Peak Population Growth?

Tyler Durden's picture

The total number of living humans on Earth is now greater than 7 billion. As Max Roser notes, this large world population size is only a very recent development, as around just 200 years ago the world population was less than 1 billion. 

Since the 18th century, Roser continues, the world population has seen a rapid increase; between 1900 and 2000 the increase in world population was three times as great as the increase during the entire previous history of humankind – in just 100 years the world population increased from 1.5 to 6.1 billion. But, Roser concludes, this development is now coming to an end, and we will not experience a similarly rapid increase in population growth over the course of this century...

World history can be divided into three periods of distinct trends in population growth.


The first period (pre-modernity) was a very long age of very slow population growth.


The second period, beginning with the onset of modernity (with rising standards of living and improving health) and lasting until 1962, had an increasing rate of growth.


Now that period is over, and the third part of the story has begun: the population growth rate is falling and will continue to fall, leading to an end of growth before the end of this century.



While The United Nations (UN) sees world population continuing to rise until 2100, some, such as Deutsche's Sanjeev Sanyal, believe world population will peak at 8.7 billion people in 2055 and then decline to 8 billion by 2100... As Sanyal wrote previously, misrepresent underlying demographic dynamics - the future we face is not one of too much population growth, but too little.

According to the United Nations’ Population Division, the world’s human population hit seven billion on October 31. As always happens whenever we approach such a milestone, this one has produced a spike in conferences, seminars, and learned articles, including the usual dire Malthusian predictions. After all, the UN forecasts that world population will rise to 9.3 billion in 2050 and surpass 10 billion by the end of this century.


Such forecasts, however, misrepresent underlying demographic dynamics. The future we face is not one of too much population growth, but too little.


Most countries conducted their national population census last year, and the data suggest that fertility rates are plunging in most of them. Birth rates have been low in developed countries for some time, but now they are falling rapidly in the majority of developing countries. Chinese, Russians, and Brazilians are no longer replacing themselves, while Indians are having far fewer children. Indeed, global fertility will fall to the replacement rate in a little more than a decade. Population may keep growing until mid-century, owing to rising longevity, but, reproductively speaking, our species should no longer be expanding.


What demographers call the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is the average number of live births per woman over her lifetime. In the long run, a population is said to be stable if the TFR is at the replacement rate, which is a little above 2.3 for the world as a whole, and somewhat lower, at 2.1, for developed countries, reflecting their lower infant-mortality rates.


The TFR for most developed countries now stands well below replacement levels. The OECD average is at around 1.74, but some countries, including Germany and Japan, produce less than 1.4 children per woman. However, the biggest TFR declines in recent years have been in developing countries. The TFR in China and India was 6.1 and 5.9, respectively, in 1950. It now stands at 1.8 in China, owing to the authorities’ aggressive one-child policy, while rapid urbanization and changing social attitudes have brought down India’s TFR to 2.6.


An additional factor could depress future birth rates in China and India. The Chinese census suggests that there are 118.6 boys being born for every 100 girls. Similarly, India has a gender ratio at birth of around 110 boys for every 100 girls, with large regional variations. Compare this to the natural ratio of 105 boys per 100 girls. The deviation is usually attributed to a cultural preference for boys, which will take an additional toll on both populations, as the future scarcity of women implies that both countries’ effective reproductive capacity is below what is suggested by the unadjusted TFR.


Indeed, after adjusting for the gender imbalance, China’s Effective Fertility Rate (EFR) is around 1.5, and India’s is 2.45. In other words, the Chinese are very far from replacing themselves, and the Indians are only slightly above the replacement rate. The EFR stands at around 2.4 for the world as a whole, barely above the replacement rate. Current trends suggest that the human race will no longer be replacing itself by the early 2020’s. Population growth after this will be mostly caused by people living longer, a factor that will diminish in significance from mid-century.


These shifts have important implications for global labor supply. China is aging very rapidly, and its working-age population will begin to shrink within a few years. Relaxing the one-child policy might have some positive impact in the very long run, but China is already past the tipping point, pushed there by the combined effect of gender imbalance and a very skewed age structure.


The number of women of child-bearing age (15-49 years) in China will drop 8% between 2010 and 2020, another 10% in the 2020’s and, if not corrected, at an even faster pace thereafter. Thus, China will have to withdraw an increasing proportion of its female workforce and deploy it for reproduction and childcare. Even if China can engineer this, it implies an immediate outflow from the workforce, with the benefits lagging by 25 years.


