This video explores the global trend of decreasing birth rates and its potential existential threat. The speaker, who has studied this phenomenon for seven years, explains the "birth gap trap": a situation where the elderly population outnumbers the young, leading to societal and economic challenges.
This explores how countries, from South Korea to China, are facing low fertility rates and the implications of an aging population. Moreover, we discuss the reasons for increasing childlessness, from the challenges of balancing career and family life to not finding the right partner.
We also examine the societal pressure and financial constraints that discourage starting families. The video examines the impact of declining birth rates on economies and societies and argues for reengineering education and career paths to support work and family life.
Additionally, we closely examine Africa's situation as a continent poised for population growth and discuss its potential. Viewers are invited by the speaker to join the conversation on birth rate decline at birthgap.org and check out their documentary on the topic.
Join us on an enlightening journey as we explore the complex dynamics of population trends and their far-reaching impacts. Be sure to watch our best clips from the podcast and stay tuned for more insightful discussions!
Women turning 30 without a child. If you're a childless of 30, at most you've got a 50% chance of ever becoming a mother. And that's maximum. It's actually lower than that in most countries. I could not find anywhere any example. So it's a toss of a coin turning 30 without a child. How long have you been working on this project? Seven years this month. So seven years ago, I read a newspaper article about falling birth rates, falling populations in Europe. That scared me.
And to be honest with you, I read an article that the UK, or actually both from, I've lost my accent, you've kept yours, but I read that UK is going to become the most populous nation in Europe. And to me, I didn't believe this because Germany has at least 15, 20 million more people right now. You know, how's Germany going to lose so many people or how's UK going to possibly add so many people? And I dismissed it. And two, three weeks later, I thought, huh, if Germany has had this really low birth rate for like 40, 50 years, and because people are living longer, we haven't really noticed the fall off yet.
That could explain it. I looked at data and it was frightening because that's exactly what was happening, not just in Germany, but in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, so many nations across Europe. And the biggest confusion to me was why don't I know this? You know, I feel I'm someone who is aware of world issues. I was aware of population decline in Japan, a little bit Spain and Italy 20 years ago when youth unemployment was being blamed for low birth rates there. But when I saw how consistent it's been for such a long period of time, I wanted to dive in and find a book. I wanted to find some explanation.
There's books about it, but they all focus on local issues. Here's what's happening in Japan. Here's the problem in Italy. Here's the problem in Germany. And that just did not make sense to me. For me, there had to be some kind of global trend happening. And I needed to find out for my own sanity as much as everything else, why this was going on. I get the sense that this is the most dangerous of the existential risks. And the reason that I think population collapse is the most dangerous is it doesn't galvanize anybody into action. There's no smoke in the sky. There's no incoming asteroids.
There's no movies about Arnold Schwarzenegger coming down naked from the ceiling and crashing through your house. This is the kind of existential risk that creeps up on you year by year, generation by generation, nobody sees it coming. And when they do, it is too late. And we still have people and news articles and replies in comments where I and Jordan Peterson warn the entire world that this is something which is a concern from people saying, good, there are too many people on this planet in any case. And you can understand, frankly, a little bit naively, if you think there are too many people, this can sound like a good thing.
What I'd encourage anybody who does have that view is start to look at the implications of this. Start to look at what way this is going to impact all of our lives, young and old. And maybe it is good for some people, but we need to be prepared for these changes. And today, we're simply not. I agree with you completely. You know, of all the threats we face today, this is the scariest. And it's exactly as you say, this is a background problem. This is something we read in the newspaper once or twice a year.
It becomes a little, these days it's becoming more topical year by year, which is a good thing. I think people are starting to galvanize, but it's still a background problem. And to your point, absolutely. This problem takes about 40, 50 years to really take effect. And at that point, if somehow magically the birth rate went back to replacement level, send Japan where I am right now, if that were to happen, it would still take 30, 40, 50 years for Japan to re-stabilize itself. And that's because of the age balance issue where you have so many old people and you've lost the young generation who are also the generation who would become parents.
So even if they start having to, you still have this large number of older people to take care of. That doesn't disappear for a long period of time. So I call it, in my documentaries called Birth Gap, the gap in the ages between the number of old people to supporting young people. And I call this birth gap trap. Once you're in it to get out of it, you actually need to go through more pain of somehow encouraging people to consider if they want to have more children while still at the same time supporting old people. It's horrible.
Oh, so you're going to end up with this sort of hourglass shape to the demographic where you're going to have a bottleneck of competent adults. You're going to have a ton of young people and a ton of old people and you're going to squeeze very, very hard on that group of adults in the middle. Okay, so whatever happened to the population bomb? Because I remember that when I was growing up, that there was a thing that people were worried about the population bomb was going to happen. Yeah, I mean, it goes back to the book of exactly that title written by Polar Ehrlich, who still, you know, expounding his views that children are garbage.
I've heard him say that, that women shouldn't be allowed to have the number of children they want. It's a horrible perspective on humanity. The irony is that book came out late 1960s. And at that time, we already knew that birth rates were falling rapidly. The birth rate in the US, for example, reached replacement level around that time. So the reality that there was ever going to be a bomb really was somewhat a fantasy. Now, are there challenges environmentally from the increase in population that we've seen in that time? Yes, it's certainly true since that time. Of course, the population has increased, but we saw the rate was slowing rapidly everywhere.
And population is a wonderful thing because you can see, relatively speaking, so far into the future. Other things we can't possibly know. What's the interest rate going to be in 2050? We don't know. What are mortgage rates going to be like? What are job opportunities? We just simply don't know those things. But for example, we have a pretty good idea the number of 80 year olds there will be in the year 2100 because they were born in 2020. They can't be any more than the people who are already born. And of course, things can happen the decades ahead, but with a pretty good idea about how people are surviving.
So with relative accuracy, we can actually project quite far into the future in terms of populations. And the population bomb era, people knew that the world's population was going to peak around 10 billion, give or take. And that's exactly what's happening. So yeah, the people today who think there's too many people, that's their view. But the reality is they should be celebrating because we're already at the peak effectively. We're already just coasting to the top of this roller coaster. And I really think people need to be looking at the other side. And most especially, I'll just finish on this point.
Most especially, we need to be looking at this at an individual country level. We're not all in the same roller coaster here. Or if we are, we're in different cars of a roller coaster. And Japan's up front with South Korea and Italy and Germany. The UK and France and the US are kind of a little bit farther back. And nations in sub-Saharan Africa are at the back of this roller coaster. But it's the same roller coaster that we're all on ultimately.
Just how bad is the birth rate in different countries? Well yeah, I mean, to me the scariest, if I have to call it one country, would be South Korea, where we're down to around 0. 8. And to put that in context, we're talking of a situation where the number of children being born in South Korea at the moment will fall by half every 25 to 30 years. And that's the way to think of it. The birth rate numbers are not very helpful if we try and imagine the future impact. I mean, what's the difference between a fertility rate of 1. 9, 1. 8? They sound the same. They're not.
