The Fertility Rate Trend in Developed and Developing Countries


Fertility, mortality and migration are among the main determinants of a country’s population. Fertility rate is the measure of the working age and young population in relation to the level of retirees or old age population. Fertility has been dropping in the developed countries for many decades. The decline has reached levels below the secure generation replacement. This has been influenced by international population control policies. Some developed countries view this as privacy intervention while others see this as beneficial to the society. However, the decreasing fertility rate affects the economy, demography and international links.The aim of this paper is to analyze the general trend and determinants of fertility in developed countries as influenced by the international political economy.

The paper also analyses the interstate dynamics that lead to demographical changes. The paper goes further to state the consequences that developed and underdeveloped countries face due to the increased rate of fertility.The case study to use is Niger for the underdeveloped countries and Italy for the developed countries. Lastly the paper looks in to the possible solutions to be implemented to stabilize fertility rate in both developed and underdeveloped countries.

General trend of fertility rate in developed countries influenced by the international political economy and what determines the increase/decrease of fertility in developed countries due to the influence context of international political economy

Fertility rate in developed countries has dropped below the safe generational replacement levels.For example, the rate of fertility is 2.1 children per woman. Going by the fertility levels in various countries in Southern and Continental Europe, it is likely that population in these nations might fall to around a third of the current level within a century. Additionally, population of 65 year olds in relation to the whole population is likely to increase from 15% to 25% by 2030. The 80-year olds’ population will also be estimated to increase from 3.5% to 7.5% by the same time.Even though UN projects this future rise in population growth in the developed countries, this realization is not certain. Additionally, such increase in population level does not guarantee sharp population level reductions in the near future.Usually the challenge is that it has not been possible to establish an optimal population size. This is because a small population can reduce pressure on the environment while on the other hand low fertility rate may lead to unfavorable future economic and social effects (Sleebos, 2003, p. 10)

The rise or fall in fertility in the developed countries is determined by increase in the dependency ratio. This occurs when the level of older people in the entire population gets higher than the fall in the children population. Therefore, the ratio is realized when the dependency ratio between the dependent and the working age population rises (Sleebos, 2003, p. 11). Additionally, economic and social aspects have determined the fall in the rate of fertility in developed countries. Some of these forces are educational advancement, new roles for women and increased cost of living which lead families to rationalize about the costs and benefits of children(Luci&Thevenon, 2010, p. 10).For example, women participate more in the job market leading to reduced fertility rate as they tend to postpone the childbirth and concentrate on their career path(Glowaki& Richmond, 2007). A direct policy which encourages fall or rise in the rate of fertility in the developed countries is financial incentives. Some of the indirect policies are as follows: taxation and welfare system, child care and leave. The table below summarizes the factors and direct and indirect policies influencing the fertility rate.

Factors and direct and indirect policies influencing the fertility rate
Factors and direct and indirect policies influencing the fertility rate

The diagram below is an example of fertility trends in OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)countries between 1970 and 2000.

Fertility trends in OECD
Fertility trends in OECD

From the diagram it is clear that OECD countries were all affected by declining fertility rate between 1970 and 2000. Actually from 1975 to 2000 all the OECD countries’ rate of fertility was below the world average rate of 2.1. However, the timing was different for different countries and regions. For example, Southern European countries (Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal) experienced the drop later but at a faster rate than the other countries. Total fertility rates in Spain, Italy and Greece were below the 1.3 mark (Sleebos, 2003, p. 14).

The dynamics between states that lead to demographical changes

There are various factors between different countries that cause changes in population. For example, many countries have come up with platforms which speed the demographic change. This is done by convincing citizens that many children are bad for the nation and the family as a whole. Therefore, married couples are educated about birth control and contraceptives are made affordable. China is among the countries which started implementing one child per every woman policy in 1879. This policy has been enforced through forced abortions and sterilizations (The Habitable Planet, 2007). There are also temporary changes in fertility which are caused by tempo (age of first born increases) and quantum (decline in total fertility in the previous decades). This leads to different variations in the children numbers per family in different countries. Additionally, governments can support access to contraceptives directly or indirectly. The direct means are distributing them in government institutions and the indirect methods are use of non-governmental organizations which promote family planning (Kricheli, Cayeros&Magaloni,2).