Meanwhile, the labor force has peaked or is close to peaking in most major economies. Germany, Japan, and Russia already have declining workforces. The United States is one of a handful of advanced countries with a growing workforce, owing to its relative openness to immigration. But this may change as the source countries become richer and undergo rapid declines in birth rates. Thus, many developed countries will have to consider how to keep people working productively well into their seventies.


India, the only large economy whose workforce will grow in sufficient scale over the next three decades, may partly balance the declines expected in other major economies. But, with birth rates declining there, too, current trends suggest that its population will probably stabilize at 1.55 billion in the early 2050’s, a full decade ahead of – and 170 million people below – the UN’s forecast.


Given this, it is likely that world population will peak at nine billion in the 2050’s, a half-century sooner than generally anticipated, followed by a sharp decline. One could argue that this is a good thing, in view of the planet’s limited carrying capacity. But, when demographic dynamics turn, the world will have to confront a different set of problems.

*  *  *

"The world is approaching a major turning point in its demographic trajectory and we think that the shift is likely to be sooner and sharper than mainstream projections suggest,"

Just remember, it took Japan a very long time to realize the decline in fertility was not 'transitory'...

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Publicus's picture

It will happen and it will happen in our lifetime.

Depopulation isn't just the future. Depopulation is now.



T. M. Morgan-Reilly 

Morgan Metagenics

Laowei Gweilo's picture

#1 unless this becomes massively negative, still a non issue

#2 this model is assuming china retains a 1-child policy going forward, which is a pretty massive variable to keep static

jeff montanye's picture

i'll just jump in here and say probably the one where china's low population growth rate going forward depends on the continuation of the one child policy.  it almost certainly does not.  brazil, iran, turkey, south africa and many other developing countries are currently below replacement level based on the decisions made by women about their lives.  any further economic problems would increase the power of this trend.

who should be most worried about the falling population of the world are the capitalists.  until the discovery and utilization of fossil fuel and the invention of labor unions, the thing that most raised the real wage of the european worker was the black death.  

but eventually the plague ceased.  what might change this present development?  nothing obvious, imo.

Laowei Gweilo's picture

so you think once they remove it, that the number of 2+ child families will be entirely offset entirely by demand for smaller family sizes or less children in general...

maybe if it was 1.5 child policy (lol) but at literally 1 child policy and the high demand for larger families in china, that's a pretty bold claim

basically almost every 1% family already pays the fines (bribes) for multiple children and soon as it's legal, a lot of 99% families are going to follow


i see your point but i think china is a very very long way away from japanese style population stagnation. it underestimates the high demand by both rich affluent families to give their children siblings and poor familes to still birth more bread winners. for most of china, the notion of multiple chidren would still be seen as a smart investment in their own retirement welfare.


and for affluent families, multiple chidren are seen almost as a luxury or status symbol. almost all these families are having 2nd children recently that they want to raise entirely in their western homes.


the average number of children may eventually settle around 1 as you suggest for the reasons you suggest but probably not for at least 1-2 decades and by then chinese (including ethnic chinese in the west that have at least 1 parent that is a chinese citizen) will probably be closer to 2 billion people than 1 billion. IMO which is professional and anecdotal (and personal) but not statistically or researched :P 

but my feeling is that is also why china is not worried about their ghost cities. they know the population demand is there and will continue to grow. ghost cities in china are not even remotely enough to give everyone modern housing. they never built too much for the population. they built too much for the asking price.


give it 5-6 years and most of these cities will have be full because of decreasing prices as the buildings age and also incomes rise.


i mean, most US apartments are probably 10-20 years old :D 5 yrs from now these ghost cities will still be relatively modern by Boston standards, let alone Chicago or Detroit standards :) 

Ham-bone's picture

Too funny...just finished this article all about US demographics as the clear trigger for '08-'09...and why things are about to get much worse economically.

US 25-54yr/old annual population growth went negative guessed it... '08

US 25-64yr/old annual population growth will go negative in '16 or '17 and maintain negative numbers til maybe '23 or '24...all the while 65+ annual population growth is responsible for nearly all US population gains.

Why the Fed would choose to print massive debt for a 15yr population slump is not is criminal


MonetaryApostate's picture

What difference does it make?  WW3 is about to break out folks...

Population control is on the way...   >.>

Oh regional Indian's picture

The great myth of overpopulation is precisely that, a myth.

India's current birth-rate is below replacement.

