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Is Technology Fueling Population Decline?

Updated: Apr 13

The impact of technology on the economy and society - population decline.


According to a report published by the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,

“In 2018, for the first time in history, persons aged 65 years or over worldwide outnumbered children under age five. Projections indicate that by 2050 there will be more than twice as many persons above 65 as children under five. By 2050, the number of persons aged 65 years or over globally will also surpass the number of adolescents and youth aged 15 to 24 years.”

Yikes, I will be in that 2050 group!


iceberg showing decline


Should we take that with a grain of salt though? After all, the same report also stated that India was projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country around 2027.


Turns out, that projection happened early, in April 2023.


Or maybe we should speed up the UN’s projections about the aging population surpassing 15 to 24 year olds by 2050.


While the worldwide population is technically still growing, it is growing at a slower rate than in the past. Population decline has become a growing concern in many regions worldwide, with far-reaching implications for societies and economies.


There are dozens of factors that go into population statistics, and I will not be covering them all. In writing this post, I only want to point out the impact of technology in the equation. Tech is invasive and has crept into almost every aspect of life as we know it. While there are a multitude of reason why people do or do not have children, I simply pose that it isn’t all in our “control” to decide.


Tech is influencing the population, along with all the other factors that influence increases and decreases in the world’s population.


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Technological Advancements and Lifestyle Changes


In our increasingly digital world, technology devices have become pervasive in modern society. From smartphones to laptops, these devices have transformed the way we communicate, work, and entertain ourselves. However, along with these advancements come significant lifestyle changes that impact population dynamics.


The sedentary nature of technology use has been linked to decreased physical activity levels, which, in turn, contributes to declining fertility rates. As individuals spend more time engaged with their devices, the time dedicated to physical interactions and relationships diminish, influencing family planning decisions.


Have you seen the divorce rate? Have you tried dating recently? Both situations are dismal.

People, especially young people, are hooked on their devices. They are not going outside as much. They are not meeting new people in real life (IRL). Which means less chance of finding a partner. Less chance of a partner means less personal relationships. Less IRL personal relationships means less sex, and therefore, lower reproduction rates.


I am not going to get into fertility rates impact on population decline in this article but, it is worth noting that fertility rates around the world have been decreasing with every passing decade. If you are interested in learning more about it, you can visit the United Nations Fertility and Marriage resources.


But that doesn’t explain it all. There are a handful of factors contributing to the slowing of population growth, and it can be argued that technology is largely at the forefront of each additional factor.


Economic Factors and Cost of Living


The state of the economy plays a crucial role in population decline. Economic factors, such as the rising cost of living, significantly impacts individuals' decisions regarding starting or expanding their family. As the cost of housing, education, healthcare, and other essential needs continues to rise, individuals are facing increased financial pressure, deterring them from pursuing family formation.


Other economic hardships, including unemployment, underemployment, and income inequality, have also been closely associated with declining birth rates. These economic challenges create an environment of uncertainty, making individuals hesitant to take on the financial responsibilities like raising a family.


As we all know, housing costs have skyrocketed in many regions. Limited housing supply [due to investors] and increasing land prices have resulted in inflated rental and housing prices, making it increasingly difficult for individuals or couples to afford affordable housing.

High housing costs not only affects young couples looking to purchase their first home but, also impacts individuals seeking to provide a stable living environment for their established families. Many individuals find themselves trapped in a cycle of unaffordable housing or even homelessness, which delays starting a family or leads to smaller families.


Technology has made it easier to locate properties, bid, buy, and sell. Online listings make housing opportunities available to just about anyone with an internet connection, and those with money/financing [whether investor or a single buyer] are at an advantage. They can buy properties across the country [or in other countries] and rent those properties out without ever seeing it in person. This has caused shortages in areas where people want to buy houses but, can’t because outside investors have swept up all the properties for their short and long-term rental income businesses. They jack up the rent and create a shortage of houses for sale, which results in higher housing prices due to low inventory.

It’s a sellers [and landlord’s] market.


Another economic factor impacting population decline is the rising cost of healthcare. As medical expenses continue to rise, individuals face financial challenges. High insurance premiums, co-payments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs creates a significant burden, particularly for those without insurance coverage. The fear of medical debt and the inability to afford quality healthcare for children often prevent individuals from starting or expanding their families, leading to a decline in birth rates.


Again, technology rears its ugly head here too.


As mentioned in the beginning of this article, people are more sedentary than ever before. Public health has deteriorated. And while technology is helping us detect illnesses and injuries at earlier stages, it is also making our health and wellness worse.


The combination of high housing costs, expensive healthcare, and rising education expenses along with other factors creates a challenging environment for individuals and couples who aspire to have children. The financial burden associated with these essential needs adds significant pressure and leads to delayed family planning, smaller families, or a decision to forgo parenthood altogether.


Inflation and the Cost of Goods and Services


Inflation refers to the general increase in prices of goods and services over time. While inflation likely results from various factors, the influence of technology on inflation cannot be overlooked. Inflation further exacerbates the challenges related to population decline.

As prices of goods and services rise, individuals experience a decline in their purchasing power. This impacts people’s financial stability and ability to afford the costs associated with raising children. The increased financial burden sometimes leads to delayed family planning or a decision to have no or fewer children.


