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The Guardian view on a demographic paradox: the rebirth of pronatalism | Editorial

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The global population reached 8 billion this week – but authoritarian governments are rolling back rights as they try to boost their populations

As the world marks the birth of its eight billionth inhabitant this week – three times the total in 1950 – the paradox is that many governments are worrying about too few citizens, not too many. About 60% of the global population live in places where fertility rates have dropped below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman, the point at which a country’s population would remain stable. In South Korea, which already had the world’s lowest rate, it fell to just 0.81 this year.

By 2050, populations will be declining in more than half of European countries; in five – Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine – they are projected to drop by more than 20%. China – soon to be overtaken by India as the most populous nation – saw a fifth consecutive fall last year to a new record low, with just 10.62 million births despite a population of 1.4 billion and a sustained push to persuade people to have more children. As experts warned when the party maintained its “one child” policy for more than three decades, it is easier to reduce births than increase them.

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