If we take a birth rate around 1. 9, the number of babies being born will fall by half every 900 years or so. It's effectively irrelevant. You go to 1. 8 and that goes down to around 250 years. And every notch you go down, it gets deeper and deeper and deeper in terms of how far down this curve you are. You've got to look at other regions, of course. Taiwan is similar to South Korea. Hong Kong, Singapore are very similar as well. Japan is a little higher, but because it's been going on so long here in Japan, the impact really is starting to notice right now.
And finally, to answer your question, China is probably, because of its size, the most scary in terms of what's about to happen there in terms of that age balance. Where I just don't know how China will cope with the number of old people they have to support there. Peter Zayan on this show said that he thinks China's population will be down to 650 million by the year 2050. How accurate do you think he is? I think he's in the ballpark. I think absolutely. What we're also unsure of is how accurate the numbers of China are. There's a lot of speculation. Massaging of the figures, I think. Yes.
And I don't know if that's right or wrong. But I mean, you just put yourself into a society that has had an enforced, I mean, one child policy. Not all families were having one child. It was more regional. Farmers were allowed to have two, for example. And there were certain rules that allowed people to have more. So the overall average was never one for China, but it was low. And it's been at a low point for a long time. And just to kind of emphasize what that means, first generation, you have a little bit less young people. Second generation, there's less young people in the first generation to have those children.
That's when it really becomes noticeable. And third generation is when it gets horrible because you really have so many old people to take care of. Well, everybody remembers from the pandemic, the R0 number, right? That when it's above one for every infection, there are more infections. When it's below one for every infection, there are fewer infections. And it's precisely the same way that it works when it's children. If there are fewer children, there are fewer children to have fewer children.
And if that trend doesn't get reversed, it is an ever more increasingly difficult hill to climb back up because you need mothers to have 10 children each because there are 10 times fewer children in there. Okay. So a lot of the people that are listening will be US, Canada, UK, Australia. How are they looking in terms of birth rate? I mean, all of those countries now are at a point where it's deeply concerning, deeply concerning. So we're talking numbers around 1. 6, 1. 7. Canada, I believe is 1. 5.
So I think there was a time up until seven, eight, nine years ago, when we were only looking at countries in Europe and Japan as the countries that had a problem. A counter argument for the US, which has some validity is immigration is higher there traditionally. So the US will be able to balance this a little bit. But still, the trend has started and it's really starting to gain traction. And let's not forget the US trades with the rest of the world. And if there's less people in the rest of the world, particularly the industrialized world that can buy products, this will affect everybody irrespective of what your local birth rate is.
Is anywhere suffering less badly? I beg your pardon. I'm sorry. Where are the places that have got the best birth rate? You know, you really have, it's surprising, you might think that you wouldn't have to go too far to find those, but you really do. You almost have to literally go to sub-Saharan Africa, and start looking at countries there. And of course, there's countries like Nigeria with birth rates still around five, but there's other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, like Ethiopia, like Malawi, that they're down to around four and are falling quite rapidly. People might assume that countries, perhaps Arabic speaking countries, Muslim majority countries would be countries that are higher. In some cases, that's right.
But in other cases, it's not. It's not something that can easily be explained by religion or by culture. The biggest factor is poverty. Taking people out of poverty means that they're less likely to have very large families, 10 children, 4 children, 6 children, just happens less often. But I would like to kind of just focus on one thing, if I may, about what the actual reason for this is. But this is the journey I went on. And today, we dwell on this overall average number of children per woman, you might call it total fertility rate. But it's an average.
And in my career as a data analyst, data scientist, as we call it now, you learn very quickly, the averages are nasty things to be avoided at all costs. And what I tried to do is find out, well, below these averages, you know, what are the underlying trends. And I don't believe it had been done before. I'm writing a paper on it right now. But it turns out, surprisingly, well, let me tell you this, in the 1980s, mid 80s, the average mother in the US was having 2. 5 children. Recently, it's 2. 6. It's gone up.
If you take around 30 industrialized countries that provide data to the UN to allow these family size numbers to be calculated, in the mid 80s, the overall average was 2. 4. Today, it's 2. 4. There is no difference for the number of children that mothers are having. And even to go further than that, in Japan, which is wonderful, there's so much detailed data going back decades here. In 1973, which is an important year, because really the low birth rate crisis started just right after 73. In 1973, 6% of mothers were having four more children. Today, that number is exactly the same. Today, 6% of mothers have four more children in Japan.
So what is it? What is causing it? We're only left with one thing, it's childlessness. So to take Japan, 1973, the average woman, I beg your pardon, to put it differently, 6% of women were childless. That rocketed in one year to 15%, to 21%, and within three to four years, was around 30%. There was a phenomenal overnight change. And the exact same thing was happening in Italy. And Germany doesn't provide the full data to go to this level of granularity, but on the surface level, we can see the same trend. There was an overnight change in childlessness. Mothers weren't having less children. Mothers today are not having less children.
So the issue really is not the birth rate issue, it's childlessness. And then you want to ask, well, okay, why are women more likely to be childless? And it's the same trend, by the way, in the US and the UK. It's childlessness that's driving this. Where numbers are trending towards 30%, 35%. In South Korea and Italy, it's 40% or more of women. And therefore, we suppose people overall, we measure women more than men. So that's why I quote, you know, numbers for women. Why is this happening? Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe women don't want their children. Maybe that's the answer. Maybe we have to accept that.
And that's the society we're now, you know, we set ourselves up for and we just accept the consequences. Well, it turns out from studies and from my documentary talking to people in 24 countries, it's pretty clear that the vast majority of people who do not have children, and I'm estimating 80% and it might be higher, had planned to have children. They had assumed there'd be a moment in time after education, after careers, when it would be the right time. But the right time never came.
And, you know, if you were to watch part two of the documentary, I almost suggest you don't watch it alone because there's some very emotional scenes with people in their 40s, men and women, who get deeply emotional about what went wrong in life, that they had planned to have children. And why is this so important? Well, you know, if we look at people who have, say, two children, they probably were thinking of two or three. People with three children, they're probably thinking of maybe two or three or four. People with five children, they were probably minded to have a large family.
So when we think of people with no children, it's easy to think that, well, they were probably thinking of none or one. They wanted a small family or none. Well, no, it's not true at all. These people were thinking of having two, three, four, five children, just like the rest. What didn't happen is they never had the first child. And that's the key thing here. After you have your first child, it's locked in. The percentage of people with one child who will then go on to have two, to have three, to have four. And those numbers are not changing at all.
So what we have here is what I'm calling an unplanned childlessness crisis. And we don't make plans, really. We don't tell our kids at school or college, here's how you're going to have to navigate life. Here's where the fertility window kind of ends for women. And here are the challenges for men as well. Men, I think, overestimate their ability when they're older to find a young woman who's able to have children. The competition pool gets very intense when you're an older person. You may think you're technically able to. You probably are as a man. But you're competing with 30-year-old guys for the attention of the same young woman.
We're not telling young people about what these challenges are to allow them to plan their life better than I think many are doing today. What are women's views on having children when you speak to them? Well, to be clear, I'm myself not supporting any form of encouragement for women who don't want children to have children. That's wrong. And I'll be the biggest supporter of anyone who says children are not for them. Neither of us are advocating for the handmaid's tale here. Yes, exactly. Now, my hypothesis from my interviews, from my research, is that it's pretty much innate as to whether you have the desire to have children or not.
