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a briefing document

New translation, the Magna Carta

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Population is part of a series of briefing documents on housing and making living systems ecological.
This grouping is contained within a set of documents on global concerns at abelard.org.
population tragedy of the commons land conservation and food production On housing and making living systems ecological
sustainable manufacture GDP and other quality of life measurements ecologically collapsing and retrenching civilisations: written sources global warming briefing documents
pressure on water resources power, ownership and freedom energy briefing documents


“population dearth”
shrinking workforce pool and aging western populations
a sustainable world population
a reasonable standard of living

end notes

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“population dearth”

“Across the globe, people are having fewer and fewer children. Fertility rates have dropped by half since 1972, from six children per woman to 2.9. And demographers say they're still falling, faster than ever. The world's population will continue to grow from today's 6.4 billion to around 9 billion in 2050. But after that, it will go sharply into decline. Indeed, a phenomenon that we're destined to learn much more about depopulation has already begun in a number of countries.”

However, births per woman vary greatly, depending on where the woman lives (Note that two children per woman is necessary to replace an existing population) :

country average no. of children per woman [estimated as at 2007]
source: full list obtainable at
CIA Factbook [Total fertility rate]

“[...] it takes a T.F.R. [total fertility rate] of 2.1 or 2.2 to replace each generation — this number is called the replacement rate — because some children will die before they grow up to have their own two children. In countries with low life expectancies, the replacement rate is even higher (2.3–3).” [Kimball]

It is all very well to go on about world population declining , but meanwhile poverty continues, while resources are limited and the world is probably over-populated. Thus worrying about such a decline in world population is not pointed.

“If you heard the recent reports that the world's population growth has slowed, don't breathe a sigh of relief just yet. The number of people on the planet is still rising rapidly - and in the places that can least support the growth.”

“The Population Reference Bureau forecasts that much of humanity's future growth will occur in its poorest areas. Today, 5.2 billion people, 80 percent of the global population, live in less-developed countries.[1] By 2050, those countries will be home to 8 billion people, with little prospect for improvement in basic living conditions for most of them.”

“At the other end of the spectrum, industrialized nations are on the brink of controlling population growth too well. The coming pressure from American baby boomers on Social Security and Medicare is nothing compared to the problems Japan and some European countries are having with too few young workers to contribute to the needs of an aging population.” [from KRT Wire]

return to the index on the population briefing document at abelard.org

shrinking workforce pool and aging western populations

To cope with a smaller work-force pool resulting a decreasing population, concerned regions can use incentives for child production, similar to those of Singapore. Better to reward more capable parents than to give bonuses to young uneducated girls, paid for with money taken from from the more able who are then unable to afford to raise children of their own.

There are also concerns that an aging population will not be able to maintain a reasonable standard of living as the proportion of young workers falls. This is a nonsense because the healthy life-span is steadily extending with improved health education and health care, while productivity is also improving. People are capable and, for the most part, are willing to work well beyond arbitrary retirement age. Further, increased productivity, together with increasing automation, mean that more work can be done with less people.

related document
Power, ownership and freedomreturn to the index on the population briefing document at abelard.org

a sustainable world population

There are concerns that the world’s population is growing too large for the planet to sustain. Discussion of world energy resources can be found in the suite of energy briefing documents.return to the index on the population briefing document at abelard.org

a reasonable standard of living

It is reckoned that individual ‘happiness’ increases until an annual income of approximately US$13,000 is reached [as at 2003], whence basic needs are met. I am defining “an annual income of approximately US$13,000” as a reasonable standard of living.

At such an income level, ‘happiness’ then remains stable, even though the income level becomes higher. (For a simple outline, see this PDF document.)

According to statistics from Nationmaster.com, there are 36 countries which reach an average PPP level of at least $13,000 per individual [2003].
They are (in order from highest PPP down) :
Luxembourg, United States of America, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Japan, Canada, Austria, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Finland, Sweden, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Israel, Cyprus, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Spain, Slovenia, The Bahamas, Portugal, South Korea, Malta, Greece, Bahrain, Barbados, Kuwait, Czech Republic, Equatorial Guinea.
Their total population was about 1, 484,972,000 in July 2003. This is 24% of the world’s population.

The population of the world was 6,300,000,000 in December 2003; in mid-2004 it was 6,396,000,000.

Obviously there are both very rich and rather poor people in most countries, and the PPP level given above can only provide an approximate idea of the proportion of people in the world living at this “reasonable” standard of living.

Related further documents
land conservation and food production GDP and other quality of life measurements
sustainable manufacture power, ownership and freedom
tragedy of the commons energy briefing documents
ecologically collapsing and retrenching civilisations: written sources


CIA Factbook
Nationmaster statistics
Population Reference Bureau, 2004 World Population Data shee

end notes

  1. Using the United Nations (limited) definition of more and less developed countries:
    “More developed regions [...] comprise all of Europe and North America, plus Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. All other regions and countries are classified as less developed.”

return to the index on the population briefing document at abelard.org

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