Technological advancements affects the cost of goods and services in several ways.

First, automation and increased efficiency brought about by technology can lead to reduced production costs for certain industries. As businesses adopt automated processes and streamline operations, they are able to produce goods and services more efficiently, resulting in potential cost savings. These savings, in turn, may be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices.


Howeverrrrrr….


On the other hand, technology can also contribute to inflationary pressures. The costs associated with research and development, as well as ongoing technological innovation, have led to higher prices for new products and services. The introduction of cutting-edge technologies often requires substantial investment, which is commonly reflected in the pricing of these innovative goods and services. Meaning the costs get passed on to consumers.


Also, the demand for consumer and household technology devices themselves can contribute to inflation.


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As technology becomes a deeper part of modern life, the demand for smartphones, laptops, and other electronic gadgets remains high. Manufacturers continuously release new and improved models, often at higher price points. This consumer demand and willingness to pay premium prices for the latest technology contributes to inflation in the electronics industry.


Technology also impacts the pricing of certain services, such as telecommunications and internet access. As technology advances, the demand for faster and more reliable connectivity increases. However, the costs associated with building and maintaining an advanced telecommunications infrastructure influences service providers to increase prices to cover their investments. Again, passing it on to the consumers.


We cannot mention goods and services without talking about e-commerce!


E-commerce has transformed the way goods and services are delivered and consumed. Online platforms and marketplaces offer convenience and a global marketplace, but they also affect prices. Increased competition among sellers on these platforms lead to price reductions for certain products. Other factors such as supply chain disruptions, shipping costs, and marketplace fees can impact the overall pricing dynamics too.


There is a complex relationship between technology and inflation. While technology can contribute to both lower and higher prices, its overall impact on inflation and the cost of goods and services depends on various factors, including industry dynamics, consumer demand, and market competition.


The consequences of inflation on population decline are significant though.


Rising prices erodes individuals' purchasing power, making it more challenging to afford essential goods and services. This financial strain has direct implications for family planning decisions, as individuals opt to delay or reduce family formation due to increased financial constraints.


Understanding the role of technology in shaping inflationary dynamics is essential in understanding population decline.


Stagnant Wage Growth, Technological Unemployment, and Uncertainty


One of the key economic factors contributing to population decline is stagnant wage growth. Despite economic growth, many sectors have witnessed a lack of substantial pay increases. This situation places individuals in a difficult position when it comes to supporting a family or deciding to have children. The inability to achieve a sufficient level of financial stability to provide for their children's needs often deters individuals from pursuing parenthood.

In short, financial constraints resulting from stagnant wages can lead to postponing family formation or opting for smaller families, ultimately contributing to population decline.


This situation is influenced by various factors, including the impact of technology on the labor market.


Technological advancements have led to significant changes in the labor market, affecting the demand for certain jobs and/or skills. Automation and the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has resulted in the displacement of a large number of roles previously held by humans. As technology continues to automate the more routine and repetitive tasks people perform, jobs become obsolete or require fewer workers now. This shift creates an oversupply of labor in certain sectors, contributing to wage stagnation or even wage decreases.


Additionally, over the last few decades, technology has enabled globalization and increased connectivity, facilitating the outsourcing of jobs to lower-cost countries. This global competition for labor puts downward pressure on wages in industries where remote work or outsourcing is feasible. Companies frequently seek to cut costs by taking advantage of technological advancements, and the ability to access a global pool of talent.


The “gig economy”, enabled by technology platforms, has introduced new forms of work arrangements. While technology has expanded opportunities for freelancers and independent contractors, it has also resulted in more precarious employment with fewer benefits and lower wages.


The gig economy, characterized by short-term contracts and temporary work, often lacks the stability and benefits associated with traditional employment. As a result, individuals engaged in gig work may struggle to achieve financial stability and face challenges in supporting a family.


The impact of technology on wage growth is not solely negative, however. [Just largely.]

Technological advancements can also lead to increased productivity and efficiency, which, in turn, contributes to economic growth. When technology is effectively integrated into businesses, it does often enhance workers' productivity and output. In such cases, employees may experience wage growth as a result of increased value creation and profitability.


Nevertheless, the pros do not outweigh the cons here. It is essential to identify, accept, and address the challenges posed by stagnant wage growth resulting from technological shifts.

The inability to achieve a sufficient level of financial stability to provide for their children's needs does prevent individuals from pursuing parenthood. Financial constraints resulting from stagnant wages does lead to the postponement of family formation or the choice to have smaller families, ultimately contributing to population decline.


The fear of job loss or the need to adapt to new industries also influences family planning decisions. Economic uncertainty stemming from technological shifts contribute to population decline as individuals prioritize financial stability and career prospects over starting or expanding a family.


So, is technology fueling population decline? I believe so, yes.


The combined influence of technology and (socio) economic factors significantly impacts population decline. Technological advancements and the accompanying lifestyle changes, coupled with economic challenges such as the rising cost of living, inflation, stagnant wage growth, technological unemployment, and economic uncertainty, all having technological correlations, contribute to declining birth rates and the formation of families.


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