When 6bn people share a planet, a decline in fertility anywhere might seem a blessing. Yet, as Europe is discovering, if sharply declining birth rates coincide with rising life expectancy, the future can look grim.
The European Commission estimates that the number of people of working age in the European Union's current member states will decline by some 40m between 2010 and 2050, or from 243m to 203m. Meanwhile, the number of people aged over 65 is set to increase by 60 per cent to 103m. The number of workers per pensioner is thus destined to decline sharply, putting pension schemes under intense strain.