The five European leaders, who have gathered only to discuss population issues, is a shot that is rarely caught. The Demographic Summit in Budapest, Hungary, which ended on September 24, provided such an opportunity. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Head of the Autonomous Republic of Srpska Milorad Dodik, Czech Prime Ministers Andrei Babiš, Slovenian Prime Ministers Janez Jansa and host of the meeting Viktor Orban spoke together to declare a demographic emergency in the Old World.
Their general concern is consistent with UN data: all EU countries, without exception, have been experiencing a natural decline of the indigenous population for many years. But not the whole world is aging – in most of Africa and in several Asian countries, the number of inhabitants is not only growing, but it is quite capable of increasing several times by the end of the 21st century. There is a gap that leaves room for multi-million dollar migrations, for which nowhere else in the world is ready. Countries with a population of less than 10 million people – especially: there they are considered a threat to national identity and respond by all means they can find.
The forecasts presented by UN experts really leave little room for optimism, especially if we take into account the difference in demographic potentials. According to these data, by 2100, the population of Eastern Europe under a moderate scenario could decline by 25% , and in a negative scenario – up to 40%. In southern Europe, the situation is even more dangerous: nothing can prevent falls of up to 50%. Despite this, humanity as a whole will not notice the changes: it will continue to grow – up to 11 billion by the beginning of the next century.
In the small state of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) (population 3.5 million), this development creates a sense of impending disaster. “Who will live in Europe 50 years from now? Will it be Europeans?” – summed up the tension in one issue, the head of the Republika Srpska in BiH Milorad Dodik. The politician starts from the facts t-hat indicate a rapidly ap-proaching decline: the lowest birth rate in Europe ( 1.2 children per woman in Bi-H), the departure of young people to the European Un-ion and their replacement by immigrants from the M-iddle East. “I live in the region just 4.5 hours from Budapest,” Dodik said at the Budapest meeting. “Do-es anyone think this is far from Europe? No, close,” he raises the stakes .
The speech of the host of the summit, Viktor Orban, opened the veil over the disputes about demography that are taking place in Europe behind closed doors: “Western civilization cannot support itself, but it does not even occur to some that this is a problem at all. Some believe that robotization will allow to cope with all the difficulties, while others are going to resettle migrants in order to make them a new working class in Europe, “explains Orban. The variant of demographic exchange, in which the aging Old World will still accept part of the population from abroad, from Orban’s point of view, is unacceptable. “It is impossible to simply take and change the identity of a civilization that is a thousand years old,” – this is the point of view of the Hungarian prime minister.
African passion for childbirth
The difficulties plaguing the world’s poorest countries, and especially sub-Saharan Africa, are fundamentally different from those in Europe. “The population of our region will reach 3-4 billion by 2100, these are the UN data – the best demographers are behind them,” Rami Fassassi, a teacher at the Higher National School of Statistics and Applied Economics of the State of Côte d’Ivoire, told TASS .
This in itself is not encouraging. Although in the second half of the 20th century, a surplus of youth made it possible for China to make an economic breakthrough, today African countries cannot expect to repeat its success. The changed working conditions require much less muscular strength or endurance than before, but they provide for the mandatory literacy of workers. Only Asian countries fully meet this challenge: the situation in African countries is much worse.
Bernard Lugan, a historian and expert at the International Genocide Tribunal in Rwanda, in a conversation with TASS called African demography “suicidal”, since the states where the population is growing at an outstripping pace are predominantly located on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, whose natural resources are known for their scarcity. Overpopulation in countries such as Benin and Niger leads to obligatory internal conflicts and gives rise to the dream of resettlement in Europe as the only salvation. Ironically, investment in education only reinforces these expectations. So the Africanist Stephen Smith, quoted by French President Emmanuel Macron, once called investing in African schools a shot in the foot.
Smith developed and reviewed two main models of interaction between a demographically rising Africa and a shrinking Europe, both of which have proven discouraging. The first, which he calls “Eurafrica”, envisages a massive relocation of African immigrants to the EU. Regardless of whether they can find work in the local labor market, this population movement will mean an overstrain of the European social system, which (according to the laws on family reunification) will have to accept an increasing number of relatives of migrants from large families of different generations. Smith believes that the social security system will not stand up to this challenge, and is moving on to the second model: “the fortresses of Europe.” According to it, the migration flow will be blocked, possibly by the forces of buffer states.
