The world population is still growing.

Depending on the scenario, there could be 11 billion people at the end of the century, but possibly fewer.

It is likely that the 8 billion mark will be exceeded in 2023.

There are big differences here: populations are growing, especially in developing countries in Africa and Asia, while in other regions they are already shrinking.

According to a new study by the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB), which is available to the FAZ, 18 countries are affected by the population decline.

Six others, including Germany, are not shrinking because the negative population balance is being absorbed by immigration.

Martin Franke

Editor on duty at FAZ.NET.

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In its 180-page coalition agreement, the traffic light coalition barely addressed the demographic aspects of politics and the economy.

This future issue is mentioned in just four places.

It is also highly relevant for Germany.

A negative population balance occurs when more people die than are born.

Demographers also speak of excess deaths.

"The death surplus, which leads to a decline in the population, has so far received less attention as a problem," says Frank Swiaczny, one of the authors of the study.

Immigration has absorbed the shrinking German population since 1972 - but that could change in the future.

In some countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria this trend has been visible for years.

China will begin to shrink in ten years

The BiB study examines how long it takes for a decline in fertility to be followed by a death surplus. What is new about the study is less the trend than the speed with which declines will become noticeable. Accordingly, the shrinkage meant "a previously unknown reality for many countries over the next few decades". Swiaczny says: "A rapid decline in fertility to a low level, as was observed in Eastern Europe after 1990, is followed with a short time lag by a surplus of deaths." This means: First women have fewer children, then the number of deaths outweighs that of births.

In Europe, this development only lasted 17 years.

In China, the world's most populous country, “natural growth” will end in about ten years and “a long-term population decline will begin,” the authors estimate.

India and the US will also begin to shrink in the second half of the century.

The decline in population is often first noticeable in structurally weak regions.

According to Swiaczny, lifelong learning and investments in health, as well as adjustments in the world of work, could help.

In addition to population decline, aging is likely to weigh on pension systems and affect society's productivity.

However, there are also opportunities: less resource consumption and lower CO2 emissions.

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