The economies of both Japan and Germany went into recovery around the time their populations began to decline. In other words, both the total and per capita GDP in both countries grew more rapidly than before. Russia’s economy also began to grow rapidly, even though its population had been shrinking. Many Eastern European countries have been experiencing similar effects to Russia. Such renewed growth calls into question the conventional wisdom that economic growth requires population growth, or that economic growth is impossible during a population decline.
A focus on productivity growth that leads to an increase in both per capita GDP and total GDP can bring other benefits to:
- the workforce through higher wages, benefits and better working conditions
- customers through lower prices
- owners and shareholders through higher profits
- the environment through more money for investment in more stringent environmental protection
- governments through higher tax proceeds to fund government activities
Another approach to possible positive effects of population decline is to consider Earth’s carrying capacity. The human carrying capacity of the Earth has been estimated to be 500 million, 1 billion or up to 12 billion. According to these studies, the human carrying capacity has already been exceeded or would be exceeded by the year 2100, therefore a global population decline would counteract the negative effects of human overpopulation.