Negative population growth…good for the environment, bad for the economy?

Some people think the planet has surpassed its carrying capacity for humans while others believe the planet can handle more people thanks to our innovative ways to grow and provide food for everyone.  As a country progresses through the demographic transition model (DTM) the birth and death rates decline.  But what happens when a country reaches beyond stage 4 of the DTM?  Stage 5 of the DTM means a country is experiencing what some call a negative population growth.  Negative population growth can mean the country is experiencing a higher death rate than birth rate.  The higher death rate is due to a population which is growing older and older.  Examples of countries currently experiencing negative population growth are Japan, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and Greece.

Isn’t negative or zero population growth what we wanted?  Well…think about this.  How do we pay for services such as education, police, fire, medical, and other services?  The working population pays taxes which contribute to our infrastructure, pension systems, and health care systems.  An ageing population will certainly increase the pressure on our health care systems with a higher demand for doctors, nurses, and medical supplies.  Economic growth will decrease for a country which has less workers and more retirees.  Less workers means less people to purchase goods and services.

How would a country solve the problem of negative population growth?  Some countries have encouraged immigrants to choose their country to work and live.  Other strategies include incentives to have more children like additional monthly pay for the family and paid maternity/paternity leave.

There is no simple solution to human population growth rate.  Solutions come with consequences. 

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