Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Europe’s population has developed new tendency to shrink, Science study reports

28.03.2003


Timing of childbirth cited as key factor

Europe’s population has aged to such a degree that it will likely continue to shrink, even if birthrates rebound to a one-for-one replacement level, a new study suggests. A major part of this trend is due to the fact that women have been postponing childbirth for increasing lengths of time, the authors have found. Their research appears in the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The year 2000 marked a key turning point for Europe, reports the research team, led by Wolfgang Lutz of the Austrian Academy of Science, in Vienna, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, in Laxenburg, Austria.



That year, the population’s "momentum" flipped from positive to negative, a measure that reflects the age structure of the population. In Europe, where older generations are larger than younger ones, negative momentum arises as subsequent generations have fewer potential mothers. Thus, even if women begin having more children, a tendency to decline can persist for decades, simply because there are fewer women of childbearing age.

"Negative momentum has not been experienced on a large scale in world history so far. It is now like sailing against a current running toward population shrinkage and aging," Lutz said.

Two factors are responsible for Europe’s negative population momentum. The first is well-known: that women are having fewer than two children, on average.

The second factor, whose future impact hasn’t been addressed directly until now, the authors say, is that women’s average age at childbirth has been increasing over time. This so-called "tempo effect" matters because it reduces the number of children born in a given year, boosting the average age at which women have children.

Using data from the European Demographic Observatory, the researchers estimated how these two factors might affect Europe’s population in future decades. They found that approximately 40 percent of potential future population declines caused by low fertility were related to the postponing of births.

"We’ve found that the timing of childbearing can actually have a major impact on future demographic trends," said co-author Brian O’Neill of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Brown University.

The current birthrate rate in Europe is 1.5 children per woman. According to the Science authors, after adjusting for the tempo effect (estimating how many babies would be born in a given period of time if no births were postponed), the rate increases to 1.8.

To pinpoint the future effects of changes in fertility rates and the timing of childbirth, the researchers assumed that other possible influences would promote stability--that is, mortality rates wouldn’t change, and there would be no immigration.

"In reality we expect continued immigration into Europe, but here we wanted to identify these two mechanisms which we think are new and important insights into the nature of population dynamics. To sharpen the focus on them, we had to eliminate other effects like migration in the calculations," Lutz said.

According to the researchers’ calculations, if women’s average age at childbirth continues to increase for another 10 to 40 years, there will be a built-in tendency for population size to decline by 55 million, to 144 million by 2100.

Lutz and his co-authors suggested that governments concerned about population aging and the potential for population decline could consider policies that give women more options in planning when to have children.

"The choices young couples make depend on the conditions around them," Lutz said.

Possible starting points for consideration might address childcare, labor laws, part-time work options, or subsidized housing for young parents, according to Lutz.

"Giving women more choices is easier said than done," Lutz said. "It would involve revamping the career pattern that’s structured around the male life course with no room for a baby break. This male-oriented career pattern needs to be changed."

"In thinking about what different policy options are out there for addressing aging and the possibility of population decline, one that has not been considered before is that there may be a demographic as well as a health benefit to providing more options to women in how to arrange their life-course, and when to have children," said O’Neill.


The continuing decline in Europe’s population size, and the shift to an older population, will likely pose challenges for social security and health systems, according to Lutz and his co-authors. These trends may also lead to reduced productivity gains, the researchers propose, ultimately affecting global competitiveness and economic growth.


###
Lutz’s co-authors are Brian C. O’Neill at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, and Brown University, in Providence, RI; and Sergei Scherbov at the Austrian Academy of Science, in Vienna, Austria, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, in Laxenburg, Austria.

Lisa Onaga | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.aaas.org/

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Lying in a foreign language is easier
19.07.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Engineering cooperation
05.07.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>