For so many years, we hear about one significant problem that may have an impact on humankind – overpopulation. Indeed, a serious problem. But recently, I watched a video with Elon Musk talking about another problem, which is population collapse. But population collapse??? Is it even possible? Is it actually a risk for humankind and the prosperity of mankind?
So, what is a population collapse?
Well, in simple terms, a population collapse is a reduction in the human population size. Or, in short, fewer people around the world. The concept of depopulation or a population decline is not a new concern and in fact, in the previous century, many economists including Maynard Keynes have pointed out that the consequences of a population decline could be significant for economic growth and the welfare of people around the world.
Currently, the global population stands at nearly eight billion people and the world population is allegedly growing by over 200,000 people every day. But looking ahead, the growth of the global population is expected to decline in the next decades. According to United Nations World Population Prospects, 27 countries have a decline in population when compared to 2010, and 55 other nations, including China, are expected to see a fall in the birth rate. Even the US, which normally has a high birth rate when compared to other developed countries, has grown at the slowest pace in history in 2021.
The risks of a population collapse
So, let’s explore the main risks of a decline in the global population.
Slower economic growth
We can clearly say that the most significant risk is slower economic growth, or maybe even a long recession. To put it simply, a decline in the global population means that fewer people produce and consume fewer goods. Clearly, it could be a problem, right? And it seems that this is why Elon Musk is pointing out this issue. Musk is an entrepreneur who believes in progress rather than life quality, and a decline in population could be a major catalyst for the eternal economic growth envisioned by many economists, politicians, and entrepreneurs.
Low fertility goes hand-in-hand with the global aging population and a tax burden for the younger generation to pay for pensions and healthcare. We all know the data that since 2011, there are more adult diapers sold in Japan than baby diapers.
In short, a rapidly aging population basically means there are fewer working people in the economy, which may lead to a shortage in the supply of goods and services. Moreover, the costs of healthcare significantly rise and many elderly may be left without any assistance, especially in Western and developed countries.
Increase of nationalism
This could be a side effect of a reduction in the global population. Generally, a decrease in population means smaller ethnic groups. And, as we already know from previous centuries, smaller ethnic groups tend to be more supportive of nationalism. In such a case, immigration will be ceased and every country will defend its population rather than support globalization.
Lower military age population
Another major risk is a lower military age limit requirement worldwide. Well, we can assume that conflicts and wars are not going to disappear in a declining population scenario, which means that many countries will have to lower the military age requirement.
Decrease in innovation
A declining population will also likely lead to a decline in innovation. Fewer people mean fewer new ideas, inventions, and innovative projects.
Reduced production of goods
Unsurprisingly, if there are fewer people, there are fewer products and global production is likely to fall. Expectedly, in a case of a population collapse, there is less demand for basic products and services such as hotels, shops, cars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, music, etc. As the demand falls, the supply side drops as well.
Final thoughts – Should we be worried about a population collapse?
For some reason and despite the warnings from Elon Musk and other people, the concern about overpopulation seems to me (and to many other people) much more critical than the one about a population collapse.
Remember that all the risks we have mentioned above are speculations. The truth is that no one knows what’s the next risk for humankind. A few centuries ago, many scientists have predicted that global cooling might be the next threat to humans. As a matter of fact, some people still have doubts of global warming is a major concern. In the political aspect – in the early years of the previous century before the second world war started, many predicted that the next world war would be between the United States and the United Kingdom. Well, I guess not.
Nonetheless, a significant population collapse is certainly a risk for humankind, or more accurately, for people’s welfare and quality of life. So, if you have any concerns about having kids in the future, then don’t. Maybe you are doing the right thing for humankind… Who knows?