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Global fertility rates could become too low to maintain population levels, study finds

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  • Fertility rates are expected to fall below sustainable levels globally by the end of the century, according to a new study.
  • This trend is expected to create a divide between “baby boom” and “baby bust” regions, with low-income countries experiencing the boom.
  • The study predicts that by 2050, more than half of countries will have fertility rates below replacement levels.

Fertility rates in almost all countries will be too low to sustain population levels by the end of the century, and most of the world’s live births will take place in the poorest countries, according to a study released Wednesday.

This trend will lead to a divide between the ‘baby boom’ and the ‘baby bust’ across the world, with the boom concentrated in low-income countries that are more susceptible to economic and political instability, according to lead researcher Stein Emil Vollset of the Institute for Health Metrics. and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a statement.

The study reported in The Lancet predicts that 155 of the world’s 204 countries and territories, or 76 percent, will have fertility rates below population replacement levels by 2050. By 2100, that figure is expected to reach 198 , or 97%, according to the researchers.

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Forecasts are based on surveys, censuses and other data sources collected from 1950 to 2021 as part of the Global Burden of Disease, Injury and Risk Factors study.

Woman holding baby

A woman holds her baby on March 6, 2019, in Seoul, South Korea. Fertility rates in almost all countries will be too low to sustain population levels by the end of the century, and most of the world’s live births will take place in the poorest countries, according to a study released Wednesday. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/FILE PHOTO)

By the end of the century, more than three-quarters of live births will take place in low- and middle-income countries, with more than half in sub-Saharan Africa, researchers say.

The global fertility rate – the average number of births per woman – has fallen from around 5 children in 1950 to 2.2 in 2021, data shows.

In 2021, 110 countries and territories (54%) had rates below the population replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.

The study highlights a particularly worrying trend for countries like South Korea and Serbia, where the fertility rate is below 1.1 children per woman, leaving them exposed to labor challenges. decreasing.

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Many of the most resource-constrained countries “will be grappling with how to support the planet’s youngest and most vibrant population in some of the most politically and economically unstable, heat-stressed and health-systems locations.” the most severely tested in the world. Vollset said.

While falling fertility rates in high-income countries reflect more education and employment opportunities for women, researchers say the trend signals an urgent need to improve access to modern contraception and to women’s education in other regions.

Furthermore, “once the population of almost all countries declines, reliance on open immigration will become necessary to support economic growth,” IHME’s Natalia Bhattacharjee, co-author of the report, said in a statement.

The authors noted that predictions were limited by the quantity and quality of past data, particularly for the 2020 to 2021 pandemic period.

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