List of Countries Currently Experiencing Population Decline

In an effort to provide a quick reference for those interested in stage 5 of the demographic transition model (where the number of births fall below the number of deaths resulting in negative natural population growth), I put together a quick list of countries (map coming in an update!) based on U.S. Census projections. The countries below are experiencing population decline from 2013 to 2014. However, I based this list on growth rates (which includes migration) so some countries may have sustainable fertility rates (like South Africa) but out-migration (emigration) from the country is high enough to cause a decrease in that country’s population from 2013 to 2014. Despite this caveat, the primary reason for population decline is low birth rates. With that aside here is the list:

Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cook Islands, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Guyana, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Micronesia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Ukraine

South Africa is expected to experience a negative growth rate of 0.4 from 2013 to 2014. It is not due to low fertility (which is estimated at 2.2 children per woman), but due to large migrant outflows in 2013 and 2014 (over 300,000 people each year). With low number of births, the net effect on the population is decline (decreasing from 48,601,000 to 48,376,000).

A surprising addition to this list (for me) was Germany. I had assumed the country would continue to experience population growth for sometime because of its immigration. Not so, total fertility rate in Germany is 1.4 children per woman in 2013 (well below replacement level of 2.1). With an aging population, the 679,000 babies expected won’t be enough to replace the 906,000 deaths expected. These deaths aren’t due to an expectation of virulent disease or war, but simple old age. Moreover the 72,000 immigrants expected in 2013 isn’t enough to replace those German citizens that are dying.

This brings up a hidden facet to population decline, which I’ve touched on previously. These statistics treat “Germany” and “Russia” as homogeneous population groups. As I just said, 72,000 immigrants are expected (estimated) to enter Germany in 2013, many might become German citizens. Immigrants, typically, have larger number of children than the “natives” whether by bringing over their existing families when they naturalize or when they “settle down” and begin having families in their new homes (sometimes both!). When evaluating these (or any) statistics, its always important to keep in mind what’s being analyzed and to question what’s being left out. In these statistics we’re missing valuable ethnic, religious, and other important “identity” data. Like most things, concentrations develop as you narrow your focus from the countrywide to statewide level or from the nation to population groups.

Two general geographic trends are worth pointing out. The first is the prevalence of eastern and southeastern European, former Communist, Eastern Orthodox religion countries. This line stretches from the Baltic states and runs south to the Adriatic Sea. Greece, as it turns out, is expected to begin population decline by 2015. Outside the scope of the study it fits the larger regional pattern (though not “former Communist” thanks to Eisenhowerian intervention [I believe]). This isn’t really the space to speculate on the reason for the prevalence of population decline in this area but I would bet it would have something to do with the influx of “Western” medicine and technology after the Cold War prolonging lives (now leading to “larger” crude death rates) and lingering effects of the “Communist” social experiment that gave women more “freedom” (read: treated the same in regards to their labor as men) than in more “traditional” (read: not Communist) societies. The other general geographic trend is the presence of relatively small islands and island chains. These islands may actually represent the realization of a neo-Malthusian nightmare world. The “carrying capacity” of these islands are tapped, but not due to food, probably water or jobs, forcing a outflow of people. Combined with just below (St. Vincent and the Grenadines is 1.8 children per woman) or at-replacement level fertility and we have population decline in relatively small populations.

And then there’s Japan. While I’ve already discussed Japan in a previous post, its worth reiterating the multiple causes identified (or at least hypothesized) by scholars as to the reason for its population decline (really its falling fertility rates). Some point to ever-expanding educational and economic access for women, which leads to delay in having children (if having any at all). Others point to a wider trend of industrialization and modernization, breaking down traditional family structures and lifestyles – emphasizing “Western” ideals like individual gain and happiness. And of course, there’s the lack of immigration. The truth, as you probably could guess, is likely a combination of all these things (and more). In fact, one could point to the importance that “traditional Japanese culture” places on elders and the influence that longer lifespans has had in reinforcing this value. I used ironic quotes because I think every culture places high value on elders. At any rate, in a world of economic cost perhaps its more important to the individual or the state to be able to care for the elderly rather than children? Just a thought.

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6 thoughts on “List of Countries Currently Experiencing Population Decline

  1. Pingback: Population Decline: A Map | Z Geography

  2. A really good piece. I came looking for something on population decline, and you’ve given both an overview of facts and and an interesting analysis. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the article although i read it very late.Isn’t the time(could have been long time ago) to loose immigration regulations of those population declining countries(esp countries with bit decent economy)?May be at the end nature handles this(if not done by concerned countries) & the best example could be the current influx into Europe.

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