the highest teenage abortion rate in the world – more than 2/3 of teen pregnancies end in abortion.

 

For the good of the disappearing child, 

Pat Fagan Ph.D.

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