TPB need to stuff people into Cities (open internment camps)....

See belowl...

Took Red Pill's picture

As George Carlin said, nature has ways of dealing with any species that becomes too numerous.

samcontrol's picture

Finally some good news.


Less growth better planet

Less people way better planet.


WE are a fucked up bunch!

ATM's picture

Better for who? Not people.

McCormick No. 9's picture

Below replacement population growth is spelled D E F L A T I O N.

I've been saying this for years, here on ZH, under a banned avatar. (Francis, I know you're out there!)

Peak oil and pek population go hand in hand. I know oil will head south for the short term. It begs a question- what are the dynamics of the twin drivers? IOW, if peak population and incipient debt overload driven has but a damper on energy consumption, and has brought lower oilo prices, then how does this decrease in energy consumption drive further decreases in economic growth and inevitably, human fertility?

Women hate, hate hate, having kids when they are poor. Until 50 years ago, they had no choice, except to hope they could marry well. Now they can stop that ticket to lifetime poverty (a kid) before it happens, by taking a pill.

In this permanently defationary economy, who wants to have kids? The Chinese? The Indians? The Mexicans? No, no, and no. Africans don't want kids either. As for white Americans and other Europeans, they for damn sure aren't having kids. The only people having kids are the Palestinians, and they do so as a weapon, so it's a unique situation.

No-one wants kids, and this came about by two factors- debt overload and expensive energy. If energy was cheap, we could literally light a fire under the conomy and grow our way out of debt. But we are stuck in a corner, between the rock of debt and the hard place of expensive energy. Something has to give, and what's giving is fertility rates.

Less kids means less demand for energy, means lower oil prices, to a point, but peak oil means energy cannot drop below a cheapness threshold that can drive increased energy consumption, thus the economy, thus more kids. We are beow the energy output threshold for population growth.


samcontrol's picture

" aprostate"


SOunds like you have it all figured out.

I fucking hope you are included in the populaton control.

knukles's picture

Going back some 40+ years when I was studying in GB, there was an interesting publication with respect to overpopulation and resources on this case in the form of "space".  Rat colonies were established in exceedingly large structures of multiple levels and rooms.  At some point overcrowding took place and behavior became rather deranged.... violence, cannibalism, fights over space and food, etc., asexuality and eventually a decline in the nest's population took place all on it's lonesome.  The number soon peaked and declined to a "Stable" relationship with "space".  The rats quit breeding like rabbits and self-regulated......
Ain't nuffin' like the 4 Horsemen.  Which Progressive establishments encourage through artificial support of unproductive useless eaters.
(OMG sounds so NWO-ish, no?  Georgia Guidestones.....  Yikes!)
The Whole Shebang is All About Demographics.

Go figure.

WOAR's picture

Are you talking about the Rat Utopias, created by John B. Calhoun?

You should know that after the populations "stabilized", it was due to them killing each other to make space, and the rest were so PTSD'd that they just didn't know how to function anymore.

The habitat that could house 3,000 mice perfectly...only carried 2,200 by the end of the "die" phase, at which point it never recovered.

The population died off completely.

Click the link for the actual study!

knukles's picture

Could well be, WOAR.  Sounds eerily similar/familiar.  Was so long ago, the details escape me, but the results sound the same.  The point being was that at some level of crowding if you will, the emotional/spiritual catastrophe becomes too great and the breeding instinct dissipates, the colony dies. 
And does seem to be happening in numerous societies.
Why not, eh?


Major Kudos on remembering, finding and the posting.  5*'s.     Thank you.

mkkby's picture

Funny you mentioning rat populations.  This article totally ignores niggers and spics, who are still multiplying like roaches.  In nature, if food is abundant animals multiply rapidly. 

This is exacly what is happening in africa, as socialists hand out food to starving people, and they simply have even more babies.  Look to 3rd world cities, including baltimore, camden and fergusun if you want to see how this turns out.

Azannoth's picture

Seems like we are 1.5 steps away from the "Die Phase"

disabledvet's picture

So the rats didn't build skyscrapers, build out mass transit or create a "green revolution" which could handle all their food scarcity issues?


How about building codes and zoning requirements or indoor plumbing?






Guess those rats aren't so smart after all...

Antifaschistische's picture for me, I can quite easily think of a billion people this world might be better without.

When you travel in third world countries, Sierra Leone, Honduras, Haiti, most of India (and on and on) you do NOT get the feeling that "this place needs more people".

knukles's picture

Shit, I only have to go into SF for a day and I'm convinced we could do with a multiple couple billions less, no problemo.  No need to go offshore.

