Mosoti: On 15th November, our planet will have 8 billion inhabitants

In exactly two weeks – on November 15 – the eight billionth inhabitant of our planet will be born. It took about 12 years for the global population to grow from seven to eight billion, and projections say that, by 2080, the world population will have reached its peak of about 10.4 billion people, and will not significantly grow until the year 2100.

Globally and regionally, this demographic milestone is proof of great progress, because more and more people in the world are living longer and healthier lives, but there are many challenges and many opportunities ahead of us, says John Kennedy Mosoti, director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

In his interview with Politika daily, he draws attention to the fact that today we are facing a great demographic dichotomy – while the population of an increasing number of countries (including Serbia) is aging, and around 60 percent of the world’s population lives in countries whose fertility rate is below the level of simple reproduction, other countries have huge numbers of young people and their populations continue to grow.

The results of the latest census show that the Balkans is rapidly using its population – Croatia has lost 400,000 people in the last ten years, or ten percent of its population, and North Macedonia has lost 190,000 people in 19 years. 530,000 residents left Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2013 to 2019, and about 170,000 people left Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past year alone, while 43,000 people no longer live in the Republic of Srpska. Serbian demographers presume that the number of people living in Serbia fell by half a million between two censuses. How would you comment on this?

Mosoti: The entire region faces similar challenges – low fertility rates, migration and an aging population – and recent censuses confirm these trends. The 2021 population census in Croatia showed a population decline of as much as ten percent compared to the previous census in 2011. Looking at the total figures, this country has lost over 400,000 people in the last ten years. In 2022, the Republic of North Macedonia conducted a population census after twenty years. Similar to Serbia, where Belgrade shows slightly different parameters than the rest of the country, the exception is the capital Skopje, which continues to lead in terms of population growth.

Do you think that population policy measures in Serbia have been producing the desired results, bearing in mind that changes to the Law on Financial Support for Families with Children now prescribe much higher benefits, while the number of newborns has increased by only one percent since the beginning of these measures?

Studies show that traditional programmes that provide parents with some form of financial incentive to have more children, while very beneficial in the short term, generally have only a temporary effect. People decide to have children earlier than planned to get that cash incentive, which initially increases the number of newborns. But they generally do not decide to create a larger family, so long-term birth rates remain largely unchanged. That is why I think that Serbia and other countries in the region should focus on an often overlooked fact: the majority of people in the region actually want to have two or more children. The reasons why there are still fewer children are key to finding a solution to the population crisis in the region. This requires progress in good governance, gender equality, a more competitive and inclusive economy, and matching individual skills to labour market demands. Also, all this requires a set of specific policies that respond to the needs of families, the elderly, women, men and children.

Serbia is the fifth country in the world in terms of the rate at which it is losing its population, and UN estimates show that, by the mid-21st century, almost a fifth fewer people will live in our country than today. If we bear in mind that the demographic picture of the nation reflects the low fertility and high migration rate, i.e. mass departure of young people for abroad, do we have reason to believe in the prophecy that “all Serbs will fit under one plum tree”?

Many Central and Eastern European countries, including Serbia, have recorded a decrease in the number of inhabitants in recent decades. While a large number of European countries are facing population decline, projections say that Serbia will remain among the countries that are losing population faster than some other countries in Europe and the world. This means that by 2041, almost every fourth person in Serbia will be over 65 years old. The decline in population will affect the entire country, but it will not have an equal impact on all its parts. By the middle of the century, Belgrade will be least affected, as it will lose 3.8 percent of its population, while southeastern Serbia will lose the highest number of inhabitants – over 40 percent. We also see similar trends in neighbouring countries. As highlighted in the latest National Human Development Report, which was supported by the United Nations Population Fund and the UN Development Program in Serbia, there is a great need for better regional development, urbanization of medium-sized cities, investments in the labour market and education that would motivate young people by investing in health, gender equality and policies that promote a balance between work and parenthood.

Migration has become the middle name of a modern man – some people flee from wars and political persecutions, others leave to find work, and others to continue their education or career in another country. Research shows that about 40 percent of newborn children will not live to old age in the country where they were born, but will move to another country or to another continent. What are the forecasts for Serbia?

Young people may decide to leave their countries or cities for various reasons. Although, for example, it is true that youth employment in Serbia has been on the rise since 2013, the data show that the average quality of jobs that young people get, both in terms of job security and wages, was not a sufficient reason for them to stay in the country. If we look at the projections in the context of internal migration in Serbia, we can notice that this trend will continue. A smaller decrease in the number of inhabitants will occur in those parts of Serbia that can attract internal migrants (Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš and Subotica) and in the Raška region, which has a younger population and a higher fertility rate. But widespread migration within and outside the country is not necessarily a negative phenomenon. By going abroad and returning to their country, young people bring new knowledge and experiences and knowledge of new cultures, regardless of whether the migration was for educational or business reasons. The solution lies in creating an environment where young people can confidently plan their future and make free decisions about their lives, including the decision to start a family.

(Politika, 31.10.2022)

This post is also available in: Italiano

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top