The People of Tomorrow by Paul Morland review

If you weren’t “paying attention,” the message of this book “will come as a shock,” said David Aaronovitch The times. She argues that the “big demographic problem” of the future is not that there will be “too many people” on Earth, but that there will soon be “too few”.

The world’s population is now growing, and in this “succinct and well-structured book,” Paul Morland, a lecturer at Birkbeck College in London, predicts it will continue for a while, peaking at about 11 billion later this century. But this trend, he argues, is fallacious because it depends on rapid growth in a few places, such as sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, across much of the rest of the planet, fertility rates are falling so fast that those who are dying are not being replaced. “Most of the West is reproducing below or well below the replacement rate, as is China.” Morland’s prediction is that world population will decline significantly, with profound implications for “social dynamics.”

At the heart of Morland’s analysis is a process known as “the demographic transition,” Sarah Harper said in Literary Review. Accordingly, life expectancy increases with the economic development of societies – which leads to a surge in population. But then, as such societies become wealthier and more educated, women begin to have fewer children — and their populations age and shrink.

Demographic change is particularly advanced in Japan, a country of 79,000 centenarians, Colin Freeman said in The Daily Telegraph. Italy, Bulgaria and Russia are also shrinking rapidly. In contrast, Nigeria’s population is expected to double to 400 million by 2050. the people of tomorrow is a skillful, well-argued work that provides an “accurate chronicle of our global breeding habits” and “enlightens how the ebb and flow of population can affect history”.

Picador 304 p. £20; The Bookstore of the Week £15.99

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Fry Electronics Team

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