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EUR 23864 EN

Interested in European research?

Research*eu is our monthly magazine keeping you in touch with main developments (results, programmes,

events, etc.). It is available in English, French, German and Spanish. A free sample copy or free subscription can

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Directorate-General for Research Directorate L – Science, economy and society Unit L.2 – Research in the economic, social sciences and humanities - Prospective Contact: Elie Faroult European Commission Office SDME 07/30 B-1049 Brussels Tel. (32-2) 29-92556 Fax (32-2) 29-79608 E-mail: elie.faroult@ec.europa.eu


The world in 2005 Contributions from an expert group Edited by Elie Faroult Directorate-General for Research 2009 Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities EUR 23864 EN EUROPE DIRECT is a service to help you find answers to your questions about the European Union

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Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2009 ISBN 978-92-79-11482-3 DOI 10.2777/41493 © European Communities, 2009 Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.

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Jean-Michel BAER - Foreword........................................ 7 Gijs BEETS – The world in 2025: Demographic issues.................. 9 Lionel FONTAGNE – The world in 2025: Macroeconomics, Growth, Trade................................................ 27 Luc SOETE – Malthus’ Revenge

–  –  –

Foresight is a matter of building on sound qualitative and quantitative data on the past in order to elaborate creative and imaginative scenarios on possible future trends and events. We don't pretend that the imagined scenarios will necessarily occur exactly as predicted but hope, rather, that they will help to open a broad discussion on the basis of "what would happen if…". In this way, we hope that different stakeholders can exchange, communicate and even agree on their understanding of complex situations and, as a result, difficult decisions which would have to be taken.

DG Research's Directorate for Science, Economy and Society, in collaboration with the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA), launched a Foresight expert group on "The World in 2025" which met on five occasions in 2008 and 2009.

The objectives of this group were first to assess and measure global trends over recent decades, distinguishing the different major economies and regions, including the European Union, and the main economic, geopolitical, environmental and societal relationships and inter-connections, to serve as a basis for forward projections. Secondly, the group was asked to generate and analyse alternative (even disruptive) scenarios of world trends up to 2025, based on specified assumptions about economic, political, social, environmental and technological developments, in order to assess their consequences for the EU and to examine which policy responses could be appropriate.

"The World in 2025" group was composed of experts with a profound understanding of global challenges and developments, as well as a solid knowledge of foresight in specific countries or regions. The list of experts can be found at the end of this publication. Each expert produced an individual contribution to the discussions and, collectively, they generated a set of indicative scenarios for the world in 2025.

The experts covered a wide range of issues, including demography, migration, urbanisation, cohesion, macro-economics and trade, employment, services, environment and climate change, energy, access to resources, education, research, technology, innovation, economic governance, defence, security and intercultural dialogue.

The key messages summarised at the end of this document concern the main challenges to be faced in the next fifteen years, the main drivers that could impact on the future, the main strengths and weaknesses of Europe by 2025 and finally the wildcards that may radically change the different situations that are foreseen.

The stimulating contributions and discussions of this expert group have paved the way for a broad debate at European and world level. This prospective analysis helps us to understand, anticipate, and better shape future policy and strategy developments in the European Union.

–  –  –

Gijs Beets Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) POBox 11650, 2502 AR The Hague beets@nidi.nl World population size World population size currently stands at 6.5 billion, will continue to grow but is expected to stabilise at about 10 billion in the next century (UN 2006 Medium variant1). Medium variants in earlier projections almost always indicated ongoing increases to higher levels into the far future (due to above replacement fertility), but more recent expectations make stabilisation appear at the horizon, as a result of the expected fall in fertility towards the replacement level.

Around 1950 a woman had on average 5.1 children, currently the average stands at half that number (2.5) expressing an enormous achievement. The UN expects a further fall towards the replacement level (2.1) by about 2040. However much uncertainty continues around these figures: a higher rate by mid-century is more likely than a lower. A recent report shows evidence on stagnation in the fall of fertility in Africa, the major region where fertility is still relatively high. If that were the case then world population size would increase further and could eventually stabilise at a higher level (Bongaarts 2008).

Around 1900 the world had 1.6 billion inhabitants, by 1950 2.5 billion. Between 1950 and 2000 world population size more than doubled. The population growth rate is now diminishing.