Democracies and autocracies have different policies which affect fertility rate. Democratic countries are said to have negative fertility rates as opposed to the autocratic counterparts (Kricheli et al.,19).Children mortality rate is a determinant of fertility rate in autocracies. If families experience high children deaths, they respond by having more children. This is because the governments in these countries don’t establish risk mitigation measures. Additionally, health expenditure in democratic countries is less than the one in democratic countries. This leads to increased fertility rate in order to insure against losses in case of death.Women’s education has similar effects on both democratic and autocratic nations. It reduces the chance for women to specialize on children bearing (Kricheli et al., 19).

The consequences that underdeveloped countries face due to the increase of fertility rate; case study- Niger

Niger, Uganda and Zambia are among the African countries that have very high rates of fertility. For example, in Niger’s fertility rate is at 7.52 compared to US which has fertility rate of 2.06. The infant mortality rate is also as high as 109.9 per 1,000 births as compared to US which is at 5.9 per 1,000 births (High-Birth-Rates-In-Niger, 2011). These are very different figures. The high fertility rate in underdeveloped countries has various negative impacts. For example, it depletes the already scarce resources and consequently poverty rate becomes very high. For example, Niger experiences drought problems due to the huge families that the agricultural system has to support. It can also lead to social and economic catastrophe if it is not controlled or contained. A lot of population growth is still expected to occur in the underdeveloped countries.

The countries are already facing reduced education levels, low health standards, wars, natural resource depletion, poverty and domination by the developed countries. Majority of peoplein these countries rely on subsistent farming for a living (Top Stories, 2012). Additionally, underdeveloped countrieshave made less effort in addressing environmental challenges as compared to the developing and the developed countries. Therefore future rise in fertility rate is likely to lead to increased environmental degradation (The Habitable Planet, 2007). It is important to note that high fertility rate and overconsumption depletes both renewable (forests and fisheries) and non-renewable resources (fossil fuels). This is because the resources are consumed faster than they canreplace themselves. In addition, increased fertility rate leads to environmental pollution. Harmful materials, gases and health deteriorationare some of the causes of environmental pollution (The Habitable Planet, 2007).

The other consequence of high fertility rate in underdeveloped countries is that it deters national economic growth and development. Therefore poor families remain poor and the dependency ratio is high. For example, it is approximated that there are about 81 dependents (8 elderly and 75 children) in every 100 working age people in the under developing countries in Africa. Additionally, the children in these countries form the larger fraction of the dependents (The Habitable Planet, 2007). The table below shows the dependency ratios by region in 2005.

Dependency ratios by region in 2005
Dependency ratios by region in 2005

The countries with high dependency ratios have lower economic growth than those with low dependency ratios. This is because they spend much of their resources to take care of the dependents. On the contrary countries with lower rates concentrate on investment, technology and education (The Habitable Planet, 2007). Therefore, the high rate of fertility in the underdeveloped countries is bad forboth the Niger and the entire African continent.

The consequences that developed countries face due to the increase/decrease of fertility rate; case study- Italy

Italy’s low fertility rate is one of the world’s challenges in childbearing and family bearing. It was initially presumed to have family values but that is not the case (Popul, 2009). For example, the estimated fertility rate in Italy is 1.3 children per woman as compared to a world average of 3.3. Due tothe decline in fertility Italy among other developed countries face various consequences. Some of them are as follows:

Economic effects

Reduced growth: As a result of decline in total populationthe working age population is reduced. Consequently, this leads to reduced real GDP growth. This reduced GDP growth reduces the size of developed countries relative to the developing ones. Additionally, it leads to changes in the political weights of the developed countries in the international field (Fertility and Economic Growth, 2010).For example, due to demographic changes, it is projected that GDP in Europe will reduce from 2.3% to 0.5% by 2050. In the United States GDP will decline from 2.5% to 1.4% by 2050. The other economic effect is that fall in the population of the working class as compared to the entire population will cause fall in the per capita income.

For instance, the rate of growth in per capita income in Europe is estimated to reduce from 1.7% to 1.1% by 2050 and from 1.7% to 1.2% in the United States (Sleebos, 2003, p. 11). Another effect of declining fertility rate in developed countries is that it creates pressure on the budgets of the government to finance the older retirees. This is because there will be fewer young workers who can support the older people (Kohler, Billari& Ortega, 2006, p. 1). This leaves the government with the burden of catering for the older population’s pensions and health expenses. As a result of increased expenditure to finance the retirees, there will be reduced domestic savings both from the private and the public sectors. This will increase the level of current accounts deficits and money inflow from abroad(Population Growth over Human History, 2006).

