Botswana’s population will peak at 2.76 million in 2060 then decline – so what does that mean?
DOUGLAS RASBASH AND GABOGOPE PHETOGO
Research is increasingly supportive of the notion of a declining global population. The most recent suggesting a global population of six billion by 2100, nowhere near the eleven billion that has been forecasted even quite recently.
One of the main reasons for this is the declining fertility rate. When the fertility rate drops to less than two, the population will reduce. For example, the current fertility rate for China in 2023 is 1.705 births per woman, considering the population replacement fertility rate is 2.1 live births per female, the population of China will not increase through natural sources. There are at least forty other countries that have fertility rates of less than 2 where the populations are set to decline, these include most of Europe, Russia and the USA. Analysis carried out by the author suggests that forty-four countries with 2.8 billion people will reduce their populations by 420 Million by 2100 – assuming fertility remains constant. But it is not constant, fertility rates are reducing across the world, even in Africa. Increasing numbers of other countries are surely going to join the ranks of declining populations. Is that a good thing?
Botswana’s population growth
Botswana’s population growth rate is slowing year by year mainly because women are having less children. In the past women were not allowed to work hence they had so many children but that has changed now. The average growth rate over next 35 years will reduce from about 0.6 percent today to zero in 2060. That the population of Botswana will never rise to over 3 million is hugely important. This feature goes into the arguments for and against allowing population decline. If women get paid to have children will that help increase the population. Our government only pays mothers who gave birth to triplets or more. But all this might stop due to the decreasing population.
First of all, the arguments for promoting reducing populations. There is obviously an economic perspective where a declining population can lead to labour shortages, which can drive up wages and potentially improve working conditions for employees. With a smaller population to support, resources can be allocated more efficiently, leading to increased productivity and economic growth. A decline in the working-age population can result in a higher proportion of experienced workers, which can lead to improved expertise and potentially higher innovation rates. Then the increasingly vital environmental perspective whereby a smaller population puts less strain on natural resources, including land, water, and energy sources, leading to a reduced environmental footprint. Decreased human activity can have a positive impact on ecosystems, allowing for the preservation and recovery of biodiversity. A smaller population means lower greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the overall carbon footprint and potentially aiding in efforts to combat climate change. Then the equally important social perspective that with fewer people, there may be less competition for resources, resulting in improved living standards and reduced poverty rates. A declining population can allow for increased investment in education and healthcare systems, leading to better access and quality of services. Reduced population growth can alleviate pressures on housing availability and urban infrastructure, leading to more sustainable and well-planned cities.
Arguments against declining populations follow a similar pattern. The economic perspective is that a shrinking population can lead to reduced consumer demand, which may result in economic stagnation or decline. With a smaller working-age population, there may be a higher dependency ratio (the ratio of non-working individuals to working individuals), which can strain social welfare systems and public finances. Certain industries, such as healthcare and pensions, heavily rely on a growing population to sustain their operations. Moving onto the environmental perspective, population decline may slow down economic development, which can potentially hinder efforts to invest in sustainable technologies and practices. A smaller population may result in reduced innovation and creativity due to a smaller talent pool and fewer diverse perspectives. But it is hard to find a counter environmental case for reducing population. Moving onto the social perspective, an aging population can strain healthcare and social security systems, as well as create intergenerational conflicts over resource distribution. A shrinking population can impact cultural diversity, as fewer individuals may be available to preserve and promote unique traditions and languages.
Countries with population decline
Some examples of countries with population decline feature Japan, which has been experiencing a declining population since the early 2010s. The country faces challenges such as an aging society, labour shortages, and strain on social welfare systems. Italy’s population has been steadily declining for several years. The country faces similar challenges as Japan, including an aging population and economic implications. Germany’s population has also been declining, primarily due to low birth rates. The country faces economic and social challenges related to an aging population and labour market dynamics.
The study of populations is known as demography and it is very mathematical and statistical, but also unavoidable if understanding is to be advanced. Most important of all the variables is the fertility rate. The childbearing age, typically spanning from around 15 to 49 years, does represent a significant portion of a woman’s reproductive life. With an average lifespan of around 80 years, the childbearing age range comprises approximately 40 percent of a woman’s total lifespan. However, it’s important to note that this percentage can vary among individuals and populations. Some women may start their reproductive journey earlier or later, and the duration of the childbearing age can be influenced by factors such as cultural norms, personal choices, access to healthcare, and biological factors like menopause timing. While 40 percent is a rough estimation, it provides a broad understanding of the period during which women typically have the potential to bear children. It’s worth noting that the concept of reproductive life encompasses more than just the childbearing age, as individuals may also consider factors like fertility preservation, family planning, and reproductive health throughout their entire lifespan. The UN model of fertility rates has been used and it shows that Botswana fertility rates will turn to less than 2 in 2060. It is very interesting to observe that fertility rates were constant at about 6.3 live births per female up to 1980, then it reduced. Why was that? The economy and society changed radically. The impact is clear to see. Women do not want lots of kids any more. Sadly, also the impact of HIV and AIDS is clear as well.
As with any prediction, there can be uncertainties and other factors that may influence the actual fertility rate in the future. Therefore, the result should be interpreted as an estimation and subject to potential variations. Perhaps 2060 is too far in the future to bother anyone today, but its significance is that there is no point in Government continuing to believe that our population will grow very much in the future. This will affect all sort of decisions that need to be made.
While governments the world over are beginning to cope with the new paradigm of declining populations, it may also appreciate too that labour will be increasingly replaced by robots and machinery in the previous industrial revolution. Possibly the global population mix will need to be thought of as comprising human and android beings. But this is going into the realms of science fiction so we will leave it there.