Fertility is the main driver of population sizes. If nothing had happened in the world fertility level since 1950 (while the mortality level had improved as it did) then world population size would have been over 10 billion today, and would exponentially continue to increase towards 18 billion by 2025 (towards 35 billion by 2050; and to (astonishing!) over 250 billion by 2150). No change in both the fertility and mortality levels from 1950 onwards would lead to 10 billion inhabitants by 2025 and 15 billion by 2050 (with also a continuing exponential growth rate afterwards).

The countries that we currently call the more developed world are inhabited by about 20% of the world population. Around 2025 this will have diminished to around 15%. It means that population increase will be mainly a matter of the less developed world. Europe’s2 share will diminish from currently 12% to around 9% by 2025. In 1950 Europe had 22%. Europe is the ‘big loser’, Africa the ‘big winner’.

If EU-27 is seen as one country then it currently has, with 496 million inhabitants, the third position in the row of most populated countries, after China (1331 million in 2007), India (1136) and before the USA (304). Other countries included in the current top-10 include Indonesia (228), Brazil (191), Pakistan (185), Bangladesh (147), Russian Federation (142), and Nigeria (137). Each of these countries is much larger than the single most populated EU Member State, which is Germany (83). By 2025 the world top-10 has not changed very much See: http://esa.un.org/unpp/index.asp?panel=1 Europe according to the UN definitions, i.e. including the complete Russian Federation.

but by 2050 India is at first position (1593), China second (1392) and the EU-27 still third and the only one with a population size ‘over the top’ (515) which is expected to be reached around 2040 (520). USA (395), Pakistan (305), Indonesia (285), Nigeria (258), Brazil (254), Bangladesh (243) and Congo-Zaire (177) complete the 2050 top-10. No single European country is located in the top-10 then. Specifically the enormous population increase in Nigeria, Bangladesh and Pakistan is noteworthy, to a lesser extent also the increase in India and Brazil. The USA is expected to have a higher population increase than Indonesia.

The population of China will level off by 2040, mainly due to the one-child policy that was introduced in 1978. If no change had occurred in the Chinese fertility rates from 1978 onwards then China would currently have had some 500 million more inhabitants, i.e. about

1.8 billion.

Maybe more important than the sheer numbers of population will be their behaviour. If from tomorrow onwards all world citizens would behave like the American population with by far the largest per capita energy and food/water consumption patterns in the world these commodities would become scarce immediately and most likely create a severe world crisis with exploding costs of living. The poorest nations would be the main victims. Extending cheap energy, food and clean water supply therefore is a number one priority.

Number of children As indicated the world fertility decline (from an average of 5.1 children per woman around 1950 towards 2.5 currently) mirrors what enormous achievement has taken place. Of course the introduction of modern contraceptives like the hormonal pill made it possible, but why do western people nowadays want to have small families? There probably is no single explanatory variable. However, education likely belongs to the set of most important reasons.

Education, together with welfare and development turns out to be a very good contraceptive recipe: unwanted childbearing diminishes, children are born later in life, spacing becomes easier, and the lower final number of children gives more opportunities towards having an economic career.

More so than men’s education, women’s education is a driver for the number of children. The lower educated used to have much larger families than the higher educated. Per educational level recent evidence shows that this is still the case, even in western societies, but variation has decreased considerable, also because families have become rather small in general.

However, if one looks to the number of children per mother the variation in number of children is almost absent: currently the higher educated are more often childless, but on the other end if they have children they have slightly larger families.

In the more developed world the number of children dropped from about 2.8 around 1950 towards 1.6 currently, i.e. below the so called replacement level; in the less developed world the decrease went from 6.2 to 2.9 in the same period. However the least developed world (mainly sub-Saharan Africa) saw the number of children only decrease from 6.6 to 5.0. Of all continents the European fertility rate is currently the lowest, and in the ‘old’ EU (EU-15) it is higher than in the new Member States. The ‘low fertility virus’ is spreading quickly to increasingly more countries, also outside Europe. According to the second demographic transition (SDT) theory (Lesthaeghe & Van de Kaa 1986) it is associated with societal developments that stress the importance of ideational changes in bringing about certain (macro) demographic behaviours such as single living, pre- and post-marital cohabitation, delayed fertility, high prevalence of non-marital fertility and high rates of union disruption.

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