La défaite finale de Thomas Malthus ?

L'ONU a récemment révisé ses projections démographiques. 6,3 milliards d'individus vivent sur Terre. Si les taux de fécondité des pays relativement pauvres continuent de suivre les tendances instaurées par les pays relativement riches d'aujourd'hui, nous sommes tout près de la population maximale mondiale de 9 à 10 milliards d'individus, qui sera atteinte en 2050-2100.

Mais il est fort possible que la population diminue par la suite. Les femmes instruites et cultivées disposant d'un large panel de choix sociaux et économiques dans les pays riches d'aujourd'hui ont entraîné les taux de fécondité au-dessous du taux de renouvellement naturel. Le problème n'est pas tant que les femmes souhaitent en moyenne avoir moins de deux enfants ; en fait, en moyenne, elles souhaitent avoir légèrement plus de deux enfants. Mais étant donné qu'un grand nombre d'entre elles retardent leur grossesse jusqu'à la trentaine, la fertilité réelle ne répond pas à leurs souhaits.

Une population mondiale qui atteint un maximum de 9 à 10 milliards ne doit pas nous inquiéter, même si Parson Malthus, l'économiste anglais du 19e siècle, a prédit un futur dans lequel dans les individus se multiplieraient plus vite que les ressources nécessaires pour les nourrir et mourraient donc de faim par millions. En effet, il est quelque peu étonnant de réaliser que l'âge de l'explosion démographique puisse toucher à sa fin.

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