NEW YORK, September 22, 2004 ( РIn his expos̩, Birth Dearth, Newsweek International author Michael Meyer paints a bleak picture for the future, as the world population plummets in an historically unparalleled decline.

Citing U.N. population statistics and projections, Meyer brings to light the reality that plummeting birth rates will result in cataclysmic consequences for future generations.

“Fertility rates have dropped by half since 1972, from six children per woman to 2.9,” he says. “And demographers say they’re still falling, faster than ever.” Meyer cites the European example of Germany: “If the U.N. figures are right, Germany could shed nearly a fifth of its 82.5 million people over the next 40 years-roughly the equivalent of all of East Germany, a loss of population not seen in Europe since the Thirty Years’ War.”

But the real population decimation will be realized in the developing world, he says. “China’s population will age as quickly in one generation as Europe’s has over the past 100 years . . . By mid-century, China could well lose 20 to 30 percent of its population every generation.” Even so-called Catholic countries, like Mexico, are in danger: “Mexico is aging so rapidly that within several decades it will not only stop growing but will have an older population than that of the United States,” Meyer says, “So much for the cliché of those Mexican youths swarming across the Rio Grande?””If these figures are accurate,” says Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, “just about half of the world’s population lives in subreplacement countries.” Meyer quotes from sociologist Ben Wattenberg’s book, Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future: “Never in the last 650 years, since the time of the Black Plague, have birth and fertility rates fallen so far, so fast, so low, for so long, in so many places”.

Wattenberg suggests causes of reduced fertility such as urbanization, contraception, “divorce, abortion and the worldwide trend toward later marriage,” among other things. “Wealth discourages childbearing, as seen long ago in Europe and now in Asia,” Meyer writes. “As Wattenberg puts it, ‘Capitalism is the best contraception.'” Meyer illustrates the effect of depopulation on the global economy. He quotes Phillip Longman, author of Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It, who writes: “There are people who cling to the hope that you can have a vibrant economy without a growing population, but mainstream economists are pessimistic.”

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