Population decline worries experts as fertility rates drop globally

Birth rates around the world are plummeting and experts are worried the population decline could be very bad news.

Humans have altered the planet to such an extent that scientists have declared a new name for a new era: 'The Anthropocene', or the age of humans.

But for better or worse, the baby boom could be over.

"The world population will continue to grow for a while yet, but the second half of this century will see a decline in the world population - and a very significant one," said Professor Paul Spoonley, a sociologist at Massey University.

In every developed economy, birth rates are dropping at an alarming rate, with Prof Spoonley noting rates have declined rapidly over the last few years.

"In 2014, we were still at a replacement rate, which is 2.1 births per woman. And then suddenly it dropped and now we're at 1.6," he said. 

"And the question is, will it keep dropping?"

A toxic chemical soup of modern luxuries may be to blame for the lack of fertility. 

UK researchers found chemicals used in soft plastics, cosmetics, and nearly anything with a fake scent impacts testosterone development, leading to lower sperm counts for successive generations of men.

And even when things do go according to plan, kids are a major investment.

"It's estimated that if you're going to have a child, it's probably going to cost you around $280,000, so it's not cheap," Spoonley said.

However, some believe fewer people on the planet would be a good thing. 

"There's a lot of population experts and environment and climate change experts who might suggest we have a population overgrowth problem and having fewer children might not be a bad thing, looking at a finite amount of resources," obstetrics and gynaecology professor at the University of Auckland Dr Michelle Wise said.

But as the older generation retires, there won't be enough people to replace them.

"One of the things that we're all facing, all countries, is this shortage of workers," Spoonley said.

For the past five years, immigration has been keeping New Zealand afloat. Countries with tighter immigration policies are staring down the barrel of societal collapse.

"Japan had a net loss of people, nationally, of about 400,000 last year."

Japan, Finland, Italy, Australia, Russia and other nations offer cash for having children. Meanwhile, Sweden proposed workers getting a one-hour paid break to go home and attempt to conceive.

Spain even appointed a Minister of Sex in 2017, but with no luck.

Despite international efforts to boost birth rates, it appears none are working. In the end, we may have to just adapt to a world with fewer people in it.