Let's discuss the soaring birthrates in developing nations

This week’s featured article


Soaring birthrates in developing nations are fueling a global baby boom but women in dozens of richer countries aren’t producing enough children to maintain population levels there, according to figures released Friday.

A global overview of birth, death and disease rates evaluating thousands of data sets on a country-by-country basis also found that heart disease is now the single leading cause of death worldwide.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), set up at the University of Washington by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used more than 8,000 data sources — more than 600 of them new — to compile one of the most detailed looks at global public health.

It found that while the world’s population skyrocketed from 2.6 billion in 1950 to 7.6 billion last year, that growth was deeply uneven according to region and income.

Ninety-one nations, mainly in Europe and North and South America, weren’t producing enough children to sustain their current populations, according to the IHME study.

But in Africa and Asia fertility rates continued to grow, with the average woman in Niger giving birth to seven children during her lifetime.

Ali Mokdad, professor of Health Metrics Sciences at IHME, told AFP that the single most important factor in determining population growth was education.

“It is down to socioeconomic factors but it’s a function of a woman’s education,” he said. “The more a woman is educated, she is spending more years in school, she is delaying her pregnancies and so will have fewer babies.”

The IHME found that Cyprus was the least fertile nation on Earth, with the average woman giving birth just once in her life.

By contrast, women in Mali, Chad and Afghanistan have on average more than six babies.

The United Nations predicts there will be more than 10 billion humans on the planet by the middle of the century, broadly in line with IHME’s projection.

This raises the question of how many people our world can support, known as Earth’s “carrying capacity.”

First published in The Japan Times on Nov. 11.

Warm up

One-minute chat about “birth.”


Collect words related to life, e.g., death, pregnancy, family.

New words

1) soar: to move upward, e.g., “The eagle soars high into the sky.”

2) fuel: to boost, e.g., “His criticism only fueled her desire to do better at work.”

2) skyrocket: to increase by a lot in a short time, e.g., “Sales of our new product skyrocketed in December.”

Guess the headline

91 nations can’t sustain p_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ levels, study finds; b_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ soaring in developing countries


1) Which country’s population is shrinking fastest, according to the IHME?

2) How many people are expected to live on Earth by mid-century?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think is the biggest problem Japan faces as its population shrinks?

2) Are there any benefits to having a shrinking population?




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