One Person Suggests The Declining Birth Rate Could Actually Be A Good Thing

We’ve all heard the doom and gloom stories about declining birth rates around the world. More people are deciding not to have children, there are unknown medical issues at play, the world is a living nightmare, etc etc, but the fact that there won’t be enough humans to replace the ones currently aging seems like a valid concern.

This person holds the view that it’s not a concern, but a potential plus (for the reasons listed above and more).

CMV: it’s a good thing that birth rates are declining
Delta(s) from OP
Declining birth rates have been in the news lately, and most of the reporting I’ve read has centered around the resulting demographic shift causing economic difficulties. While I’m sure there will be economic difficulties to overcome, I think it’s necessary to do so, and now is a better time than later.

An economy that requires a continuously increasing population is not sustainable indefinitely. Eventually, we’ll have enough people that we need more of some resource we don’t have a good way to get more of and be forced into the sorts of decisions that form the basis of dystopian sci-fi. That people are voluntarily having fewer children solves the problem before it becomes a crisis.

Fewer people means that each person can have a larger share of limited resources. Each person’s labor becomes more valuable due to reduced competition, which is well-timed as automation reduces the demand for low-skill, low-pay labor. Of course owners of businesses that currently profit from inexpensive labor might not be thrilled about it, but as long as the world still has people living in extreme poverty, I suspect there are ways to fill any remaining demand for cheap labor.


  • Sperm counts have been dropping continually in western men for decades, so reduced births aren’t necessarily voluntary. While there are some solid suspects, we don’t know why for certain, and that’s scary.
  • Too much of a good thing is possible, and Japan may have it with an exceptionally low birth rate and a low immigration rate leading to no viable way to support its elderly.
  • There is an education bottleneck for nursing in the US, resulting in a shortage that will only get worse as the population ages unless solved.

Can Reddit change their mind? Let’s find out!

15. The math doesn’t check out.

fewer people means that each person can have a larger share of limited resources
No. People make resources consumable. Fewer people = fewer resources.

For example, did everyone on earth 100 years ago have more water (quantity or availability), or more gold, or more natural gas, oil, or any other resource? No, they had less.

14. The Boomers cause a problem.

Depends where you look. on a macro/resource level you have a point.

But if you look at countries like Japan their issue is they have such an old population, and there isn’t enough young people to do all the necessary jobs to look after the elderly.

A lot of western countries are facing similar impending crisis. Mainly around how populations are aging and there isn’t enough money in pension pots to support them.

Whilst it may seem good the population as a whole is decreasing. The birth rate decreasing comes with a major problem… Not enough young people to look after the old.

13. There’s AI to consider.

Much of the increased availability of resources has been the result of technology increasing the efficiency of human labor rather than the amount of it. Consider, for example the decrease in the percentage of people doing agriculture as their primary job.

12. It can be a massive issue.

They can’t change that system because working people pay taxes for people who currently are on a pension. The number of pensioners is expected to rise even more. You can’t suddenly decide that working people now have to pay twice the amount of taxes to pay for the outgoing generation as well as themselves.

You can look to increase taxes somewhere else, but Germany is already among the most taxed countries. You can try to tax multinationals but they just move their postal address to a different country and problem solved for them.

The German’s solution at the moment is to increase migration. That’s what the whole “wir schaffen das” from Merkel was about. A country is built on the generations that came before. Those who get raised by them will in some form carry on that legacy. Letting in massive amounts of people who do not inherently share the values that made the country what it is today is tearing apart the social fabric of German society. A topic that currently is taboo.

Declining birth rates is a massive problem for a lot of countries because there are no good solution being implemented. The aim should be to aim for a balanced demography.

11. We need hamsters on the wheels.

The improving efficiency you speak of, be it scientific, technological, logistical, or due to energy resources, would not happen without enough people making the hamster wheels of economy + industry turn.

The fact that fewer people are needed to run farms is to some large degree because you have more people than ever in the cities doing stats, or tech, or various other auxiliary services which lead to improved agricultural productivity.

