Europe leads the drop in fertility rates

The world's total fertility rate declined from 4.7 births in 1950 to 2.4 in 2017.

Evangelical Focus

The Lancet · 12 NOVEMBER 2018 · 12:10 CET

Photo: Sadik Kuzu. Unsplash (CC0).,
Photo: Sadik Kuzu. Unsplash (CC0).

The study Baby Boom and Bust, published by medical journal The Lancet this Thursday, shows that the world's total fertility rate (TFR) has significantly dropped since 1950, although the population is still rising.

The TFR (average number of children a woman would have during her life time) declined from 4.7 live births in 1950 to 2.4 in 2017.



According to the study, ninety-one nations, mainly in Europe and North and South America, do not have enough children to maintain their current populations, while 104 nations are experiencing high birth rates.

In 2017, the lowest total fertility rate was in Cyprus, where a woman would give birth to just one child throughout her life. On the contrary, Niger had the highest rate, with seven children.

In addition to Niger, Chad, Somalia, Mali and Afghanistan have on average more than six babies, followed by South Sudan, India, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Haiti.

Meanwhile, women in richer, more developed countries such as Singapore, Spain, Norway, Portugal and South Korea, tend to have fewer children. The average birth rate is lower than two children per woman.

“The country that's probably the most concerned about this already is China, where the number of workers is now starting to decline, and that has an immediate effect on economic growth potential”, the study explained.



“These statistics represent both a 'baby boom' for some nations and a 'baby bust' for others”, Dr. Christopher Murray, one of the authors of the study,and senior director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, said in a press release.

Murray believed that the data “clearly reflect not only access to and availability of reproductive health services, but also many women choosing to delay or forgo giving birth, as well as having more opportunities for education and employment”.

“We've reached this watershed where half of countries have fertility rates below the replacement level, so if nothing happens the populations will decline in those countries”, he told the media.

The authors explained that “replacement describes the total fertility rate at which a population replaces itself from generation to generation, assuming no migration, which comes out to about 2.05 live births”.



Despite the decline, the global population has nearly tripled since 1950, from 2.6 billion people to 7.6 billion, the report says. An average of nearly 84 million people have been added to the Earth's population every year since 1985.

Healthy life expectancy is highest in Singapore at 74.2 years, Japan (73.1), Spain (72.1) , Switzerland (72) and Italy (71.9).

The lowest rates are in Papua New Guinea (50.8 years), Mozambique and South Sudan (50.6), Lesotho (47) and the Central African Republic (44.8).



The findings are included in the annual Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study made by the IHME and sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to which 3,676 collaborators from 146 countries and territories contribute.

In addition to population and fertility, this year’s GBD, with results described in seven scientific papers, covers causes of death and years of healthy life lost, years lived with disability, overall burden of disease and risk factors.

It also analyses the chances of each nation meeting 41 of the health-related indicators that are part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.

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