• Birthrates in Japan are falling faster than expected.
  • The pandemic and economic uncertainty have caused a decline in birthrates globally.
  • 300,000 babies are estimated to have not been born in the US as a result of the pandemic.

Economic uncertainty, migration restrictions and couples choosing to have smaller families are having a knock-on effect in the form of a global population decline.

Indeed, the birthrate in Japan is shrinking at a faster pace than previously predicted, according to estimates from The Asahi Shimbun.

Using the health ministry’s calculation formula and preliminary birth figures, the Asian newspaper has calculated that in 2021, birthrates in Japan declined to around 805,000 - a figure not expected until 2028.

Last year, the Japanese government announced that the number of births fell to 840,832 in 2020, a dip of 2.8% from the year before and the lowest since records began in 1899.

“The number of marriages was also sluggish compared with pre-pandemic years,” Takumi Fujinami, a senior chief analyst at Japan Research Institute Ltd, told The Asahi Shimbun.

“The number of births will continue to fall in the longer term” if more young people do not or cannot get married, said Fujinami.

COVID-19 and declining global birthrates

Japan is not the only country experiencing a reduction in births. In 2021, Taiwan, China, was found to have the lowest fertility rate in the world, with an estimated 1.07 children per woman.

At the beginning of the pandemic, jokes circulated that lockdowns would cause a baby boom, but global economic insecurity had the opposite effect on birthrates. The Brookings Institute estimates that 300,000 babies were not born in the US as a result.

Furthermore, in 2020 Australia reported its first population decline since World War I due to stricter COVID-19 related border controls.

coronavirus, health, COVID19, pandemic

What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications - a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

The report reveals that the economic impact of COVID-19 is dominating companies’ risks perceptions.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.

Last year saw China ease its strict family planning policies, with the government announcing that couples can now have three children instead of one due to falling birth rates.