Now, that desire can kick in quite late. We've interviewed people who were 30, 31 when suddenly the desire came about. But that's quite rare. Most women, I think, know quite early on, in their 20s, early 20s, if they are minded to have a family or not. And that can get a little bit fuzzy because there's a lot of discussions right now about the environment and would you want to be bringing a child into the world right now. But I think innately, and that is supported by studies, there's a Gallup study that's run every 10 or 15 years in the US, and they've been finding around 95% of people have this desire for children.
So when you ask, well, what do women want? I think we've got to treat women based on whether they would be in the group who don't want children, who plan to be childless, or those who don't.
And I'm not here to kind of persuade either group, but I'm here to say, do you know what? There are an insane number of people out there who are living lives without families who had actually wanted that to happen and who are scratching their heads, frankly, wondering why did that not happen? One of the problems that you come up against here is the inner citadel that people retreat into, right? The number of people that I online, both men and women who have struggled to find a partner, who have left it too late, and then who retreat from, I wanted to have children, left it too late and couldn't because I leaned into my party boy or boss bitch lifestyle, from that to, I never wanted to have kids in any case.
Bringing children into this world is bad for the environment, it's generally immoral because of how disgusting this place is, it's stopping me from going on holiday as much as I want, I care about my job, I care about my friends, I care about my partner, I care about my. . . That's the inner citadel that they retreat to and it makes it very difficult, it must make it very difficult as a researcher to get genuine responses from people.
Now credit to you that in your documentary you've got a lot of people to open up who have either struggled or passed the fertility window or are struggling right now to have children, to say I really wanted to have kids, I'm 43 and it's not happening, I'm with the man that I love or the woman that I love and we're not going to be able to have children, and that is an incredibly brave position to take because it's significantly easier to say, to come up with some excuse about how it's not your fault, about how it wasn't because you decided to wait, and sometimes people don't meet their partner until later in life, sometimes people aren't financially set up until later in life etc etc etc.
But for people to actually own that choice that they made to not have children is a brave position and I wonder how much of the data gets skewed by people that retreat into that inner citadel as a cope to justify why they didn't manage to make it work. Yeah, it's a great point.
I actually ended up traveling to 24 countries to make the documentary and part of the reason for that was to try and meet as many people from as many cultures and many ages and different circumstances as possible and you're absolutely right, there aren't many people you would meet, you usually meet them in their homes, chit chat for a little bit and then we'd do like a one-hour interview and it was usually towards the end of the interview when they were comfortable they would start to kind of tell you their true feelings on this issue.
I think another example is someone who saw an early screening, a lady who saw, you know, who doesn't have a child, she saw an early version of the documentary and she was initially quite almost offended by, you know, why are you talking about this subject matter and she called me afterwards and we had lunch and she told me that the weekend after she didn't open her curtains, she spent the entire weekend in her apartment coming to terms, remembering that she had wanted a child and then come Monday morning, she was done, she'd gone through that grief process that had been inside her for, you know, more than a decade, had accepted it and was moving on.
That's not a unique story and just to explain, it wasn't just data and interviews, there are many support groups online for people who are childless, not by choice, for men and women and there are vast support organizations out there and if there is anyone listening I'd encourage you to reach out to those. What's your recommendation for those? There's a lady called Jodi Day who runs a support group called Gateway Women and Jodi is an access point both to men's groups and to women's groups. There's also an organization called World Childless Week who are a support group for people who plan to have children. Those groups are incredibly helpful.
I've spent a lot of time interviewing them, getting to know them. The one term they use is grief and it sounds a big word but when you speak to people who had wanted children, who wanted a legacy, who wanted a future and all the things they cannot do, it really is grief and I think as a broader society, I think we need to understand, for example, a small point, it's a big point to people in this situation, people in work environments talking about their kids. You'll have co-workers talking about what they did the weekend with their kids.
For some people who have not been able to have children, that is a very difficult thing to hear and you hear stories of people having to go to the bathroom, go out of the office, just stay away while that conversation is being had. I don't think we shouldn't, I just think we need to be more sensitive that there are, I believe, up to 30% of adults who now are effectively living lives without children who would have planned to have them. Just to hammer that point home that you made earlier on, is it your view that, ish, about 80% of women are childless due to life circumstances? That's exactly my point.
There was a study done by Professor Rinske Keiser, which was a meta study, and that's the exact number he came up with. And it's kind of supported by other evidence out there. So Professor Keiser identified 10% of women who medically could never have had children. There was something fundamentally, sadly, that meant that they couldn't. Another 10% were women who'd chosen not to have children. And as Jodi Day says, there's a whopping 80% like her who always planned to have children, and through pure circumstances. The biggest circumstance being not having the right partner at the right time. And the right time meaning when you're in your fertility window. So yes, 80%.
When you say not having the right partner at the right time, you do mean not having the right partner early enough, right? Or perhaps I suppose you could potentially have the right partner too early, then sticking about for too long, and then you fall out of love. There is some evidence that I'm sure that you've seen from the evolutionary psychology literature. If you and a partner stay together for sometimes over five years, but between five and eight really seems to be a sweet spot, and a child hasn't come into this world, people can find themselves falling out of love with their partner for kind of no real reason, and they don't really know where it comes from.
The cute way that she used to sip her coffee on the morning actually drives you up the wall, or the fact that he always leaves the forks out on the dining room table, which he used to think was a little bit okay, now it's turning you inside out. What it seems like is that there is an evolutionary program that runs that says, if you're in a relationship, a committed relationship, with a partner that you're invested in, children should arrive at some point. If children don't arrive, because ancestrally no one would have been electing not to have children, there were no reliable forms of birth control, there is an incompatibility somewhere between us two.
It might be me, it might be you, but what I do know is that if we both split up, I have a better chance. There's a 50% chance that it could be you or me, and if we decide to split up. . . So people that have been in relationships that have said, I found the love of my life at 21 years old, but we're going to hang fire until we're 29, and then we'll decide to do it, and they get to 27, and they find, I thought that this was the one, and it's actually not. That is a psychological bias which everybody needs to learn about, and that's actually the one. . .
I would say the overwhelming majority would be people not finding the right partner early enough. However, there is the potential that people could find the right partner almost too early. You find it at 18, 19, 20, you stick about for a long time, and then this bias kicks in. So just to drill that home, 80% of women, and this is meta-studies replicated, pretty robust as far as it goes, are childless due to life circumstances, and the most common life circumstance is that they didn't have the right partner. What about having the right partner and waiting? So one side of this would be singleton-ness, I suppose, would be contributed to by being single.
Another element would be having a partner and then deciding to wait. Did you look at how that gets split up within that 80%? Well, for sure. There's a quote in my mind that might be from Julie Day again, that there's like 50 different ways to be childless. There's so many possibilities of what can happen in the circumstances of life. But my interpretation of it is this. Today, you may know that the majority of college students in the US, and actually most other countries, are women. So today, undergraduate students in the US, there's 9. 5 million female women and 6. 5 million men. It's 30% less.
