It happened in Europe and in developed countries around the world.
And now, all indications suggest South Africa is following suit as the country’s fertility rate continues to drop.
Projections from new research for the SA Institute of Race Relations’ SA Survey ar ethat the country’s fertility rate will drop by 2040.
It is projected the country’s fertility rate will fall below the replacement rate of 2.1 – the number of children a woman needs to have to maintain current population levels – by 2035.
Interestingly, the white and Indian populations have already fallen below the replacement rate, but their fertility rate is expected to increase slightly while the coloured population will fall below the replacement rate in 2015.
Black people are expected to fall below the replacement rate in 2035.
Year-on-year population growth is expected to decline from 0.6 percent in 2010 to -0.1 percent in 2040.
Data for the research was sourced from Stats SA and the Institute for Futures Research, and the survey is scheduled to be released next week.
SA’s fertility rate has been on the decline for the past six decades, dropping from an average of six to seven children per woman in the 1950s to four to five children per woman in the 1980s, further declining to three in the mid-90s to the current rate of 2.5 births per woman.
Pali Lehohla, the statistician-general of Stats SA, said the spread of education and literacy among women had changed reproductive behaviour, with more women having money and access to various forms of contraceptives.
Women are generally more career-driven now, opting to have children at a later stage in life, meaning smaller families or no children at all.
The exorbitant cost of raising children these days, urbanisation and the rise in the cost of living in general has also contributed to the decline.
SA Institute of Race Relations researcher Thuthukani Ndebele said the declining fertility rate, coupled with reduced mortality rates and increased life expectancy, could have far-reaching implications for the economy, the healthcare system and the country’s workforce.
“The resultant shrinking workforce within an ageing population may have harmful economic consequences in the long term, notably an increasing burden of dependency on the economically active population.
“The country’s social welfare system will also be stretched,” he said.
Ndebele added that it need not necessarily be a bad thing as long as planning for the change was done in advance.
Economist Mike Schussler said the government needed to start planning early for a slowing population, including shifting its spending focus away from education and spending more on the growing proportion of the population – the elderly. - The Star