10. The economy can go either way.

France, historically one of the higher growth rates in Europe, went through a serious decline prior to 1990. They faced such a severe labor shortage that they raised their immigration quotas, but unfortunately segregated the immigrants into slums outside the cities.

This led to major unrest and riots. The demographics of not having enough people of working age is a very serious problem and one of the major concerns of economists.

9. Maybe it will work out ok?

While that’s true, strictly speaking, I don’t think there’s an impending labor crunch, in large part because we can be relatively certain that automation is going to reduce the need for humans to do many menial tasks.

It would come as a great surprise to me, for example if there are a substantial number of humans employed to drive vehicles as their profession, or a substantial part of it in 2050. There’s already an employee-free KFC.

This frees up more people to do jobs that are hard to automate. Granted, making use of that could require some investment in education.

8. It’s only getting worse.

2. We already have a nursing shortage. More frail elderly and not enough care staff to work. No matter how much you pay, Healthcare workers are a finite resource.

7. Seriously what are we going to do?

Although many menial tasks can indeed be automated, many may be locked in requiring human eyes, hands and brains for a long time.

Compare a fast food joint to an elder care facility: I could probably program a burger flipping robot in a few months. I have no clue how to program an elder-caring robot. They are two tasks that are several orders of magnitude separated in difficulty. One requires a bit of geometric precision, some visual cues for whether a burger is ready to serve or not. The other requires empathy, patience, gentleness, experience, knowing how to deal with a range of personalities and a range of different health statuses. They could not be more different.

Nurses are more in demand than ever, and will continue to be. Question is, in a country with universal health care, and where nurse pay should be doing up (it’s a hella stressful job, imo), and a shrinking ratio of tax payers to elders, what is going to break first? Nurse pay? Elder care standards? Go from universal health care to highest-bidder private system?

6. Seriously, think abut the nurses.

Nursing isnt for everyone; any medical job for that matter isnt for everyone.
Schools are very competitive and a lot of people are trying to become nurses but there are small anounts of seats availble to become a nurse. 30 seats at my school.
Nursing is a pretty tough career; im talking. About bsn, msn, and dnp which are the ones that are in need.
4.Nursing isnt a career for everyone again; imagine constantly being around people whos life was your responsibility dying everyday. People throwing shit at you, people attacking you, spitting on you, etc. bsn can make above 100k, CRNA 200k with guaranteed job security and sometimes free health care.

4. Lawsuits are also pretty common.

5. You need an altruistic personality to do it otherwise you will burn out. Every medical professional experiences burn out no matter the pay.

6. Nurses have one of the highest suicide rates

Higher pay would help, but wont fix the issue

5. We’re not there yet.

I think the concern is one of timing. We have to actually make it to 2050 with the whole system intact to get to that peak automation outcome. That is not a “sure thing”, and an aging population is one of those things that can domino into causing us to reverse course.

I grant that once we reach a point of post-scarcity, a smaller population may actually be better. But we are not there yet, and it would suck to fumble at the 1 yard line.

4. We need more humans. Full stop.

It’s extremely confusing that this argument is centralized around “caring for old people,” when the locus of why low birth rates are economically problematic has to do with economic growth and jobs. Labor shortages can cripple the growth of industries (see, for example, US manufacturing today). There is an argument that low birth rates were strong contributors to Japan’s “lost decade” (a 10 year period of economic miasma) — see here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23655289?seq=1

The idea is pretty simple. As skilled workers exit the workforce, there is a demand to replace them with new workers. If newer generations are fewer in number, this causes industrial contraction and additional downsizing. Or, rather than downsize, the firm relocates to an area where labor is in more abundant supply (eg SE Asia).

This is bad of course because it affects both the economic health of the firm (and it’s employees) and, more significantly, the communities supported by those companies. Laborers spend their paychecks at grocery stores and gas stations and so on. “Ghost towns” are most often created by the closing or relocation of large employers.

The issue isn’t about a comparative labor shortage, but an absolute labor shortage – where even a compensatory mechanism (increased wages) would not ameliorate the problem, since you are then shifting the problems of limited labor supply to other industry sectors which aren’t able to compete on salary (i.e., low-skilled labor)… Which is simply punitive to the people employed by those industries, which happen to also the folks most financially vulnerable.