And there was a study done on Tinder by, again, I think it was a Dutch university, Ghent University, I believe, that showed that women on Tinder effectively swipe right 91% more of the time if someone has a master's degree as a man compared to a bachelor's degree. So women want to match with someone at least as educated as they are. But yet the number of men through the education system. So this is one of the challenges. Women are looking and competing with each other for a pool of men that aren't really there anymore.
But as well as that, I think as a woman, and I'm conscious that I'm a man and I have a daughter, a mother, sisters, uncles, aunts, but I'm still, this is my perspective of what I'm looking at from a man. So apologies if that offends anybody. But my belief is that women going through education, you studied your 22, 23, you might have some college debt, you want to get started on the career path. You want to work for three, four, five years to get established because you know when you have your first child, things are going to change. And you've just studied for four years at college and you've got college debt.
So why are you even going to think about having a child or even being in a relationship necessarily that would be with the right partner to be a father of a child until you're getting close to around 30 when things seem to change. And one of the facts that came up across every country we looked at was that women turning 30 without a child, if you're a childless at 30, at most you've got a 50% chance of ever becoming a mother. And that's maximum. It's actually lower than that in most countries. I could not find anywhere any example. So it's a toss of a coin turning 30 without a child.
Now, we're in this situation maybe where you're into your early 30s and you're hearing about egg freezing, you're hearing about technologies that might make you think it's okay to delay things. Well, I interviewed five fertility doctors, including Kim Kardashian's fertility doctor in LA, fertility doctor in Tokyo. And they're all saying the same thing that we overestimate these technologies. We not only overestimate the chance egg freezing and IVF will work, we don't take into account that as women's bodies get older, the chance of not going full term gets higher and higher. So we get to the point, I think, early 30s as a woman, we're now thinking, well, I should look for the right partner.
But you might not meet that right person. It might take two years, three years to meet that right person. Now you're 35. And you know what you might find at age 35, he wasn't the person for you. And now you're 38. And this is a life story of so many people I met, so many women in their 30s. It's like, where did life go? I had to kind of follow this path. I had to pursue my dream, my education, my career. And I'm not one to, for a second, say that's wrong.
But I think we have to make people aware at a younger age that the challenges are probably going to be greater to maintain fertility to a point in the moment where you kind of are ready. And at the same time to have a partner, it's much more difficult than I think people estimate. Let's not forget ancestrally that most girls that made it to the age of 14 were pregnant by 15. And then by the time that they were 28, they were a grandmother because their 14 or 15 year old had had a child.
And I think, quite rightly, because we need laws to protect children who can't consent to anything or really understand or bring up a child in an effective way, what we have done is detach a sense of whatever is normal for having children. If you hear that a girl has a child at the age of 18, you think, wow, that's young. You go, that's past peak fertility. That's after peak fertility. So when you're talking, oh, let's double that age and start looking for a partner, it is no surprise that it's a challenge. And I mean, you are singing the mating crisis back to me here, right, which is my current pet obsession.
And I spoke to you before we got started that your work and how it relates in with what I'm currently working on, it is the downstream effect of this. And it is, there's three layers that I see to the mating crisis. So individual happiness, societal stability, and then civilizational collapse, right? Civilizational collapse, you've got sorted. Like we can take that black pill as far as we want. Like that's, you've written the book that would have been the appendix to whatever it is that I end up coming up with. And I'm very, very glad that it's been done. There is no layer of the current mating world that I think is making people happy.
I don't think that it is effective on an individual level. I don't think it's effective on a societal level in terms of stability. And I don't think it's effective in terms of global population. Moving on from that very positive point, what about men? We've spoken about women and their approaches to their views of children. It seems like most women on average wanted to have a family, struggled to find a partner, and then didn't. Women fundamentally are the gatekeepers to relationships and sex overall. The men are the protagonists and women, men are the supply and women are the demand, you could say in one way or another.
Did you look at men and their attitudes to having children? Yes, absolutely. And I find it more difficult to interview men and for men to open up talking about this. But I was very grateful to finding groups online, support groups for men, who allowed me to interview them to discover their support groups and to understand their feelings. I don't think there's any fundamental difference between the proportion of men and the proportion of women who have a desire to have children, nor indeed the grief impact of not having a child as a man. There's almost this feeling that you are not a man.
I want to say that, you know, as it's, I'm repeating what I've I'm repeating what I've sensed and what I've written in research as one of the reasons, I think men find it really hard, the idea that, you know, in future, they will not have something to pass on the legacy to give the children that they thought they would have. And I don't differentiate what is different about men. I think we falsely assume that because biologically, technically, biologically, we're able to have children, latent to life, that that means we don't have to worry at that younger age of the 30s. But it's back to the point that we're all competing.
You know, the most eligible men are competing amongst each other for the most eligible females in whatever way. I know it's your topic, whatever way that works out. But by definition, every year you get older as a man, you're less eligible, you might not like it. And unless you're, you know, a super wealthy person on Hollywood, whatever, you know, we see those extreme examples, they are there. But they're the exceptions. Just because Leonardo DiCaprio can continue to cycle his girlfriends out at the age of 25 doesn't necessarily mean that you can. Exactly right. And yet men, I think, aren't fully aware of that.
So I have seen it is a midlife crisis, a man in their early 40s, who suddenly discovered that dating isn't quite as easy as it was five years earlier, or that they're not dating the woman that they would have wanted to date, and starting to confront this potential reality that they may have left it too late too. So the dynamics are a little bit different, but the end result is the same. Go on. There's one point, I think, I nearly said it two or three times before, but it's a great analogy. It's not mine.
I was interviewing Megan McArdle, a Washington Post columnist who writes about this topic from time to time, and she gave a great analogy of grandmother's lamp. I don't know if you've come across this analogy, but the analogy is there's a young girl and she goes to her grandmother's house every weekend. And every weekend, the grandmother, they get their coats, and they go out and they go through every antique lamp store, every lamp store, trying to find a lamp. And the granddaughter says, grandma, why do we always go out finding a lamp? The rest of your house is perfect. Everything couldn't be nicer. And grandmother says, that's why I can't find a lamp.
It has to match with everything else in the house. And the analogy being to dating that, I think, as we delay things into our 30s and 40s to find that magic person, it gets harder because we've already built our lives. We already know where we want to live. We've got our kind of career. We've got our friend circles. We know whether we like to ski or go to the mountains in summer or to the beach. So we're trying to find someone who is that match. Doing that in your 20s is a lot easier earlier because you're helping to build and shape your lives together.
So to your point earlier, I do think if there's an answer to this, I do have some optimism that young people will solve this. I mean, I've seen conversations open amongst college age children, high school age children between themselves. And I think the answer will be to find a way for people to have children younger again, the way that happened in the past, but at the same time, attain career opportunities. And that's going to need some form of reengineering of society as we know it.
It's not an easy thing, but this challenge, we're going to have to find some way to solve it because otherwise it's going to be very painful for a lot of people around the world. Let me give you an exclusive insight into some of the research that I've been doing for my stuff. You may think that women who earn a lot more may readily accept their role as breadwinner and settle into a relationship with a man who earns less. However, research suggests that the more professionally successful a woman is, the stronger her preference for successful men.
