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 New measure for the wellbeing of populations could replace Human Development Index
07.11.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Because not only arguments count
30.10.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Quantum gas turns supersolid

Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.

Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Marine Skin dives deeper for better monitoring

23.04.2019 | Information Technology

Geomagnetic jerks finally reproduced and explained

23.04.2019 | Earth Sciences

Overlooked molecular machine in cell nucleus may hold key to treating aggressive leukemia

23.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>