The Fallout in the Workplace from Freefalling Birth Rates

Birth rates in most developed countries are in a freefall. The United States is on
the list of countries that producing enough children to prevent
population decline.

While that may seem like good news —
more to go around — it’s a big problem for economies dependent on
working young people to take care of older generations and fund existing

This is in sharp contrast to English
scholar Thomas
‘ prediction more than 200 years ago that the population was
growing so fast that people would soon be starving en masse. Through
the mid-20th century, he was partially right. The world’s
population was growing exponentially. What Malthus and many others
failed to anticipate was the decline of the births in developed

The U.S. overall birthrate fell 2% from 2007 to 2008, when about 4.2 million
babies were born. This dip pushed the fertility rate below 2.1 per
woman, the replacement rate that is required to sustain a population.
This rate has been in steep decline for white females for several
decades. By comparison the fertility rate in 1965 was 5.0 and in 2002 it
was 2.8.

The fall in fertility rates has been
masked by the high birth rates of Hispanics (3.1) and, unfortunately,
teens. As recently as 2008, the number of births to teens ages 15 to 19 was 41.5 per 1,000 teens..and that’s after a
2% drop compared to 2007.

The overall birth rate decline in developed countries shouldn’t come as any surprise. For example,
when Mathus was a teenager in 1775, British women on average bore 6
children. By 1875, the birth rate had fallen to 3.35. Today, it is less
than 2.

The story isn’t much different in
Germany. In 1850, the birth rate was 5 children per woman. Today it’s a
paltry 1.4. In Italy, the rate went from 5 children in 1850 to 1.3

The same holds true for the women in
Singapore, Lithuania, Austria, Canada, Poland, South Korea, and nearly 65  countries. In some countries, the rate has fallen to
one child per woman per lifetime. Since every child is actually
replacing two parents in the next generation, it’s easy to see how
quickly a country’s population can plummet.

Japan is one of the most striking
examples of what happens when a population stops growing. Its population
is expected to fall by 21% in the next 40 years. By then, 40% of the
population will be made of people older than 65.

Europe’s population will peak by 2020
(the European Union as a whole has a very low total fertility rate of
1.5!).  The population will drop 16% through  mid-century. Germany,
Poland and Russia will be down by more than 20%. Germany’s over 65
population has already reached 20% and is expected to exceed one-third
by 2050. In Italy, more than one-fifth of all Italians are living on a

The problem isn’t isolated to
developed countries. Developing countries like Mexico, Egypt and India
also face an aging population. Mexico had a birth rate of almost seven
children per woman just a few decades ago. It’s now 2.3. Egypt went from
seven children to 2.7. India is down from six to 2.7 births per woman.
Even China’s birth rate, thanks to their one-child policy, is a paltry

What do you think this means for
their economies, communities and society?  What does this mean for
Generation Y and future generations?

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