World population growth
The current patterns of growth are amixture of opposites. On one handthere is emphasis on rapid growthand the problems, or perhapschallenges, that it brings. Somecountries – Kenya, for instance –retain growth rates in excess of 3%per annum, i.e. a doubling period of around 20 years. So provision of allresources must be doubled in thesame time period, just to maintaincurrent living standards, let alone toimprove. It is therefore notsurprising that the gap between theworld’s ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is notnarrowing, as we might wish, buthas doubled since 1960 (UN HumanDevelopment Report, 1992). Totalhuman population is rising by 90million per year. By 2025 there willbe another 123 million in NorthAfrica and a further 169 million inWest Asia (primarily the Indiansubcontinent). Some 95% or more of world population increase will takeplace in the LEDCs, only 5% at themost in the MEDCs. Europe’spopulation is expected, at most, toincrease by only 4 million over thesame time period, but in fact is morelikely to decline. Predictions, theproduct of an inexact science, can bequite contradictory. Figure 2 showsthat, since 1950, Europe’spopulation has been growing, but ata slower rate than elsewhere.Immigration has played a crucialpart in this growth. As a percentageof world total population, Europe’sshare has been steadily decreasing.The latest data suggest that thissituation is likely to be exacerbated.A situation of zero growth wasreached in 1999, and a period of natural decrease now seemsinevitable, at a rate of at least 0.1%per annum.
The following statistics, eachrepresentative of their continent,further illustrate the situation:
Economic and socialconsequences of populationdecline in Europe today
In some respects, population declineused to be thought of in parts of Europe as economically desirable.The expectation was thatemployment opportunities wouldincrease, based on the assumptionthat fewer people would becompeting for a fixed number of jobs,and there would be a greater supplyof resources to go around.Population decline can have severalimpacts, not just economic ones:social, cultural and politicalconsequences also ensue, and theseare all interlinked. The 20% of usinhabiting the developed world enjoy80% of all the world’s resources.Assuming Europe moves firmly intoStage 5 of the demographic transitionmodel, i.e. that the current situationis not a temporary fertility fluctuationwithin Stage 4, the pressure forimmigration into Europe will behuge. In Europe there is increasingconcern over a potential shortage of workers, particularly in some sectorsof the economy, mainly services. Itcan even be argued that this wholesituation is creating the potential forsocial unrest on a grand scale. We canlook to the recent past to see what canbe learned about human reactions todeclining population.
Impacts of recent Europeanimmigration
Historically, both in Europe andbeyond, as nations have become
September 2000 no.387 Population trends – Stage 5 of the Demographic Transition Model
Geofile Online © Stanley Thornes (Publishers) Ltd 2000
population (millions)% of world populationmid 1999
Figure 2: Demographic data – Europe compared with the world
* In September 1999, world population passed the 6 billion mark
Population Reference Bureau – World Population Data Sheet;
World Bank – Population and Development: Implications for the World Bank
1980s national fertility averages:highest = Rwanda 8.5 children per womanlowest* = Italy 1.3 children per woman1994 regional fertility averages:highest = sub-Saharan Africa 6.5 childrenper womanlowest = Europe 1.6 children per woman* excluding China, due to its ‘one child’ policy