In a study of financially successful newlywed women, researchers concluded that, quote, successful women place an even greater value than less successful women on mates who have professional degrees, high school status, high social status, and greater intelligence. This trend is also present in cross-cultural contexts. Separate studies of 1,670 Spanish, 288 Jordanian, 127 Serbian, and 1,851 English women all found that high resource women desired mates with greater status and more resources. In general, single women are three times as likely as men to say that they wouldn't consider a relationship with someone making less than them. And this trend is worsened the more professionally successful a woman is. And it doesn't surprise me at all.
It's what I see that women, I think it's a natural thing, do want to marry someone at least as successful as they are. And by definition, as women are getting more and more educated, more successful, which is great in itself, of course it is, the pool of eligible men gets smaller. It's what I call the tall girl problem. So if you are a girl who is six foot one without heels, you're stuck trying to date professional athletes. As you rise up through your own competence and dominance hierarchy, there is an ever-decreasing pool of men that you can be fundamentally attracted to. So I mean, why. . .
and someone made a really great comment on a post I put up about this recently, and they said, I have two daughters and I'm concerned about this problem, but also I want my daughters to get the absolute best that they can. Both of them are incredibly competent. And I replied and I said, if and when I hopefully do have a daughter, I absolutely would want the same. I would want the absolute best for her too.
Why should it be the case that a woman that commits herself to conscientious, industrious, hard work in both education and employment and manages to achieve everything that she's wanted professionally should settle for something that she doesn't feel is worthy of her in the mating market? Well, there's no reason for it, but there is this. . . that is the individual level. When you start to smear this out across a population level or a societal level, there's just not enough men in the pool for all of these high-performing women. And because of the mating preferences that are predisposed into both men and women, there's some challenges here.
So rolling the clock forward, we've looked at the individual motivations, which I really, really wanted to get out of you. One of the other most common reasons or justifications that I hear from people is, cost of living is too high. I can't bring a child into this world in any case. What role does that play? Well, this is an interesting one. You're right. It's the first comment that many, many people make. And in a sense, it's true. For these people and for their peer groups, for society, life is expensive today. But for me, you've got to stand back and say, well, wait a minute.
First of all, if we go back 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago, post-war time, people were much, much poorer than they are today. And we're still having families, actually quite large families. Is that adjusted for inflation and cost of living? Yes. Well, I mean, it's a general point. The general point is that if you look at poorer times, whether it's in the industrialized world or elsewhere, in the past, people were having larger families and were poorer, adjusted for inflation. So it can't just be about money. So you then say, well, what might it be? And I think it comes down to prioritization.
Because I think today people's priorities are first and foremost, well, you rent or buy a nice apartment, as much as you can, maybe a car, possibly two cars, a vacation. Well, why not two vacations? Maybe join the golf club, the tennis club. All the things that people want to do. All the things that society has programmed us to aspire to. And we aspire to it because our friends are doing it. It becomes the norm. So when you've done that and you've got those things, what capacity is there left financially, time-wise, to have a family? So I think it's the affordability question really is one about prioritization.
And I'm not saying that people should reprioritize unless they want to. But again, I think it's a message I'd like younger people to be hearing, under 25s who are still building their career in particular, who I would like to kind of forewarn that it may well be that all of your priorities leave you in this situation where the idea of having a family is too expensive. And that might be a fundamental reason not to. So finance, I think, is understandable. But because of the past, when people were poor, having large families, and because of all the other things these people have, all the commodities, that they somehow do manage to. . .
I think it's not a moot point, but it's not as simple as saying, oh, money's the problem. What about environmentalism? And of course, we get this a lot. And I do have concerns about the environment. My own view is that putting less pressure on the environment is a good thing. I think the future should be one that we aspire to, put as little pressure on the planet as possible. I'm not all doom and gloom, because I think we will cope with things, we'll work our way through it.
But in terms of population, childbirth, and the environment, I don't know if this is a good analogy or not, but I'm going to share it with you for the first time. I imagine that some world leader commissioned three experts to come up with a solution to the environmental problem. What's the most practical? And the first expert comes along with this crazy idea. The crazy idea is we're going to make the planet bigger. We need more space. We're going to figure out a way to kind of make it bigger. And the leader just rolls his eyes and said, well, that's not practical.
And the next person says, do you know what? We're going to tell people to have less children. And you look at the data, and that doesn't work either. I mean, the reality is populations have their own traction. So I put those two groups together. And the third person, which is where my mind is, says, do you know what? It's impractical to make the planet bigger. It's really impractical to tell people to have less children. It doesn't work. And even if it did, it takes about 30 years for people to become consumers. It's a really inefficient way of trying to tinker with environmental issues.
The third way is to say, do you know what? The planet society is, the population is going to be 10 billion. Like it or not, it is. That's locked in. Let's deal with those things. And let's look at consumption. Let's look at manufacturing. Let's look at technologies that can reduce our footprint in any sense. So anybody who thinks that lowering the birth rate is a magic, can I give you another number here? So I've seen more than one study that's estimating that the footprint of under 30-year-olds in industrialized countries is around 8%. Consumption really rockets between 30 and 65, and then it goes down very quickly again.
If we were to have half the number of children currently in the industrialized world from tomorrow, it's down by half. After 30 years, that would reduce total consumption by 4%, only 4%. And that would take 30 years to get to that point. After 20 years, you're only down 2%. We don't have 30, 40 years to solve environmental issues, or that's what I'm hearing, at least from those concerned. Trying to enforce people to have less children is a really inefficient way to try and solve any environmental issues. Let's not forget that it's not people trying to enforce anything. It's cultural pressure. It's cultural bullying.
It's a swath of articles that talk, there was an anti-natalist parade, like March thing, here in Austin, Texas, toward the back end of last year. Everybody dressed in all black, the least fun, least cool parade that you could think of. You think parade, and you think ticket tape and good music. None of that. And it is something, given the challenges that we're facing in the mating market, with regards to industrialization and its problems associated with birth rates, with regards to women leaving it too late, trying to find a partner, all of that stuff.
Someone coming in and kicking the horse when it's on the floor and saying, oh, and you shouldn't be doing it in any case, to me is just pouring kerosene on what is already a pretty big blaze. It is the thing that I'm railing against the most at the moment when I see it online, because it's just such a stupid, absolutely stupid point of view to say, you are fundamentally wrong and broken and bringing a child into this world because of the cost of living, they're going to have an awful life. Well, it's the best time to live on earth ever in history.
The fact that you're having an existential crisis because you don't get the same car that your friends on Instagram do is no bearing on the quality of life. And when you roll it into environmentalism, when you roll it into the cultural pressures, when you roll it into the cost of living and all of that sort of stuff, culturally reinforcing a trend of childlessness somehow being associated with freedom when 80% of women planned on having kids and couldn't, you are encouraging a world in which 80% of childless women are suffering and you're contributing to it.
Yeah, and we haven't even talked about the long-term consequences here, but this is a problem that ultimately leads to a lot of people later in life, living a life alone and then dying alone. There's a loneliness crisis happening right here in Japan right now. It's a humanitarian crisis. And you would think, okay, well, that's Japan. It's so far down the track with this, but no, it's not just Japan. If you go to Brazil, you have the same thing happening in Brazil. Birth rates are falling so fast in Brazil, you wouldn't think it. And you have these elderly parents, they may have had one child, the child may have emigrated.
