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Everywhere in the world, populations of largely European origin are currently exeriencing not only their lowest-ever fertility levels, but what seem likely to be their longest- ever period of fertility at below-replacement levels. Although it is widely assumed that the fertiliy of these countries will return to replacement levels within 30 to 35 years there is at present no empirical evidence that this will happen. The inevitable demographic results of this fertility pattern are an older age structure and a decline in numbers. Many see this as leading to labour shortages and wage inflation; even to weakened national defense and the disappearance of European peoples and culture. But while they are inevitable in today's low birth-rate populations, numerical declines and older age structures are unlikely to be either as great or as disruptive as commonly anticipated. Moreover, the policies proposed to avoid such demographic developments are clearly unsuitable. The inevitability of these changes - new in human history - must be accepted before societies can adjust to them and realize the benefits that inhere in them.
The Future of Low Birth-Rate Populations assesses the demographic situation, the likely policy alternatives, the significance of future changes in fertility and mortality rates and analyses the likely gains and losses attendant upon an ageing, dwindling people.