A new study has revealed that the world population will decline drastically before the end of the century due to changes in fertility rates and an ageing population.

The study, conducted by the University of Washington, forecasted some significant changes to the world as we know it including a drop in the global population for the first time. According to the new data, the population will likely peak at 9.7 billion at 2064 and then decline to 8.8 billion by 2100 – two billion fewer than current UN projections.

By this time, around 183 of 195 countries, barring an influx of immigrants, will not have the fertility rates required to maintain the current population. Countries like Japan, Thailand, Italy and Spain will see populations drop by more than 50%. China’s current population of 1.4 billion will also see a massive drop in the next 80 years with numbers forecasted at 730 million.

On the other hand, sub-Saharan African will see numbers grow exponentially, tripling current numbers to around 3 billion with Nigeria expected to reach 800 million people. Study states that this would make under half of the world’s population African.

The disparity between age will become more pronounced with the number of children under 5 predicted to drop by more than 50% from 681 million in 2017 to 401 million by 2100. For the other end of the spectrum, those over the age of 65 will make up more than a quarter of the world’s population.

“Most countries outside of Africa will see shrinking workforces and inverting population pyramids, which will have profound negative consequences for the economy,” said lead author Christopher Murray at the University of Washington.

Economic Forecasts

With a drop in working-age populations, researchers believe this will pose new challenges to economic growth. For example, China’s workforce will plummet from 950 million to 350 million in the next 80 years – a shocking decline of 62%.

However, in Nigeria, the working-age population is expected to expand from 86 million to 578 million. This will, undoubtedly, shift the global economic hierarchy. Experts say that India’s GDP could rise to 3rd strongest, while Indonesia could become the 12th largest economy and Nigeria may crack the top 10. Interestingly, historical powers like Italy and Spain will drop significantly to 25th and 28th place.

“By the end of the century, the world will be multipolar, with India, Nigeria, China and the United States the dominant powers,” said Richard Horton, describing the study as outlining “radical shifts in geopolitical power.”

According to the study, immigration could offset the declining numbers depending on how liberal policies are. Countries that are expected to have low fertility rates – Australia, Canada and the US – could balance the population decline by supporting immigration to maintain economic growth.

Aisha Mohamed