So this humanitarian crisis of lonely old people, whether they've had children or not, but particularly if they've never had children is something that we need to confront because otherwise people are just going to be left to die away in their homes. So I really worry that people aren't thinking about those consequences. And if I can say again, we try and explain in the documentary what life is like for older people in this position. And again, there's a couple of how. . . What is it like? Let me just put it this way. When you hear people in their 80s with no family contemplating ending their life, you know it's bad.
Or if you talk to a crematorium director in Germany who refused in the end to do the interview because his superiors wouldn't let him, talking about the number of services, well there are no services, people with no friends and family being buried. And then you hear their concerns a little bit off camera, the treatment these people had had because they can see that the bruises on bodies, they can see, well, things that tell doctors or people kind of looking at what happened, end of life for these people, determining that those last years were not pleasant at all.
Do you mean when you're talking about bruises on bodies, are you referring to abuse by carers or are you referring to falls and bumps on their own? I'm talking, I have been told directly about abuse from carers. And this was partly on camera, a lot off camera, a lot of messages. There's a documentary I'd love to make as a follow-up. This was Germany, but I don't believe it's only happening there, where it was obvious from strap marks on the corpses, from the skin colour, from malnutrition, that these people were not being looked after, but without any family. To come and make sure that things are okay. It's a harrowing side to life.
So I think this documentary took me into two places I never expected to go. At heart, I'm a data analyst. I just wanted to understand the trend, but this childlessness trend and the kind of loneliness and grief from that, and then the loneliness later in life from these old people were just two horrors that, for whatever reason, I feel I, through the documentary, helped uncover. And I think with what's happening to the world, these crises, people need to know about it. People need to understand that we're not going to transform the world into older people today who didn't have children, are not going to have children.
I think as societies, we need to be better looking after those people. So there's lots of things we need to be thinking about here. Obviously one of the implications as well of an aging society is that if there are more old people than young people, there are fewer young people to look after the old people. I once got told this by Carl Benjamin, he's a YouTuber called Sargon of Akkad, and he's quite a hardcore conservative, and he is very unpopular in certain circles, but he's a good friend.
And he said, it was about a year ago, and he said to me in his sort of typically bombastic way, he felt it was a moral imperative for people to have children if they could. And I was like, whoa, whoa, they get perilously close to the handmaid's tale stuff. But then he started digging into it a little bit more, and I think that there is a kernel of truth in this sort of shiny delivery. What he said was, what you're doing if you do grow older without contributing to the pool of young people, is you are taking out of that with regards to GDP, innovation, care, like literally the care of. . .
Let's say that you have a child and there is a one in one thousandth chance that they become an elderly care person, right? And there is a one in one thousandth chance that they become a nurse, and what, da da da da, all the way up, right? You're contributing to this pool, even if it's just people that drive GDP, so that the lights stay on, and so that the government can pay for subsidies for the carers, for the old people. You're extracting from that pool whilst having contributed nothing to it. Now, sure, you've contributed GDP, but we don't need more money. What we need is more people.
And that's really stuck with me, thinking about that, thinking about this sort of contributory hypothesis around what happens when you bend the shape of a population's demographics. Yeah, and I wouldn't go to that point. I think it's ultimately up to choice. It's a choice, whether you have children or not, it's a choice how many children you have. I would agree. The good news for me is we don't really need to worry about that, given that these 80% of childless people had wanted to have children. If we can fix. . . That's not the right word.
If we can, in some way, help address the societal issues that have led to a situation where such a large number of people are childless who wanted to have children, bearing in mind that many of those will have two, three, four plus children, it will actually. . . I mean, the math is actually very nice. It will rebalance everything back to the replacement level. That's where the focus needs to be, in my opinion. That is a really good point that I totally hadn't thought about, that we're facing down this bleak future of an ever-decreasing number of people having an ever-decreasing number of people. But on average, 80% of people that didn't have children wanted to.
It's not like there is this. . . If it was 80% of people didn't have children and didn't want to, we're looking at enforced childbirth, or artificial wombs, or sperm donors, and some Matrix-style farm of child bots. It's not. Most women that didn't have kids wanted to have kids. They couldn't due to life circumstances. They were, how would you say, physiologically capable of doing it. They just didn't get it right. So the fix is, of all of the different nightmares that we could exist in, ours is the most luxurious. That's right. When I started the project, I was quite accepting that I would find a different conclusion.
The conclusion may well have been, you know, what? People just don't want to have kids anymore. Didn't seem to make great sense to me, because why would we change so suddenly, given our species has been around for millennia, and our ancestors before that? But if that had been the outcome, I would have been someone to say, you know what? Here's my research, here's my documentary, but we've got to accept this. We're going to not fizzle out, but there's going to be a civilization change. But the reality is actually, and it made so much more sense, that there is no real change in desire. It's society has changed.
I don't want to make it sound easy that we can just, you know, flick the switch and say, you know what, this is great. People just need to have the kids sooner, or they need to kind of think about this more. There needs to be societal changes somewhere.
And I actually, you know, education is something where, you know, are we really using our time well to go to college, you know, to 21, 22, 23, and then maybe get a master's degree or do some extra studies to spend our 20s studying, when I look back and I do have three kids of my own who are kind of just college or post-college age now, and you actually wonder how much of what they learned was really relevant. And I know you can't identify what might be relevant, given you want to equip people with as broad skills as possible.
But I think we could be taking one, two years out of the education cycle without much difficulty, having people on a career path earlier, and then allowing people to top up education later in life when they know exactly what education is relevant to the career path they want. Did you read Richard Reeves of Boys and Men, which came out last year? I've heard of it, but I have not read it. Short book, easy read, highly recommended, very pertinent to what you do. One of the things that he puts forward in that book is red shirting for boys, which is holding boys back by one year.
One of the things that I didn't bring up to him, one of the things that he doesn't talk about, is you push back by one more year the. . . it's not a fertility window quite so much for men, it's an attraction window, right? You push that back by one more year, and that is something that I absolutely have not thought about, and I'm trying not to lose my shit thinking about it. That's crazy. Okay, I mean, one uncompleted loop, before we get onto the global stuff, one uncompleted loop with regards to the trends of how it affects people personally.
Why is it that increasing industrialization across the board is associated with a decrease in birth rate? Because as far as I can see, and I may have got this wrong, the only thing that ties all of these different countries together, you make a great job of it in the documentary where you explain that in Japan schooling is private and you pay for it, somewhere else it's socialized, in this place cost of living is high, in this place cost of living is low, in this place there's tons of support for mothers that want to get maternity leave, in this place it's basically none at all, this is super egalitarian, this is blah blah blah blah blah.
The cultural milieu of all of these different places could not be more different. Yeah. What are the trends that draw all of those different countries together given their differences, and why is it that industrialization is associated with declining birth rate in your view? Well industrialization I think has been driven by women coming into the workforce and women gaining educations equal or not exceeding men. And that's a good thing, I support that, I want to make that really really clear, but the reality is the fertility window is being kind of narrowed and narrowed and narrowed, so that in the past you would have industrialized nations, but this is now rolling out across the world.
