Op-Ed: Are We About to Experience the Biggest Population and Economic Productivity Decline in Modern History?

Europe at night viewed from space with city lights in European Union countries and cities. 3d render of planet Earth. Elements from NASA. Technology, global communication, world connections. (https://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=57752)

The title of a recent article I saw reads, “Population Decline Will Change the World for the Better.” Its tagline says,  “A future with fewer people offers increased opportunity and a healthier environment.” But is that sentiment really true? Does less population growth actually lead to a better, more productive society? 

One study suggests that the world’s population could plummet from 8 billion to 6 billion by the end of the century, which is a huge decrease. Another one says that world population growth will nearly stop by 2100. With birth rates around the world hitting record lows, it’s no surprise that there’s a worrying lack of young people from previous generations to take the helm of the world. The global median age has increased from just over 20 years in 1970 to over 30 years in 2022. It is projected to increase from 31.4 years in 2020 to 36.6 years in 2050. The global population aged 65 and older is expected to double over the next three decades, reaching 1.6 billion in 2050. In Japan, for example, the percentage of people aged 65 and older is expected to increase to 40.5%, which is nearing half of its population. Some countries with birth rates below replacement levels are Japan, with 1.37 children per woman; America, with 1.6 children per woman; South Korea, with 0.84 children per woman; Germany, with 1.61 children per woman; Canada, with 1.48 children per woman, and more. Many of these countries are major contributors to the global economy, but how long will that last if their populations keep aging and decreasing?

When I go to work or anywhere outside, I rarely see kids running around, roughhousing and playing, or young people in general. Most companies are filled with old people, while most young people go off to college and get into debt. The average age of people in corporations in America is 44 years old. Just look at our supposed representatives. The average senator is around 63, the average congressman is 57 and the average governor is over 60. 

As a whole, society just feels so stagnant, decaying and not vibrant. There’s no feeling of youthful rebelliousness, curiosity, creativity, innovation and freshness. There’s hardly anything new, exciting or unique being done that isn’t based on what was already done years before. Even a lot of new music and TV nowadays is inspired by the past, such as the ‘80s period showcased in “Stranger Things” and the early 2000s pop emulated by Britney Spears. The shows and books released nowadays seem soulless and mass-produced, and none of them are awing or groundbreaking. Everywhere I look in the U.S., people are old, aging and not having kids. There are not as many young, energetic people as there used to be. This has caused less economic, real estate and societal growth. Less new ideas, less businesses, less family homes, less life. The world is still here, but it feels like, deep down, it’s lacking something. As if something is off, something is wrong — be it progress, change, beauty or the freshness of new generations. Every major industry in the U.S. has started slowing down in growth and inventiveness. 

New generations represent the future, and a world without human consciousness might as well not exist. There’s a philosophical question that asks, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The same goes for our universe. Does our planet even exist if there is no higher consciousness around to perceive it? Does a lifeless planet even matter at all? Without humans, there is no point to life. Technology can’t give meaning to life, individual cells and organisms can’t give meaning to life- only a cohesive, intelligent being can have true meaning. Humans produce, humans create, humans think, and more humans is always a good thing.