Indirect effects

Decline in fertility rate in developed countries will cause changes in the shape of intergenerational ties. This is because the level of grandparents will exceed the grandchildren (Cowell, 1993, p. 1). Additionally, there will be variation in population growth in developed and developing countries. This will lead to fall in population levels in developed countries and growth in population in some parts of the developing countries. It is also expected that there will be rise in the population which has few or no family ties in the immediate circle. This might increase demand for government support(Sleebos, 2003, p. 12).

The economic and indirect effects of reduced fertility rate show that low fertility rate leads to a bad economy. The economy gets prone to reduced growth rate (GDP) and per capita income. In addition, family and generational ties are destroyed and the government is put under pressure to provide for the welfare of retirees. These negative effects of reduced fertility rate are bad for the developed countries’ economies. This may not be very evident at the moment but it might be realized in the near and distant future.

Possible solutions to be implemented to stabilize fertility rate in developed and underdeveloped countries

Fertility rate stability involves both religious and ethical conflicts. For example, Christianity supports growth and prosperity of the human race. This means that control of birth may be unethical. This is especially implemented by the Catholic Church. Abortion is also considered as unethical and illegal in some countries. Therefore, in order for a country to decide on the best fertility control measure, it should consider the public reaction. This is because some birth control measures seem to be invasion of privacy (Population Growth & Its Remedies, 2011).Fertility rate in developed countries can be stabilized by increasing awareness among women. For example, they can be encouraged to attend seminars which educate them on future benefits of child bearing. Therefore, the declining fertility rate in the developing countries can be stabilized (Grant et al., 2004). Additionally, governments can implement favorable economic policies.

For example, taxation rates and interest rates can be regulated in order to reduce the cost of living. Additionally, increasing employment opportunitiescan reduce the living costs. As a result, women can feel more secure bearing children because they have means of raising them. Some policies such as abortion can be regulated or abolished. Many developed countries have legalized abortion. This reduces the number of child births within a given period of time. Immigration is also an option which can be applied in the developed countries in order to increase the growth in population. United States is one of the countries that have successfully implemented the Green Card immigration policy (SUSPS, 2011). This enables the country to supplement the rate of death with population from the developing and the developed countries. If other developed countries can implement this policy it can lead to increased population growth. Another policy that can be applied is an example of China’s one-child policy. This way each family is only allowed to have one child (Demeny,n.d., p. 2).

Fertility rate in the underdeveloped countries can be stabilized by increasing sex education awareness. Therefore, young women can become aware of the dangers of unprotected sex. Additionally, the governments in the underdeveloped countries can allocate more health funds and death risk mitigation factors. As a result, it can lead to reduced child deaths during birth. Additionally, women can feel more secure with the number of children that they possess. Therefore, they may not turn to increased child births for security. The governments in the underdeveloped countries should also implement favorable economic policies which can help to reduce the living costs (Can Policies Boost Birth Rates, 2007). The governments should also encourage job creation by allocating youth funds in their budgets. Kenya is one of the African countries with a youth ministry in parliament and it allocates sufficient youth funds in its budget. As a result of this jobless population will reduce and unwanted pregnancies can decline.A population growth control plan can be implemented. This way fewer child births can be ethically realized. Additionally, governments in various African and Asian countries can implement a one-child per family policy like in the case of China.


Fertility rate in the developed and the underdeveloped countries is reversely proportional. The rate of fertility in the developed countries such as Italy and other OECD and European countriesis lower than the replacement rate. It has also been less than the average world fertility mark of 2.1. On the contrary the fertility rate in the underdeveloped countries such as Niger, Uganda and Zambia is above the expected level. Some of the issues that have led to reduced fertility rate in the developed countries are women education and high living costs. On the other hand high fertility rate in the underdeveloped countries has been contributed by poor government policies, high living costs and poor fertility awareness. Low fertility rate in the developed countries is expected to cause generational imbalance, reduced GDP and per capita income in the future.

This means that the low fertility rate is bad for the developed countries. Additionally, high fertility rate leads to poverty and low GDP and per capita income in the underdeveloped countries. This is a bad situation for the entire African continent. Some of the solutions to low fertility rate facing the developed countries are removal of rights such as abortion, favorable economic policies and increased awareness about the future benefits of increased child birth. Some of the solutions to high fertility rate facing underdeveloped countries is implementation of birth control policies such as one-child per woman, favorable economic policies, child birth risk mitigation measures and increased awareness on the negative effects of high fertility rate.


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