Over 4 Million people have passed away due to the pandemic. This number is increasing by the minute
Cast your minds back to 2020: a pandemic has ruined social interactions, people are panicking as they remain packed in their homes, baking is trending, almost all economies are in a significant downturn and there are millions of theories floating around. One of the weirder theories suggested that the Covid-19 was a cleansing mechanism, brought upon us to lower the population and restore the environment. There is a whole lot wrong with the statement, including themes of eco-fascism and the general disregard for loss of human life and economic capital, but it did get one thing right: the pandemic will have long lasting effects on the world’s population.
The consensus isn’t hyperbole either. There is significant historical evidence of the world population changing because of events that cause so much death and disruption. The 1918 Spanish Flu showed a clear correlation between a spike in death rates and low fertility rates. Now the extent to which an event affects fertility and mortality can change, of course. For example, there was a baby bust in 1918, however, the effect was temporary and birth rates slowly climbed back. On the other hand, the impact on birth rates caused by the 2008 recession is still not over. Nevertheless, countless examples from the plague, the Spanish Flu and the two World Wars show that there is and will continue to be an impact visible in world population trends due to Covid-19.
What is that impact, then? How has the pandemic changed the population density and fertility rate around the globe? Several studies have been done on this question. They have found some damning statistics. The last time the birth rates were this low in France was all the way back during World War II. Child registration in China has fallen by 15 percent. Asia has suffered one of the larger baby busts around the globe, with the fertility rate in countries like Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan falling significantly. If we couple this with the mortality rate due to Covid-19, it is clear that there is definite depopulation.
As with all things, it is imperative that we put these numbers in context. All statistics are useless without the necessary context required to understand them. In this case, it wouldn’t be appropriate to just note down that the population is falling. It is key that we understand WHY the population is now lowering, and how it will affect the future. Only then can we find ways to work towards handling the effects of Covid-19 on the population.
The population itself is one of those things. It is largely asymptomatic early on. But its effects are significant in a global context for the following years.
According to experts the recorded depopulation can have several reasons. Of course, the biggest reason is the sheer amount of deaths caused by the pandemic. Over 4 million people have passed away due to the pandemic and this number is increasing by the minute. Four million less people around the world is bound to put a dent in the world population trends. However, there are other reasons for the apparent depopulation that are linked more to the social situations created by the pandemic. First, the economic downturn has meant that many couples have chosen to not have babies or delay pregnancies so their economic situation is more suited to having a child. High dropout and unemployment rates have both had an impact on global fertility rates as well.
As we discuss depopulation and its causes, it would be unreasonable to not mention that the effect of the pandemic on the population is uneven around the world. Some countries are affected worse than the others. This depends on factors like the severity of Covid-19 in that area, social welfare available, the original pre-pandemic fertility/ mortality rate and healthcare in that area. While almost all countries have been affected, some have been affected worse than the others.
What does this mean for the future? In many cases, the economy and the population are dependent on each other. A higher fertility rate results in a larger workforce, which could potentially improve the economy of any country in question. With the fertility rate plummeting, the ratio of older people on pension to younger people willing to work has worsened. This means that the government spending on pensions and social welfare would have to increase as the workforce decreases. In essence, the economy is causing a hurdle in population growth and being affected by a low population growth simultaneously. This signifies another alarming facet of the pandemic. Even though the global economy has suffered so much, it may get worse in the coming 20 years as the effects of the current baby bust become more visible.
The pandemic has been a very holistic and hostile global phenomenon. Much has been said about its impact on human life and the role it has played in changing social interactions around the globe but as time passes, we learn more intriguing ways in which the pandemic has changed things. The population itself is one of those things. It is largely asymptomatic early on but its effects are significant in a global context for the following years.
The writer is a student at LUMS and a reporter for The LUMS Post