- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Many of the world’s largest industrialized nations will lose population between now and 2050 as low birthrates, struggling economies and curbs on immigration stifle growth, according to a report released yesterday.

The annual study by the private Population Reference Bureau found that, although the world’s population will increase nearly 50 percent by midcentury, Japan will lose 20 percent of its population in the next 45 years, while Russia, Germany and Italy also will see declines.

The United States is the biggest exception among developed countries, with its population forecast to rise 43 percent from 293 million to 420 million at midcentury.

Still, most of the world’s population growth will be in developing nations, even though they generally have much higher rates of HIV/AIDS infections and infant mortality.

China, the world’s most populous nation at 1.3 billion, would see an overall 10 percent increase to more than 1.4 billion in 2050, but its peak population is anticipated to be reached by 2025, with declines thereafter.

By 2050, India is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation, rising almost 50 percent from less than 1.1 billion now to 1.6 billion at midcentury. Nigeria’s population is expected to nearly triple to 307 million, and Bangladesh would double to 280 million.

The trends could change further depending on how successful doctors are in treating AIDS infections and reducing infant-mortality rates and how prevalent contraceptive use and family planning become in developing nations.

“This only tends to accentuate the opposite poles of population growth you have in industrialized and developing countries,” said Carl Haub, author of the report.

The report says the world population should rise 45 percent to nearly 9.3 billion by midcentury, on a par with similar projections from the United Nations and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Although the population of developed countries would rise 4 percent to more than 1.2 billion, the population in developing nations would surge 55 percent to more than 8 billion. Countries in Africa and South Asia would see the largest increases.

Mr. Haub highlighted Nigeria and Japan as examples of countries heading in different demographic directions. About 44 percent of Nigeria’s population today is younger than 15, while 3 percent is older than 65. Nigerian women typically give birth to almost six children over their lifetime.

Japanese women, on average, give birth to a little more than one child in their lifetime. While 14 percent of the Japanese population is younger than 15, 19 percent is older than 65.

“Clearly, Nigeria has millions of young people to educate and employ. Vast investments are needed to provide a higher quality of life for Nigeria’s growing population,” he said. “Japan must find ways to take care of more and more retired people and still maintain an adequate work force.”

Many European countries with aging populations have sent out conflicting messages of seeking more workers while blocking out immigrants, the U.N. Population Division has said. The issue has sparked political debate in Austria, France and the Netherlands.

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