While the BBC has focused on the projection that the world's population will reach seven billion by next week, I was struck by another alarming forecast; if current German fertility rates continue for the next two hundred years, its population will shrink by 98 percent. The projection comes from David Goldman's recent book "Why civilizations die".
How seriously should we take such a forecast? Would the fertility rate back in 1811 tell us anything about rates today? Goldman's forecast does tell us the logical consequences of current fertility rates. If they remain unchanged, a very big if, then Germany disappears in 200 hundred years. That is always a useful thing to know.
Germany's current fertility rate is below the level necessary to sustain its current population level. Moreover, it is hard to see how it could be reversed. The consequences of lower fertility will be severe. Germany is ageing rapidly, and has a welfare system that will either collapse or change radically.
Can anyone explain why Germany won't exist in 200 years? Or, to put the same question into different words, are there any reasons to think that German fertility rates will increase to at least 2.1 children per woman on a sustainable basis?