Population and Economics

Modern economies promote continuous growth – a concept that is coming under increasing criticism from the environmental movement. The idea that we can have endless growth ignores the fact that our planet and its natural resources are finite.

To fuel constant economic growth, we need ever more consumers. Therefore, many governments employ ‘pro-natalist’ policies which aim to boost birth rates.

Developed countries that have achieved low fertility rates undergo population ageing, which is when the proportion of older people increases due to decreasing births and increasing longevity. Many economists and politicians fear population ageing because of its potential dampening effect on economic growth. However, these fears are often overblown and ignore the tremendous benefits of reduced population growth.

Learn more about population ageing here.

See our latest news stories and blog posts about economics below.

27 March 2020

Study: preference for small families is 'contagious'

As highly social creatures, much of what we say and do is influenced by the people close to us. A new paper examines this effect on family size and consumption behaviour and concludes that smaller families and sustainable lifestyles could be achieved by facilitating the evolution of social norms.

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Shipping
17 February 2020

The ‘blue acceleration’: ocean plunder in the Anthropocene

A new study highlights the rapidly increasing pressure on the world’s oceans as a result of human population growth and burgeoning demand for resources.

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Contraceptives
4 February 2020

Which European countries spend the most on global family planning?

A new report shows that Europe spent a total of 845 million Euros on global sexual and reproductive health and family planning in 2018 – an overall increase of 5% compared to 2017. Most countries either increased or maintained their funding levels, yet major shortfalls and political barriers remain.

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Old couple riding bikes
19 November 2019

70 is the new 65: a new way of looking at population ageing

A new analysis by the UK Office for National Statistics shows that estimating the number of life years remaining, rather than counting the years lived, could be a better way of measuring ageing and its implications for society.

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Older people
23 August 2019

UK population bigger and greyer

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, show that the UK's population is 66.4 million people, and that the proportion of people past retirement age continues to grow. Do these changes in the UK matter?

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fruit and veg
24 July 2019

Despite economic growth, billions won’t have enough fruit and veg by 2050

A new Lancet study analysing the gap between future fruit and vegetable supply and recommended consumption levels found that even under the most optimistic socioeconomic growth scenarios, there won’t be enough to go around by mid-century.

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Lion
4 July 2019

Human population density main driver of nature loss in Africa

A new study reveals that rapid human population growth is the biggest driver of environmental degradation in African countries, highlighting the urgent need for greater investment in family planning as a pathway to achieving biodiversity and sustainable development targets.

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crowd
17 June 2019

UN report: Small change in family size, big change in future population

According to new UN data, the world’s population is projected to grow by more than 3 billion people by the end of the century, increasing from the current 7.7 bn to 10.9 bn. As in previous years, the data show that small changes in family size translate into a difference of several billion people by the end of the century – just half a child less per couple would see our population peak well before 2100.

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Oil palm
21 March 2019

Population and consumption causing extinction crisis and water shortage

The latest UN Global Resources Outlook report reveals that natural resource extraction and processing is responsible for 90% of water stress and biodiversity loss and is driven by the combination of rapid population and economic growth.

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May
1 March 2019

Crisis? What crisis? Government complacency on environment

The UK and Scottish Governments have responded to a letter from Population Matters with platitudes and complacency. In the case of the Scottish Government, their reply was sent eight months after we first contacted them.

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