You've got countries like Bangladesh with a birth rate of 2. 0 just below replacement level, India has just gone below replacement level, Nepal is at the same point, Thailand is 1. 5, it's the same as much of Europe. And again if you look at education systems in Thailand, they're fascinating, it's the same thing, out of every 10 college students in Thailand, I think it's seven are female, it's six and a half or seven are female and three and a half men.
And what's happened there is a situation where young men feel that they can't compete, you know there's two sides to this coin, the women can't find the educated men to kind of they want to date, you then have the men who are kind of shunned because they're not smart enough, they're not educated enough, they're you know not the personal. So you have this crisis of young men in Thailand who are either not going to college or dropping out of college, becoming taxi drivers, drinking alcohol, doing drugs and creating a whole world of alternate problems which make the whole situation more and more difficult again.
So I don't know, there's an imbalance right now in society between women's education and the time of family. We think we've been smart through fertility treatments enabling people as much as they want now to have children in their 30s as they would have done in their 20s. It's not even remotely close to being similar. And back to your question, industrialization or the process moving towards industrialization has, you know in the developing world to call it that, as well as the industrialized world created this situation where women are more incentivized to have families into their 30s when our bodies are not geared up for it and are not likely to ever be.
I'm not hearing any confidence from fertility doctors that you know the technologies that they're creating and certainly these things like you know external wombs, I mean that's just science fiction right now. You know, egg freezing is actually, I thought it was a wonderful idea when I first heard about it. Well this is great, you know, I thought you know I'll tell everybody you know. Someone once said maybe it's a good college gift, a graduation gift for our daughters to kind of get their eggs frozen.
Maybe it is, but I'm saying now there's an altered side to this because if you think well this is okay you know with frozen eggs, you know, women can now work longer into her 30s and 37, 38 it'll be fine. But actually again it's back to well have you got the right partner at the right time, you know, or maybe you're just one row before that you know promotion that you've always wanted. Or maybe it's just you're tired now.
People get tired as they get older and the idea of wait 20 years to raising a kid until I'm in my 60s, is that what I really want to do? So I don't think, you know, I think education is such a positive thing. I don't want for a second anyone to misinterpret me. I think we need to re-engineer the education system and break it up a little bit more so that people can start their careers earlier and consider having a family earlier and then continue education and continue their career at that point.
This is the challenge of talking about this topic generally, especially because it seems like increasing female achievement in education and employment is one of the primary driving forces that's contributing to both the mating crisis and this birth gap problem.
A very easy rebuttal is are you saying that we should roll back parity in education which women only just achieved? Title IX was only brought in 50 years ago and you're telling us that just after we've managed to gain footing that we've been fighting for for so long that you want us to stop going to school? That you want women to not be able to go into the workplace? That women should be held back? That they should be domestic prostitutes? As one particularly irate commenter accused me of proposing. No is the answer. I mean clearly that would be fundamentally wrong.
Will there be a risk and tendency of some nations, perhaps more totalitarian nations, to push those policies? I really do worry that we're going to see things like that happen and that's a terrible thing. I think we need to re-engineer the education system for everybody frankly. The idea for example that we graduate college and we're kind of on the first rung of the ladder looking for our first position and that's going to define our career and then we want to get to a certain point.
Why can't people start their career age 30? Why don't we have mass recruitment drives of first-time intakes of people who have had their family first and for that to be a normal thing? I know that can happen in some instances but it's not societally normal and people have said to me well if you start your career in your 30s you're not going to be earning very much money so is it really worth it? But you know what? We're going to have to push our retirement age way up. The idea we're retiring you know in the first place is 65-70. The reality is for young people today retirement you've got to be looking at age 75 maybe even 80.
So starting a career at age 30 or even 35 is fine. You still got decades to kind of build up the wealth I guess. You've got as long in your career window as your grandfather probably did in his. Or maybe even longer. Correct. Okay what does this mean for economics if we do have this declining birth rate? You've mentioned already that America is this sort of fundamental supplier across the world and if the markets reduce and all the rest of it we've already got some turmoil with regards to interest rates all the rest of it.
What does a declining birth rate mean in terms of both countrywide and global GDP? Yeah it's not good. In fact there's nothing good about it. I mean the reality you know I think people imagine and it's understandable that you think we can kind of slowly slide our populations down, slide our economies down so we all just shrink a little bit you know year by year. That it's almost going to be like you know an airplane kind of slowly coming into land and we'll have this kind of resettling. It's not like that. People say there was only two billion people on the planet a hundred years ago.
Why is it a problem that we would go back to that? So when you the transition is the problem. The transition is a bumpy ride. The transition is really a nosedive and one other factor is that we have no example of a country that went through this and came out the other side. There are no examples of countries in history unless it was a period of famine or war that went down with such a low birth rate as we're seeing now and then rebalanced itself. So there's no examples to follow here. No civilization in history has ever recovered from this type of population collapse. That's what you're saying. That's exactly what I'm saying.
I should clarify no known civilization in history for where we have data has gone through this and you know that's directly from the words you know from research and from demographers. So to come back to economics though let's just look at certain things. If you can imagine the housing market. I used to live or my company today is based in Detroit Michigan. Detroit Michigan I love Michiganders. I love this city.
It's really reinvented itself but it went through a phase when it was the fourth or fifth largest city in the US population of around two million around 50 years ago and then quite quickly that population dropped down to today it's around six or seven hundred thousand.
So it's fallen by over 60 percent 65 well during that transition which is what we all can expect to go through what happened streets became not empty overnight but one house became vacant and then another house and then another house and then vermin came into these streets and then the taxes collected by the city to pay for the streetlights wasn't enough or to maintain the roads or to collect the garbage and you had the street after street after street of dereliction but with people families living in amongst this dereliction. You just can't scale down towns or cities. It becomes a patchwork. Now Detroit's falling population was not to do with fertility rates.
It's to do with the auto industry you know moving out of the city. It was to do with certain dynamics in Detroit but it's a really good example of what it's going to be like. You cannot scale cities.
Then you take something like our national debts and our national debts we're assuming you know that I think in future that future workers well we are assuming future workers are going to pay the interest rates to maintain that debt but if you have a shrinking workforce to pay off the national debt it the by definition the interest rate payments are going to get higher and higher and higher so you're going to have these workers paying more and more tax not just to cover the cost of the old people that they're going to have to you know in terms of welfare in terms of pension systems but also to try and you know maintain their cities and also to pay off the national debt and it doesn't stop there every which way you look at this economically.
Now we think of it as a long-term recession a recession that will be measured in decades. I mean that's that's what we've got to brace ourselves for and if I could turn it around to one final example imagine you're a coffee shop owner in a little town there's 10 coffee shops and every year your cafe like all the others have got less customers less and less and less and you're looking at your staff and okay this population's shrinking but you're trying to balance it.
