2020 Nov 2
Sri Lanka’s population will fall to 10.45 million by the year 2100, that is, 80 years from now, according to new forecasts produced by leading research journal The Lancet. The projected figures represent a decline that is closer to one half of our total population at present.
The pioneering study by The Lancet predicts a peak in Sri Lanka’s population by 22.34 million eleven years from now – that is 2031. For perspective, Sri Lanka’s population presently stands at around 21.6 million according to figures from 2017. The same report showcases fertility rates (i.e. the average number of children that a woman gives birth to) at 1.80 as of 2017. However, this number is set to decrease to 1.46 by the year 2100.
Population growth is generally understood to be driven by three main factors; fertility, mortality and migration. Our World in Data identifies education as a key influential factor that determines both fertility and mortality rates. There is a strong link between higher education of mothers and lower mortality rates of their children. Improving access to education for women and girls has also been identified as an important element that has the potential to drastically reduce global fertility rates.
A decline in the population may come with potential benefits, especially for the global environment. Fewer people, between now and 2100, would mean lower carbon emissions and reduced stress on global food systems. However, the report warns that climate change and environmental degradation would still carry serious consequences in the intervening years unless effective action is taken to prevent and mitigate this weighty concern. The trends relating to these populations decline forecasts would also matter. For example, if there are lesser people between the ages of 15 and 64 years, a reduction in innovation in economies and fewer workers may decrease the number of domestic markets for consumer goods.
The global population is also likely to peak before the end of this century after which it would decline. Given these predictions, it is important for Sri Lanka to remain on top of her game in exercising preparedness and taking the necessary steps to meet potential economic, fiscal and geopolitical challenges that are associated with such a decline. If a drop in the working-age population is seen as a potential challenge for certain countries, recommendations are: increasing labour force participation, especially by increasing education and employment opportunities for women, who are often an untapped resource in most countries. Additionally, liberal immigration policies and social policies that are compatible with women’s empowerment and meaningful participation in the labour force are two suggested ways forward in sustaining populations.
Needless to say, decisions taken by countries at present would certainly determine future trajectories and patterns relating to fertility, mortality and migration.
Sources: The Lancet: thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(20)306772/fulltext#seccestitle210
Our World in Data: https://ourworldindata.org/peak-child