10 Rich Nations With Surprising Fertility Rates

Stats on birth rates around the world reveal a dominant trend; lots of money means a lot less babies. This is known in social and economic theory as the ‘demographic-economic paradox’ – or, if you will, most people are too busy making and spending their money themselves to make time-and-money consuming babies. The ‘paradox’ part of this theory lies in the fact that greater wealth would – or, should – imply an ability to support more children more easily. According to evolutionary theory, our purpose is to procreate – and a bigger community is, in this traditional sense, a stronger community – so where there’s money there ought to be more child births per person. But the correlation is going the other way, showing us that there are notably less births in richer countries. There are numerous theories for this phenomenon, but the fact is that our industrialized societies don’t need a massive population to advance. The richest countries of the 21st century have advanced technology, streamlined time-saving utilities and comprehensive, efficient service industries that require comparatively few personnel to function. On the other side of the same counter-intuitive coin, poorer countries have reduced access to birth control or family planning education, and are dependent on power in numbers for manual labour.

For this reason, we’ve developed a perception of wealthy nations as having low birth rates and poor nations having very high birth rates. But there are nations going against that trend, reverting – it seems – to the traditional evolutionary pattern. What’s that about? We’ve selected ten of the top twenty richest in the world based on nominal GDP who are going against the grain, according to their recorded fertility rates. This provides a more up-to-the-moment picture of birthing trends than birth rates, so it’s an accurate measure of comparison. The lowest, average, and highest fertility rates worldwide are 0.79, 2.47, 7.03 respectively – a useful point of comparison.

We’ve excluded countries like China and India because – while they may have both high fertility rates and high GDPs – they’re relatively new to the industrialized world, and so they wouldn’t quite qualify for the standard paradox yet. We’re only looking at the truly surprising top 10. For that reason, France isn’t on the list either: Sure, a fertility rate of 2.08 for such a developed nation is high, but not in France… For obvious reasons!

10 – Japan (Fertility Rate: 1.39)

1.39 is a low birth rate in any country, so at face value this fits well into the typical demographic-economic paradox we’d expect, given that Japan has the third largest economy by nominal GDP in the world. What is surprising, though, is that this figure isn’t even lower. Japan is fast becoming one of the major world players in industry and technology, but it has only the 17th lowest birth rate in the world. Compared with two of Japan’s major economic competitors – South Korea, which has the 5th lowest infertility, and Singapore which has the 1st- Japan’s 1.39 is a little curious.

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