Recent figures revealed that, globally, women now have on average 2.4 children in their lifetime a measure known as total fertility rate (TFR). But while in some countries that figure is far higher – in Niger it is more than seven – in almost half of countries, including the UK, Russia and Japan, it has fallen to below two.
Sarah Harper, former director of the Royal Institution and an expert on
population change, working at the University of Oxford, said that far
from igniting alarm and panic falling total fertility rates were to be
embraced, and countries should not worry if their population is not
growing. She warned that the focus on boosting populations was outdated
and potentially bad for women. Empowering women might do more to change a
country’s total fertility rate than pushing pro-natalism, said Harper,
although that would not necessarily cause a baby boom. “In those
societies that enable women to stay in the labour market and have
children, they will go from none or one child probably up to two per
And there was another solution: movement of people – something Harper
said had helped Europe and north America cope with ageing populations,
boosting economies since the second world war.
“Migration is that wonderful balancing act,” she added.