Lancet, “Italy population halved in 2100”

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The World population may have taken the road that will bring it to the halfway point in just over 40 years: according to a maxi modeling study published on ‘The Lancetit will peak in 2064 to around 9.7 billion people present on the planet and then it will begin the turnaround that will bring the global population down to 8.8 billion at the end of the century, with 23 countries, including Italy, which will see their populations shrink by more than 50%.

Just yesterday, Istat data marked a new historical low in the country’s births. Today Italy is once again the protagonist in the analysis of scientists of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (Ihme) at the School of Medicine of the University of Washington. Experts report that by 2100 out of the 195 countries of the world involved in the study, 183 will not have fertility rates high enough (being below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman) to keep current populations without immigration policies liberal. For Italy, a total fertility rate is estimated at 1.2, in Poland around 1.17.

Specifically the population of Italy, which has already left behind the peak of 61 million inhabitants reached in 2014, will drop to around 30.5 million in 2100, more than halved over the century. Fate shared with Spain (from 46 million in 2017 to around 23 million people in 2100). Economic effects? While the UK, Germany and France are expected to remain in the top 10 countries by GDP, by the end of the century Italy and Spain are expected to drop in rankings: from the ninth and 13th largest global economy in 2017 they will fall to 25th and 28th respectively in the 2100.

Moreover, the experts’ forecasts see the population of the United Kingdom growing from around 67 million in 2017 to around 71 million in 2100, with a life expectancy that from 81 years of 2017 is expected to rise to almost 85 in 2100. Among the 23 countries that will see their populations halved, there are also realities such as Japan (from 128 million to 60 million), or Thailand. In Portugal in 2100 there could be only 5 million people. But drastic drops in working-age populations are also expected in countries such as India and China, “which – experts say – will hinder economic growth”.

The forecasts contained in the new study are approximately 2 billion lower than some previous estimates. The research used data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 to project the future global, regional and national population and scientists used new methods for their calculations. Much of the expected decline in fertility actually concerns high fertility countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where rates are expected to fall below the replacement level for the first time, from an average of 4.6 births per woman in 2017 to only 1.7 in 2100. In Niger, where the fertility rate was the highest in the world in 2017 – with women giving birth to an average of 7 children – a collapse to around 1.8 is expected by 2100.

But in the meantime however, the population of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to triple in the course of the century, also because of factors such as the drop in mortality. North Africa and the Middle East are the only other region that expects a larger population in 2100 than in 2017. Obviously, these are forecasts, sensitive to huge changes prompted by changes in the factors involved. For example, even slight changes in the total fertility rate (TFR) translate into large differences in the size of the population in countries below the replacement level: if the TFR grows by just 0.1 births per woman, this is equivalent to about 500 million more people on the planet in 2100.

Liberal immigration policies “could help maintain population size and economic growth even if fertility decreases.” But the authors warn that the response to population decline “must not compromise progress on women’s freedom and reproductive rights.” Demographic forecasts “which – the experts point out – contrast with the projections of ‘continuous global growth’ by the United Nations Population Division”. This “is no longer the most likely trajectory for the world’s population,” says IHME director Christopher Murray, who led the research. The dotted scenario, the authors reason, “highlights the enormous challenges posed by a declining workforce, the high burden on health and social support systems represented by an aging population, and the impact on global power linked to changes in the world population. ”

The new study plans huge changes also in the structure of the global age, with an estimate of 2.37 billion over 65 in the world in 2100, compared to 1.7 billion under 20. The over 80 will exceed the under 5 with a ratio of 2 to 1. In fact, the number of children is expected of this age group will decrease by 41% (from 681 mln in 2017 to 401 mln in 2100), while the number of people over 80 years is expected to increase by 6 times (from 141 to 866 million).

“This study – observes Murray – offers governments of all countries the opportunity to start rethinking their migration, workforce and economic development policies to meet the challenges posed by demographic change”. “The population decline can be positive for the reduction of carbon emissions and the lower stress on the food system – concludes Stein Emil Vollset, first author of the article – But our results suggest that the drop in the number of adults of working age only it will reduce GDP growth rates and could lead to major changes in global economic power by the end of the century. The response to population decline will likely become a priority political concern in many countries. ”

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