This essay is based on an article by Martin Walker entitled The World’s New Numbers in the Spring 2009 issue of The Wilson Quarterly. Every two years the United Nations produces new estimates of population trends for all countries. The author presumably based his article on the 2008 data base. If one is interested, one can find a widget here that will give you population history and projections for any country over any period of time.
Walker’s purpose is to highlight interesting trends and debunk common misperceptions arising from the misuse of demographic projections.
"These sharp reductions in fertility among Muslim immigrants reflect important cultural shifts, which include universal female education, rising living standards, the inculcation of local mores, and widespread availability of contraception. Broadly speaking, birthrates among immigrants tend to rise or fall to the local statistical norm within two generations."
"In some Muslim countries—Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Lebanon—fertility rates have already fallen to near-European levels. Algeria and Morocco, each with a fertility rate of 2.4, are both dropping fast toward such levels. Turkey is experiencing a similar trend."
"Revisions made in the 2008 version of the UN’s World Population Prospects Report make it clear that this decline is not simply a Middle Eastern phenomenon. The report suggests that in Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, the fertility rate for the years 2010–15 will drop to 2.02, a shade below replacement level. The same UN assessment sees declines in Bangladesh (to 2.2) and Malaysia (2.35) in the same period. By 2050, even Pakistan is expected to reach a replacement-level fertility rate."
"In Russia, the effects of declining fertility are amplified by a phenomenon so extreme that it has given rise to an ominous new term—hypermortality. As a result of the rampant spread of maladies such as HIV/AIDS and alcoholism and the deterioration of the Russian health care system, says a 2008 report by the UN Development Program, "mortality in Russia is 3–5 times higher for men and twice as high for women" than in other countries at a comparable stage of development. The report—which echoes earlier findings by demographers such as the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Murray Feshbach—predicts that within little more than a decade the working-age population will be shrinking by up to one million people annually. Russia is suffering a demographic decline on a scale that is normally associated with the effects of a major war."
"David Coleman, a demographer at Oxford University, has suggested that the EU’s work force could be increased by nearly a third if both sexes were to match Denmark’s participation rates. The EU itself has set a target participation rate of 70 percent for both sexes. Reaching this goal would significantly alleviate the fiscal challenge of maintaining Europe’s welfare system, which has been aptly described as "more of a labor-market challenge than a demographic crisis."