It is commonly accepted among most economists that what ails the developed world today is too little procreation. The thinking goes that in order for a generation to retire it must create at least as many offspring who would support them in their retirement. Those who adhere to this belief point to the very low reproductive rates in places like Japan and Western Europe and foresee a long and slippery slide to economic disaster, where there won’t be enough in taxes paid by a shrinking population to support the retiring generation.
I’ve always been very confused by this line of thinking inasmuch as it seems to be overly simplistic – placing an emphasis on sheer numbers without any regard for the issue of productivity. To me, the math around this has everything to do with productivity and very little to do with absolute population count. That is to say, what the world needs now is more productive people, not more unproductive ones. In point of fact, the unproductive ones actually compete with, and drain from the pool of resources otherwise available to retirees. So, just looking at sheer numbers is dumb. In fact, I would say that in today’s Information/Technology Era healthier societies will be characterized by smaller populations, and possibly shrinking ones, but filled with educated and productive people. Greece doesn’t really need more Greeks, per se, but instead more productive Greeks. Japan doesn’t need more Japanese, Germany doesn’t need more Germans, and the U.S. doesn’t need more Americans, just more productive citizens, and arguably fewer in absolute numbers. I’d bet that the world would do just fine with a 50% population shrinkage, but with all of them producing at a higher level.