Are you going to invest you know repainting the cafe to try and encourage customers? Well some might but I think a lot of those cafes are going to start really suffering you know you're going to notice that almost no one's going there you know in the mornings it might be just a few people at lunchtime and just I think living in an environment where there isn't the kind of enthusiasm there isn't the kind of growth and positivity economically about you know let's kind of expand our businesses hire more workers let's open another branch I think that's a deeper concern here I think our mood is going to become quite negative throughout this and I do hope that by at least being aware of this that it's something that we you know prepare for and have solutions in place for and but you know I'm excited that there's absolutely nothing positive to say.
Why aren't people talking about this more? This is a question I used to when I started interviewing people I'd go to demographers and some people in the press and that's the exact question I would ask them. I think it's part I think we covered a little bit earlier the idea that this is it's not a dramatic problem it's a background problem and then you've rightly identified the environment and it sounds like a good thing and yeah we used to be two billion people and some people want to see us go down to one billion.
It's a problem we don't really notice one day to another you know we wake up you know each day and today's pretty much like yesterday you know nothing really changes that much this is a problem that's slow to develop but it's like this trap because once you're in it you've lost the number of potential parents to ever take you out. Japan right now it's been losing population for 10 or more years it was 127 million we're down several million on that.
Japan can never effectively go back up to those rates any time the next century or more because there's so few young people to have children so we're looking at best Japan probably stabilizing I don't know the number but it might be 60 65 million at best. So from what? 120 120 million approximately now so we're yeah we're that's realistic and that's if birth rates go back up to replacement level but they're not you know so we're on this downward spiral in Japan and it's one of the reasons I've chosen to live here I moved here through researching this project five years ago.
I think if Japan doesn't solve this problem it's going to be very worrying for a lot of other nations because you know it's a it's one of the world's wealthiest nations it's facing this problem direct on right now there's a lot of awareness and in Japan by the way people are talking about this this is on the media now almost daily it's gotten to that point and it will get to that point in other countries too. So you know I think Japan is an opportunity to show the world how to turn this round but I'm not seeing anything that they're doing right now despite lots of ideas I have any real confidence in.
What are the ideas when it comes to policies the ones that are useless and your ideas for what you think would be most effective? Well when you take Japan the blame here is on work-life balance people work horrendous hours here pay time off you know one week a year and a few extra days you know working to 11 pm would not be uncommon at all and the belief is that that needs to change and it probably does of course it does that that's a horrendous life to live working that way for anybody but the idea that you know reducing working hours and adding kindergarten spaces and child care encouraging people to move out of Tokyo that's something now you're going to be given a sum of money if you move out of the city to somewhere more rural these are all interesting things they may from past examples of this change the birth rate very slightly but you're talking of rounding errors and what usually happens when you launch an incentive like this there is an uptick in the birth rate for one two years and then it goes down but goes down lower than it was because all you've done is encourage people who were going to have a second or third child anyway or start a family sometime soon there's a pull forward effect or let's do it now and take advantage of this so really I think it's fair to say that any scheme to encourage people to have babies for financial reasons alone hey you're asking people who are on the career path building a career having gone through all of this education or everything prepared to kind of take an early step out of that to start a family some will but society itself needs to be re-engineered this isn't about tinkering with with systems like that my own belief if I can share with you that the optimism I do get is when I talk about this to younger people who have no idea that life is these challenges I think young people trust us people a little bit older than them well my case a lot older that that kind of we have you know prepared this path for them that you know there's this college path and then you're going to start your career and then you're going to meet someone and you're going to have a family and the path is just there waiting for you young people don't know about this uncertainty they don't know that in many countries now across the industrialized world a third or up to 40 45 percent in some countries of people are childless and the majority vast majority is unplanned childlessness when you talk to young people about this you can see the look in their eyes and the dialogue with each other and I think because of this problem there's going to be fewer and fewer people to you know for companies to hire I think corporations government will have to listen to young people more to say what is it that that you want and I my real belief is that people do want families enough to want to re-engineer the education path the career path so they can do both you know that but that's where you know I get my optimism from and at the moment in the world 70 percent of countries are already past this tipping point that you talk yes yes you know with India Bangladesh moving in the past couple of years below replacement level it's it's 70 percent and really the only part of the world now is sub-saharan africa with what we consider high birth rates but in sub-saharan africa since 1980 families on average are having one less child every 15 years so you know it's six and that's going down to five and then it's down four and if you plot that out you know by 2050 sub-saharan africa will be at replacement level so we can see the same trend happening there's you know sub-saharan africa is on the same roller coaster as the rest of us but you know in the rear car and we have to understand that there are a lot of young people in africa they will have children it's natural africa's population is going to explode because there's so many young people that will happen in fact to be honest with you I see africa as a future I think there's huge potential in business and when we are all going through I think the negative challenges from birth rate decline in the industrialized world people in africa are going to be going through what we went through 50 years ago this economic boom and you know I certainly you know I would love in future to spend more time there because I can see that you know that positivity in the faces of people there and I think people don't understand this that you know quality of life happiness in africa for most people it is really quite high and getting better all the time.
Stephen I absolutely adore your work it feels very serendipitous that we've ended up crossing paths with each other especially given my current pet obsession I really want to help what can I do I'm happy to do what I can to help you get whatever it is out there what is it that I can do you've got an offer from me you don't need to necessarily say it now but you can call in the favor at any time that you want I really want to help you with this well I would be so honored because I already recognized from your passion and your deeper understanding than my own in terms of you know dating in terms of how people find their partners what you're focused on is really the the linchpin of ultimately trying to find a way through what we're going through I'd love to work with you my own work it took me seven years to do the research and make the documentary that's the easy part I've created something called birthgap.
org my plan is to have discussion groups to have local meetups to have information to have videos globally on this topic and I'd love to invite you more than once to come along and debate and discuss this matter particularly with younger people be a great great pleasure to have you on birthgap.
org consider it done where can people go if they want to learn more about this the first half of the film is available on youtube I don't know where the second half of the film is available what's going on with that yeah it's in three parts actually the first part really is is the why why is this happening part two is you know what are the consequences both personally and for societies and then part three is well what's happening in the rest of the world and where we go to Africa and spend more time in India and Latin America you're right part one is on birthgap.
org and it's on youtube I put it out there because I think people need to understand you know what's happening parts two and parts three I am making a decision as to whether those are going to go on some streaming services right now we're working through them what I don't want is to do a traditional deal where I sign away all the rights to this so someone else owns and distributes it and decides to market it promote it or not my passion is that these documentaries are be available to educators globally at low or no cost and I'm trying to work through kind of the licensing agreements on how that might look so birthgap.
org people can come and can find out what the latest status on those but I'm sure in the next few months we'll be explaining and if anybody really wants to see parts two and part three I'm still looking for some people to review those and give feedback so I'll be delighted if anybody just connect with me directly through birthgap. org.
Stephen Shaw ladies and gentlemen I very very much appreciate your work I can't wait to keep in touch everybody needs to go and check this out it's the end the tail end of the big problem and the big problem is pretty big so thank you so much for coming on today mate I can't wait to keep in touch thank you Chris I appreciate it so much thank you what's happening people thank you very much for tuning in if you enjoyed that episode then press here for a selection of the best clips from the podcast over the last few weeks and don't forget to subscribe peace.