Harbanger's picture

Choosing who needs to go is the easiest part.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Gentlemen, not sure about th etones in the above three comments, first one being really offensive (talk about psycopathy).

Given that, I'd like to inform you that the next great die-off is the white die-off.

Brown and black people have been dying off for 4-500 years now, especially and specifically due to the actions of the great unwashed whites of the world. By the millions and hundreds of millions last century.

Wheels turn, you're up.

If you don't like the thought, the first thing you have to change is the fucked up attitude visible...

Fucker on top sees a billion need to go in Asia eh?

Look around you.....

Kayman's picture


No need to help white population reduction- it long ago turned negative. But thanks for your offer.


Kurpak's picture

Peak population? thank fucking god

Harbanger's picture

"I'm doing God's work" -Lloyd Blankfein

Laowei Gweilo's picture

that's actually a commonly misquoted statement... the correct version is

"I'm doing Blankfein's work" - God

saltoafronteira's picture

The demographic experts are saying thins for over a decade. The real nwes here is the fact of this being news so late into the process.

q99x2's picture

The UN should admit that the world has a severe case of bankster infestation and that something needs to be done about it.

Ignatius's picture

"Too little" population growth?

Too little to pay the banksters, perhaps.

jeff montanye's picture

yes.  too little to pay, or even to be said to pay, the rate of compound interest.  

particularly if money remains fiat, but to some extent even if not, someday the rare thing will be the worker, not the capital.

i_call_you_my_base's picture

Good. There is nothing negative about declining world population.

Quantum Nucleonics's picture

Nothing except the fact that all the social welfare entitlement programs require population growth to remain solvent. Even the modest growth we have now would require tax rates of 60-70% to pay for the welfare state. Social welfare programs all came into being during the high population growth period in the early 20th century.

Pool Shark's picture



Just a polite way of saying that modern US tax and social policy is one big Ponzi scheme.

Eventually, we will run out of participants...


disabledvet's picture

We don't have a draft anymore. The dollar is backed by nothing. We have free trade agreements with pretty much the world right now. Wall Street is at a record high, bond yields at record lows, real estate is booming...the rich have never had it so good...sorry but "the welfare state" ended in 1973.


The "warfare state" is looking pretty good these days...

IndyPat's picture

The movie Idiocracy was truly prophetic.

Its not so much quantity that counts...on a long enough timeline.

Welcome to Costco. I love you.

Bastiat's picture

The last line was OK, other than that you were talking like a fag.

buzzsaw99's picture

Hey, a couple of us guys were wonderin', uh, if we'd go family-style on her.

Statetheist's picture

Whoring for up votes by bringing up Idiocracy is a fucking pastime here.

Anusocracy's picture

"The Marching Morons" is a look at a far future in which the world's population consists of five billion idiots and a few million geniuses – the precarious minority of the "elite" working desperately to keep things running behind the scenes.

winchester's picture
winchester (not verified) Anusocracy May 18, 2015 4:46 AM

marching morrons is reality dude, see how many fucktard got smartphones and how many are off grid totally resilient facing the wild...

0.0001 % ?

remove grid for 10 days in N.Y you got a fucking war.

this world is over, done, declining everyday, and certainly end around mid century.

IQ line is crossing the IA line around the end of decade, where the cars will drive without drivers and avoiding crashs, making more idiot alive, pushing the society even deeper in the endless swirls of turds.

Kreditanstalt's picture

If the system weren't a PONZI - and if people didn't expect ever-rising standards of living - we wouldn't NEED ever-rising populations...

Bastiat's picture

I was just about to post the same.  The cancerous compounding debt money is an engine of systemic destruction.

Cityzerosix's picture

Let us be completely straightforward; large families are generally found in contained religeous societies where the the woman has been sub-ordinated by catholicism, islam or whatever to be just a breeding machine; thought the men are normally expendable. In ancient societies this not the case. In future societies it will not be the case again.......simple!

Cityzerosix's picture

The poorer you are the more children you have; an instinctual reflex.

Pool Shark's picture



You're looking at it backward:

The more children you have, the richer you get.

[TANF, Food Stamps, WIC, MediCaid, ObamaCare, SSI/SSP, SSD, Section-8, EIC, Child Care Tax Credit.......] 

Cityzerosix's picture

Thats what what i mean in different ways when your resource are the children, bless us.