Tsunami is coming
The former colonial power, France, has long made it clear that it is being hurt by rapid demographic changes in Africa. President Macron calls them unprecedented and tries to advise on what the Black Continent could do to reduce the out-of-control birth rate. The reason for their concern in Paris is set out quite clearly: “The future of African youth is not in the hope of becoming like Europe or America of the 1980s, not in leaving Africa,” Macron’s words sound like an appeal.
Bill Gates, one of the richest people in the world, is trying to soften the growing demographic wave. According to his calculations, in order to supply the growing population of Africa, the agriculture of the mainland must increase its efficiency at least fourfold. These calculations are in line with the upper bound of the UN forecast of the continent’s population growth from 1.3 billion inhabitants today to 4.28 billion people by 2100. According to this model, 40% of the world’s population will be African by the end of the century.
The thought of mass migration from such an Africa makes Gates draw a parallel with Syria. “This is not such a big country, Syria, but the exit from it has become a real test for the asylum system – but as far as Africa is concerned, this is an issue of a completely, completely different level,” he throws up his hands .
Not all demographers are convinced that population growth in Africa does not contain internal constraints, and many hope that they are either starting to work or are about to turn on. This does not mean that there will not be a migration wave towards Europe, but a decrease in the birth rate could correct its size.
“The rate of population growth in sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the engines of global population growth, but it has begun to decline,” Fassassi told TASS.
“There will never be 10 billion people in the world. The peak of humanity will happen between 8 billion and 9 billion in the middle of this century. Africa, of course, is a special case. Its population will continue to grow until the end of the century. But, like everywhere else in the world, African the birth rate has nevertheless begun to decline, but this process will require much more time, “Canadian political scientist and demographic researcher Darrell Bricker shared his opinion with TASS.
According to demographic optimists, in the foreseeable future, Africa can expect urbanization, which will gather the inhabitants of the Black Continent in the cramped spaces of large cities, making high birth rates impossible. But it is impossible to predict in advance whether this will happen and when exactly.
In 2021, the competition is between two estimates of the future population of the earth by 2100: one, more radical, from the UN (11 billion) and another, more modest, from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) (up to 9 billion). The authority of the previous successes is on the side of the UN. The experts of the organization predicted the passage of the level of 5 billion people by 1990 back in 1968 and were mistaken by only 2%.
Jack Goldstone, director of the Center for the Study of Social Change at George Mason University in Virginia, contacted for comment by TASS, supports the pessimists. “In reality, 11 billion is still even a conservative estimate. It is based on the fact that the decline in population growth rates, which we see in Europe, must necessarily occur in the Middle East and Africa. But there is no evidence of this. Therefore, instead of the” average “the UN forecast of 10.9 billion people by 2100 may also be realized with a radical scenario – 15.6 billion. Therefore, the real scientific forecast sounds like this: somewhere between 10 billion and 15 billion in 2100.
But it is worth considering: the size of the population itself is not the most important thing. Much more important is how people are distributed around the Earth. There is something to worry about. In the future, the populations of wealthy countries in Europe and Asia will become extremely old, reaching an average age of over 40. Residents of Africa, and partly of the Middle East and South Asia, will be mostly young, busy looking for work, education, and opportunities to emigrate. The number of both Christians and Muslims will increase, but Muslims – at a much faster pace. In Russia, Europe, Africa, India, China, Islamic minorities will gain numbers. By 2050, Islam may become the most widespread religion on the planet. And by this time, only one of the five major economies in the world will be “Christian” – American, the remaining places will be taken by China, Japan, India and Indonesia. At the same time, there is no doubt that for countries with a high birth rate, its decline is a direct path to economic development. There is literally no need to enforce a one-family-one-child policy; it is enough to take care of education and health care for women and the availability of contraception.
One might wonder how many people the planet can endure? The answer to it depends on what way of life these people choose for themselves. If, like in the Netherlands, where the population density is one of the highest on the planet, but resources are used wisely and carefully, and the population boasts a high educational level, then the planet is quite capable of enduring even tens of billions of people.
But if you live like in Southern California, where gas and oil are consumed too much, land and water are unproductively used, but plastic and other harmful and dangerous waste are produced on a huge scale, then perhaps there are already too many people now. There is no such enchanted threshold, which cannot be crossed, and beyond which – there are too many people for the Earth, everything depends on us, “Goldstone sums up.