Do you recall in late 2021, Elon Musk tweeted his fears about the end of humanity. “We should be much more worried about population collapse. If there aren’t enough people for Earth, then there definitely won’t be enough for Mars.”
There is a great deal of truth in Musk’s statement, and I wonder how many board of directors and CEOs are focusing harder on recruiting immigrants, putting in place innovative fertility benefit programs, or investing in the next frontier of technology innovations that will advance human population production in ways only medical technology fused with advanced analytics and AI can achieve.
Did you know that until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, global population grew very slowly?
However, the growth rate accelerated to 2.09% during the 1967–1969 period, but since then, due to the worldwide collapse of the fertility rate, it has declined to 1.05% as of 2020. This translates to a global population increase from 1 billion in 1800 to an estimated 8 billion as of 2022.
We are fast approaching what Hans Rosling called the ‘peak child,” a moment in history when the population stops increasing. Since 1950, the total number of children younger than 15 years of age has increased rapidly, from 0.87 billion children to around 2 billion today. Without access to youth to operate our global supply chains, we could face even greater challenges that global warming – not having enough labour capacity to fuel the world’s economy.
Why is global population slowing?
Global population growth is determined by the number of births and deaths. Two major factors are at play, increasing life expectancy and falling child mortality in every country. The major trend is declining fertility rates is bringing an end to rapid population growth.
The outlook of global population growth yearly in terms of the number of births will remain at around 130 to 140 million per year over the next few decades. It will then slowly decline in the second-half of the century.
The United Nation’s 2022 report states:
- In 2022, the two most populous regions were both in Asia: Eastern and South-Eastern Asia with 2.3 billion people (29 per cent of the global population), and Central and Southern Asia with 2.1 billion (26 per cent). China and India, with more than 1.4 billion each, accounted for most of the population in these two regions.
- More than half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.
- India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country during 2023.
- Countries of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to continue growing through 2100 and to contribute more than half of the global population increase anticipated through 2050.
- Over the past seventy years, fertility rates have decreased by a staggering 50%.
- 23 countries are already at risk, with Japan, Spain, Portugal, Thailand, and South Korea at the forefront of the crisis.
- U.S., infertility statistics are very concerning as: 1 in 8 American couples has issues with fertility.
What is the implication for board directors looking ahead and investors?
First, increasing investments in fertility treatments and support benefits is important, as well as funding innovations that can challenge current birthing methods and create an artificial womb.
In 2017, scientists created a “BioBag” that functioned as an artificial womb, and they used it to grow a baby lamb. Now, a new concept has been unveiled showing how the same could be done for humans.
In recent footage, Hashem Al-Ghaili shows what childbirth might look like tomorrow. This is a startling glimpse into what is 100% feasible, and already Elon Musk has affirmed that EctoLife is viable and likely needed.
Meet Ectolife, the world’s first artificial womb facility, EctoLife, will be able to grow 30,000 babies a year. It’s based on over 50 years of groundbreaking scientific research conducted by researchers worldwide. Watch the video below and somehow life will never be the same. It also opens up debates from ethicists on what is a human if manufactured like a chip in a research laboratory?
Innovative companies like Apple, Salesforce, ScotiaBank, and many others – even Starbucks offers $25,000 for all medical treatment for infertility. This is a very positive step in recognizing that we have a major labour shortage looming ahead.
If we don’t do anything, we will certainly face a crisis in labour. Hence accelerating investments in robotics, fertility benefits, educational digital literacy acceleration in higher reproductive countries, and exploring what artificial wombs can help ensure the human race’s survival are all possibilities to explore.
As a board director or a C-Suite executive, how are you approaching the future labour shortage as you build your future growth strategies? Perhaps some investments in Africa’s universities to train more scientists, or early child hood education and food support programs to end poverty are some viable considerations.
No matter what each country or company does, we do need to think ahead and plan wisely?
Research Sources: United Nations and World in Data
Note: The United Nations (2022) published its latest population statistics, covering historical and current estimates, and future projections.