The story of the 21st century has been one of falling birth rates, rising standards of living and a revolution in food production. But the global picture is uneven: As populations decline in wealthier nations, in other countries — particularly in Africa, says a new report — “they are rising at rates that may mire their people in poverty.”
In the slowest group, the leader is Bosnia-Herzegovina, with 1.2 children per woman. The others in the top 10 least-fertile countries average 1.3 children: Hungary, Singapore, South Korea, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and Taiwan. Several nations are worried about a decline in population, which leaves fewer workers to provide for systems that will burgeon with retirees. Even China, 35 years after instituting its draconian “one child” policy, is worried. China’s population, now at 1.35 billion, is expected to drop by 2050.
The 10 countries with the highest fertility rates are in Africa, led by Niger, where women give birth to an average of 7.6 children. Burkina Faso, with a rate of 6, is the slowest-growing of the 10, all of which are among the poorest countries. Research by the Population Reference Bureau in Washington projects that Africa’s population will more than double by 2050, from 1.1 billion people to 2.4 billion. Nigeria, the most populous nation on the continent with 174 million, is projected to rank third in the world by 2050, with 440 million, after China and India.
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