Despite overall trends toward slower population growth, some parts of the world continue to experience high fertility. These regions experience challenges distinct from those faced by areas with stabilizing populations. Analyzing trends in all parts of the world, from rapidly expanding Sub-Saharan Africa to contracting Mediterranean nations, is key because the dilemmas in the coming decades will prove regional in nature. To avoid economic, environmental, and social disorder that population shifts create, understanding demographics is imperative. Ensuring stability for future generations rests on the ability to create sustainable, prosperous conditions for people across the planet.
The first step to prepare for the future is to look at population growth rates in specific areas. Certain nations are having moderate population growth fueled by immigration. In the United States, for example, immigration in Southern and Western states is carrying the slowest population growth since the Great Depression. The xenophobia and right-wing nationalism that has emerged in the U.S. and Britain is a radically different reaction than the viewpoints other nations have towards immigration-driven population growth. Sweden, one of the countries following this pattern, is set to hit 10 million people this year. Leaders in the Nordic nation applaud the growth, pointing to the desperately needed support welfare, infrastructure projects, and overall tax revenue will receive. Immigration will counter the challenges brought by an aging society, a positive that outweighs the social issues of migration in the eyes of some.
Rapid growth constitutes a second major trend, found in historically underpopulated regions. For example, Kazinform, an international news agency, expects Central Asia to exceed 70 million people this year; only 50 million people lived in the area 25 years ago. The last major region of growth is Sub-Saharan Africa, which will account for the vast majority of global population growth in the next few decades. With billions added to this continent within the next century, issues including urban poverty, environmental degradation, youth unemployment, and overburdened infrastructure will come to the fore. Despite the problems that can arise from rapid, disorganized growth, leaders across these regions are excited; they see a new future for a traditionally impoverished region, one that holds economic prosperity and political maturity.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, many nations have experienced negative growth. These nations not only tend to have higher populations but also maintain strong family planning programs. Persian newspaper Sharq claimed Iran is in “a reproductive health crisis,” leading the Iranian Parliament to pass laws banning vasectomies and tubal ligations in 2014. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, another shrinking nation, has proclaimed the importance of keeping Japan’s population over 100 million, and is enacting government programs to do so. The economic hardships of an aging population are dramatic, as not only does the tax-paying workforce recede but government expenditure on health and welfare increase. Environmental benefits may be favorable, but economic burdens threaten not only individuals but the global market as well. Social tensions also arise, as citizens fear cultural loss in the future and waning influence on international affairs.
There is no uniform response to demographic changes. As we see, even nations following similar patterns may not react in similar ways. Some countries desire growth while others desire stability. Every citizenry has a distinct view of the changes their country is experiencing; the actions taken by leaders vary as well. Despite the differences, every nation needs a plan. Not preparing for these shifts will result in all the negatives without any of the positives. It is possible for every country to benefit from current population trends in the future, but only if proper attention is given right now. To ensure the prosperity of all people, action is necessary.