The coming population collapse — Part 2

Subhash Kak
6 min readApr 18, 2024
Photo by Anatoliy Shostak on Unsplash

(To read the first part, look here )

The data shows that the population growth is coming down in nearly all countries of the world. In 2023, China reported 9.02 million babies born, which is a new low on record and the seventh year in a row that the number has fallen. Even if 9 million babies were to be born each year for the next 80 years, the population of China at 2100 would be around 700 million.

Given that fertility rate is continuing to fall, and since the number of babies born will be a function of the dwindling size of the women cohort in the 15–45 year bracket, the population of China at the end of the century will most likely be half that number.

China shrinking from the current 1.4 billion people to say the extremely optimistic 700 million in 70 years is extraordinary. It is like a pandemic that strikes only the young, wiping out half the population. Such a decrease has never occurred in history.

This reduction will be greater proportionately than the Black Death or the plague which killed approximately 25 million in western Europe from 1347 to 1351 or about 50% of the population. And this reduction will not be limited to China. The rest of the world, including India, will also have sharply reduced population, although not decreased by such a huge number of nearly a billion.

Meanwhile, the composition of the demographics has changed tremendously in the post-World War2 era in Europe and North America. For example, the white population is declining in the US, and had its population since 1950 grown at the same rate as Pakistan, it would now have almost a billion people. Writing in 2009, Thayer presented the changing demographic equations thus: “According to the United Nations Population Division, in the 45–60 age bracket, the USA and the UK now have a four-to-one advantage over Afghanistan and Pakistan. But in the 0–14 age bracket (those who will reach military age in 2020 and after), the 36 million boys in the UK and USA are outnumbered by the by 38 million boys in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

The strategy adopted by Western countries to offset the decline of the white population by migrants from other countries may appear to be an excellent strategy for preserving global power compared to, say, Russia which is already losing about 700,000 people a year. But if the West cannot assimilate the migrants, as appears to be the case especially in Europe, it would have traded one problem with a worse one that will eventually lead to domestic unrest.

Now let us consider one of the larger countries of Europe. The population of Poland in 2022 was 36.82 million people. Its annual live births have gone down from 793,800 in 1955 to 272,000 in 2023, and it is on a downward trajectory. So, if 272,000 births were to take place each year for the next 80 years, the population of Poland in 2100 will be 21.76 million.

We propose that due to the smaller cohorts of women of childbearing age as the population grinds down and due to the decreasing fertility rate, the population will be close to half of the above figure, or 10.8 million, which is less than one third of the current population. The last Poland’s population was this low was in 1832.

The population shifts over the course of the 21st century will have profound geopolitical implications. Some hope that the world may see a peace out of the desire to not squander the youth. But wars are not the product of rational thinking for the good of all, even if the young will be most precious resource in an aging population. Rapid population change influences the balance of power among states that will contribute to war.

Furthermore, since the population decline will be widely nonuniform across the globe, it will set off historical migrations that will create extraordinary pressures that most likely will be beyond the capacity of the current socio-political order to absorb.

Analysis of historical data indicates that sudden increase in population is often correlated with domestic unrest and civil war, whereas decline in population is correlated with war between smaller states. If the population decline is not properly managed, there will be serious economic costs.

Collective mind

The overall demographic trends are largely irreversible because they are driven not only by social or economic reasons, but also by more insidious psychological changes arising out of AI, social media, and the breakdown of the family. These factors are weighing on peoples’ minds, which points to even more drastic fertility decrease and corresponding population decline than the one forecast by demographers.

There exists a collective mind, that we can see also in the biological sphere as in an ant colony. If the soldier ants are removed from the colony, the queen will produce more of them. Some animals kill their newborns for the ecosystem cannot support larger population.

Likewise, since the world will need fewer workers for physical and mental work, the world will produce fewer of them.

The push for identification beyond traditional gender roles may also be coming from the collective mind via the subconscious, for now the traditional roles, essential for procreation of the succeeding generation, are not needed to the same degree.

The population decline in many of Europe’s countries over the next few decades will be catastrophic even in the most optimistic scenario (as the one below).

The populations of Spain, Poland, and Italy have begun to decline in recent years. As population decrease accelerates, millions of homes will be abandoned, whole regions will be emptied, schools and businesses will be shuttered.

Now consider states outside of EU. Ukraine’s population in 1992 was 52 million, and its current population is 36 million which is expected to drop to around 26 million by 2050. Paralleling this trend, the population of Russia in 1991 was 150 million, currently it is 143 million, and it is expected to fall to 112 million in 2050.

How will people adjust to a life of loneliness in a world with little job opportunities and no social support? What would they live for? If a large fraction of the population is childless, the emotional need to have houses will lessen, which will hit both banking and real estate markets.

The above map shows that China has minimal immigration, and so it will be spared conflict with migrants from other countries.

Migrants to EU, on the other hand, are from cultures that are non-European and inimical to its values.

This does not bode well for Europe.


Part 3 — The coming religious war in Europe and how it may be avoided

Part 4 — From prosperity to despair


Thayer, B.A. 2009. Considering population and war: a critical and neglected aspect of conflict studies. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci.364(1532), 3081–3092.