Population greg small 000

Photo: Greg

The early 21st Century demographic stories - variations on the themes of aging, migration and fertility - still add up to growing world population: from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 6.7 billion in 2007, and over 77 million people added each year. By 2050 the demographic world map will have been redrawn. India will gain 500 million and Ethiopia 100 million. A population explosion may lead to demographics of rage - large crowds of unemployed young men are known to start revolutions. In the West, aging countries such as Italy may lose up to one sixth of their population. Senior citizens may become a major political influence, distorting the generational balance of power.

Will fertility rates in the West improve? Danish-style publicly funded IVF treatments could increase Britain's birth rates by 10,000 a year. Yet others warn that population growth is now a major liability to the environment and urge a limit to the number of children. After 2050 the UN expects the world population to stabilise or even drop. The logic behind this is that with more women educated and in careers, the fewer children they will have.

This is part of Outsights 21 Drivers for the 21st Century ™, a future-orientated scan of the 21 key forces shaping this century.

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