From Twitter demographer Cicerone (now @BirthGauge):
For some countries, this is the last update (November) for which realized births still reflect fertility decisions taken before the onset of Corona – which, judging from anecdotal reports, will crater them further, but we’ll see*.
Broadly, this continues a trend I have already observed of most of the “White” world clustering towards a TFR of 1.4-1.7, e.g. involving a disappearance of the traditional US superiority to Europe. The only major downwards exceptions are in the Med, which is racked by emigration of young people to more dynamic regions of Europe.
The East Asians are breaking new barriers, with South Korea now falling to 0.85 and – for the first time in its modern history – annual deaths now outnumber births. This is quite impressive for a country where life expectancy is 83 years and where the median age was 32 years only back in 2000. But nor is South Korea unique, Taiwan has now joined it in the under 1.0 club.
No European country ever really fell that low for a prolonged period of time. Why?
Well I think it’s basically a confluence of whammies hitting them all at once, namely:
(1) Europe underwent its demographic transition much earlier and more gradually, this means “breeders” have been selected for longer and are a larger percentage of its population. There are almost none of them in East Asia, since it has only recently shaken off traditionalism.
(2) The new cultural and technological forces that have been hitting fertility during the 2010s (rising unaffordability of housing at global level, more affordable and higher quality leisure pursuits, Tinder) are also hitting East Asia.
(3) There’s also I think a tempo effect, in which average age of childbirth goes up as women “postpone”. This effect was particularly pronounced during the 1990s in Europe.
So, all of these things happening at once producing the effect of “Best Korea” now having more total births than the South. But, funny as this meme is, I don’t think it can or will last.
* Corona effect on US fertility:
Fertility in the US is set to drop to 1.57 children per woman this year, by far the lowest value ever recorded. https://t.co/nX8bUMvyN7
— Birth Gauge (@BirthGauge) January 4, 2021