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Luisa Vieira

Will Japan grow its population before it's too late?

What if a hypothetical government, overtaxed by an aging, shrinking population, decided to ask its seniors to make the ultimate national sacrifice to voluntarily die?

That’s the premise of "Plan 75," a 2022 indie film that predicts a grim dystopian and not-too-distant future for a fictional Japan, where the elderly are offered compensation to submit to euthanasia and avoid being a burden to society when they turn 75.

Sure, it’s just a movie, but nowhere is more at risk of a demographic implosion than Japan. With a median age of 49, it’s the world's oldest country, and 28% of people are 65+. The nation of 125 million — whose annual births dropped below 800,000 for the first time in 2022, eight years earlier than forecasted — is expected to lose almost one-third of its population by 2060.

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Graph showing global fertility rates and life expectancies.

Ari Winkleman

The Graphic Truth: Who's making enough babies?

Japan isn’t the only country worried about the social and economic impacts of its shrinking population. Many countries across East Asia and Europe have been grappling with similar demographic trends in recent years, with some countries, like Hungary, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at women to encourage more procreation. Conversely, Africa is home to the top 14 countries with the highest fertility rates in the world. However, poor healthcare access and conflict mean that the average baby born in Africa will live far fewer years than their European and East Asian counterparts. We take a look at countries with the highest and lowest fertility rates and their respective life expectancies.

Paige Fusco

The Graphic Truth: 8 billion, but nowhere near equal

The world's population hit 8 billion on Tuesday, according to UN projections. So, why should you care about this particular milestone? For one thing, population growth is slowing down, which means it'll take longer to reach 9 billion. That’s mainly a result of declining birth rates in Europe and East Asia. For another, 8 billion humans are now competing for increasingly scarce resources and territory in a planet already suffering the effects of climate change. Meanwhile, countries in sub-Saharan Africa are still having babies like there's no tomorrow — precisely where people have the least access to basic stuff like food, electricity, the internet, or water.

This was featured in Signal, the daily politics newsletter of GZERO Media. For smart coverage of global affairs that normal people can understand, subscribe here.

Paige Fusco

The Graphic Truth: Where populations are rising ... or falling

The world is currently 8 billion people strong – and is expected to hit almost 10 billion by 2050. That's well into the future, but for the next three years, the UN actually predicts annual population growth will be just under 1%, with vast disparity among regions. Where are populations growing the most and least, and even declining? We take a look at short-term growth trends ahead of World Population Day on July 11.

Hard Numbers: Chinese birth rates dip, Hong Kong culls hamsters, Barbados’ snap vote, Colombian leaders targeted

7.52: Birth rates in China dropped to a record low 7.52 per 1,000 people in 2021, down from 10.41 in 2019. This comes as the Chinese Communist Party is trying very hard to boost birth rates to revive a slowing economy.

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Hard Numbers: The world's longest school closures, India's regional votes, Bulgaria’s shrinking population, Suu Kyi convicted again

4: Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader and former democracy darling Aung San Suu Kyi has been given another four-year prison sentence (she’s already been sentenced on two other charges.) Suu Kyi was ousted in a military coup last February and faces a host of bogus charges – including violating COVID restrictions and possessing unauthorized walkie talkies –which combined could land her in prison for 100 years.
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Ari Winkleman

The Graphic Truth: Who fits in China?

China is the world's most populous country, with a whopping 1.4 billion people. In fact, many individual Chinese provinces would rank among the most populous nations on Earth in their own right. The economic powerhouse of southeastern Guangdong, China's most populous province, is home to as many people as Ethiopia. Up north, Heilongjiang's population is roughly the same as Australia's. Even the island of Hainan, China's least populous province, is equal in population size to the Eastern European nation of Belarus. Here's a map of China, in which each province is tagged as a country with a similar population size.

China planning new policies to take on ageing population: State media

November 23, 2020 8:45 AM

China will offer extensive financial and policy support to encourage couples to have more children.

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