Separately, the foundation of your argument is, like, “growth driven economies are not intrinsically good.” And we could agree or disagree about that but that’s not really relevant to birth rates. In Western, capitalist economies, growth is a highly relevant and important metric to the future economic prospects of the country, firm, and it’s employees. I.e., increased share prices, greater ability to reinvest revenue in facilities or workforce, so-on-and-so-forth.

So you can ask the question differently — but in the status quo it’s somewhat inarguable.

3. We use a lot of “stuff.”

Increasing/emerging technologies is something that industries want to say they do, but in reality, it’s very difficult to transform older manufacturing plants into a more technologically advanced plant.

Take, for example, a food processing plant. There is a whole processing industry for French fries (which you can actually google to learn more about). One plant creates millions upon millions of pounds of frozen French fries every day. Each plant takes anywhere between 300-700 employees to run. And that’s just one plant, for one industry.

So now, think about how ice cream is made and packaged, and how it ends up in the grocery store. Or packaged spinach. Or nuts. Or oatmeal. And that’s just talking about food.

Now move on to wheelchairs, coins, cups, paper, drywall, vacuums, chairs, markers, doors, towels, etc. These are all produced in and distributed from a manufacturing facility. Unfortunately, many industries are not as technologically advanced as people want to think. Even with the aforementioned French fry industry, what you will find on YouTube is one of the most advanced facilities, but for every advanced facility are 15-20ish other facilities that still require labor full-time labor from hundreds of employees.

While I agree that having less people in the world is good for earth itself, the fact is that our society is so used to a certain standard of living, that we still require manufacturing plants to operate and produce our everyday products.

Source: I worked in food manufacturing for years, as labor and management.

2. The young pick up the slack.

Many of the world’s countries (including the one that I live in currently) are oligarchies, meaning they can be

wealthy countries
but individuals in them can nevertheless be quite poor on the median, and even completely without resources in the worst case. That’s where your thinking went off the rails here – ‘how could the country be so wealthy in aggregate but people not be able to support themselves when they’re old?’ I don’t know, but it can; I seent it.

Once you’re old enough, you can’t usefully work. So, how well you will do is dependent on savings and preparation – or someone else’s generosity. (Oligarchies are not particularly generous by design, so you’d better have some savings.) And the current generation of elderly – again, I can only speak for my country – just couldn’t see their way to doing that. I don’t blame them, I guess. Cold Wars are expensive to ‘fight’…

So, the alternative is, the young make up the slack with additional output for their parents and grandparents. Which, as you mention, is quite manageable. But, given that all real wealth is being sucked out the top of the society, that additional output is being taken from a very finite pool of resources that the young worker has. And so, where can’t those resources go instead, for example? To the raising of more children. So now by dodging #1 from your post, the current young people are causing #2 for themselves (whether ‘care workers’ or just ‘workers’ will be the shortage that matters) when they age.

So, it’s a little bit more complicated than ‘is the problem 1 2 or 3?’ The problem is, ‘Avoiding 1 leads to 2 and vice versa and probably 3’s out there somewhere too. Perhaps more critically, the whole thing is a play-stupid-games-win-stupid-prizes type deal versus taking care of the elderly and encouraging young people to procreate; it’s a false dichotomy imposed by greed.’

1. It’s probably not sustainable.

How many people do you think it takes to improve on computer processors, for example?

Consider that people who have the ability to make such advancements have to be raised, fed, clothed, educated (how many professors does it take?), and provided endless components of endless necessities in life.

And then, how many people does it take to ensure an educator – just one of those professors – is able to get a job, in the right place, and to be fed, clothed, educated, etc?

Worse: when people start to expect a population decline, they stop investing. They stop planning ahead, and look for other places/ways to make money — places that are growing.

If you think technological progress advances despite population growth, I’d love to hear how that could be sustainable.

I don’t think it’s bad that people are having fewer kids, but I do think it would be better if we understood exactly why.

What are your thoughts? Lay them on us in the comments!