Visualizing Population Decline by Country
Since the mid-1900s, the global population has followed a steep upwards trajectory.
While much of this growth has been concentrated in China and India, researchers expect the next wave of growth to occur in Africa. As of 2019, for example, the average woman in Niger is having over six children in her lifetime.
At the opposite end of this spectrum are a number of countries that appear to be shrinking from a population perspective. To shed some light on this somewhat surprising trend, we’ve visualized the top 20 countries by population decline.
The Top 20
The following table ranks countries by their rate of population decline, based on projected rate of change between 2020 and 2050 and using data from the United Nations.
|6||🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||18.2%|
|18||🇲🇰 North Macedonia||10.9%|
Many of these countries are located in or near Eastern Europe, for reasons we’ll discuss below.
The first issue is birth rates, which according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), have fallen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Across the region, the average number of children per woman fell from 2.1 in 1988 to 1.2 by 1998.
Birth rates have recovered slightly since then, but are not enough to offset deaths and emigration, which refers to citizens leaving their country to live elsewhere.
Eastern Europe saw several waves of emigration following the European Union’s (EU) border expansions in 2004 and 2007. The PIIE reports that by 2016, 6.3 million Eastern Europeans resided in other EU states.
There are two geographical outliers in this dataset which sit on either side of Europe.
The first is Japan, where birth rates have fallen continuously since 1970. It wasn’t until 2010, however, that the country’s overall population began to shrink.
By the numbers, the situation appears dire. In 2021, 811,604 babies were born in Japan, while 1.44 million people died. As a result of its low birth rates, the island nation also has the world’s highest average age at 49 years old.
The Japanese government has introduced various social programs to make having kids more appealing, but these don’t appear to be getting to the root of the problem. For deeper insight into Japan’s low birthrates, it’s worth reading this article by The Atlantic.
The second country is Cuba, and it’s the only one not located within the Eastern Hemisphere. Cuba’s fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman is the lowest in the Latin American region. It can be compared to countries like Mexico (2.2), Paraguay (2.5), and Guatemala (3.0).
Cuba’s immigration is also incredibly low compared to its neighboring countries. According to the International Organization for Migration, immigrants account for just 0.1% of its total population.
Animation: The Global Population Over 300 Years, by Country
This animated video shows how much the population has grown over the last three centuries, and which regions have driven this growth.
Animation: The Global Population Over 300 Years, by Country
Since the 1800s, our global population has grown from 984 million people to almost 8 billion—an increase of more than 700%.
Which regions around the world have led this growth, and what’s expected for the rest of the century? This animated visualization by James Eagle shows 300 years of population growth, including historical figures as well as projections up to the year 2100.
Asia’s Current Dominance
For centuries, more than half of the world’s population has been concentrated in Asia. At certain points throughout history, the region has made up nearly 70% of the world’s population.
Here’s a look at 2021 figures, and how large each region’s population is relative to each other:
|Rank||Region||% of Global Population (2021)|
China and India have been Asia’s largest population hubs, with China historically leading the front. In the 1950s China’s population was nearly double the size of India’s, but the gap has fluctuated over the years.
As China’s population growth continued, it was causing problems for the country as it struggled to scale up food production and infrastructure. By 1979, the Chinese government rolled out a one-child policy in an attempt to control the situation.
The program, which ended in 2016, had a number of unintended ramifications, but ultimately, it did succeed in slowing down the country’s population growth. And now, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country as early as 2023.
Africa’s Growing Piece of the Pie
Although Asia dominates the charts when it comes to overall population numbers currently, Africa’s growing population numbers are often overlooked.
While the continent’s total population is smaller than Asia’s, it will soon be home to the world’s largest working-age population, which could have a significant impact on the global economy in the years ahead.
This growth is being led by Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. With megacities like Lagos (metro population: 21 million) and over 217 million inhabitants in total, Nigeria is projected to be the world’s third most populous country by the year 2050. Nigeria’s rapid growth is largely thanks to its high birth rate, which is nearly double the global average.
Charted: The Working Hours of Americans at Different Income Levels
This graphic shows the average working hours between higher and lower-income groups in America, based on income percentile.
The Actual Working Hours of Different Income Levels
Do you really need to work 100-hour weeks for success?
In 2021, America’s top 10% of income earners made at least $129,181 a year—more than double the average individual income across the country.
When looking at differences between income groups, there are many preconceived notions about the work involved. But what are the actual average working hours for different income groups?
This graphic by Ruben Berge Mathisen uses the latest U.S. Census data to show the average working hours of Americans at different income levels.
Comparing Average Work Weeks
The data used for this graphic comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s May 2022 Current Population Survey, which surveys more than 8,000 Americans from various socioeconomic backgrounds.
Importantly, the data reflects the average work hours that respondents in each income percentile “actually” work each week, and not what’s on their contract. This also includes overtime, other jobs, or side gigs.
According to the survey data, America’s top 10% income percentile works 4.4 hours more each week than those in the bottom 10%. And in surveys across other countries, though with hundreds of respondents instead of thousands, the discrepancy was similar:
Do the rich really work longer hours than the poor?
The graph below plots data from 27 countries.
— Ruben Mathisen (@rubenbmathisen) August 7, 2022
While both income and wealth gaps are generally widening globally, it’s interesting to see that higher earners aren’t necessarily working more hours to achieve their increasingly larger salaries.
In fact, the top 10% in the 27 countries shown in the graphic are actually working around 1 hour less each week than the bottom 10%, at least among full-time workers.
Zooming Out: Average Working Hours per Country
Similarities arise when comparing average working hours across different countries. For starters, people living in poorer countries typically work longer hours.
According to Our World in Data, the average worker in Cambodia works about 9.4 hours a day, while in Switzerland, people work an average of 6 hours a day.
While many factors contribute to this discrepancy in working hours, one large factor cited is tech innovation, or things like physical machines, processes, and systems that make work more efficient and productive. This allows wealthier countries (and industries) to increase their output without putting in as many hours.
For example, from 1948 to 2011, farm production per hour in the U.S. became 16x more productive, thanks to innovations like improved machinery, better fertilizers, and more efficient land management systems.
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