First off, it’s that time of year: 2023 population data are pouring in. A surfeit of statistics surfaces somewhere every week. Nirvana for demography nerds! Parsing numbers is boring, but some startling stats merit mention. South Korea, with the world’s lowest fertility rate (0.78), broke its own record at 0.72. In Japan births fell 5.1 percent, marriages almost 6 percent. Seems Europe has more fifty-plus folks than preschoolers.

Know what really caught my attention this week? The adventures of Stephen J. Shaw, a Brit resident in Japan. He’s a documentary filmmaker, data scientist and you guessed it, demographer. He produced a fantastic documentary, Birthgap – Childless World. Part 1 is accessible here. Parts 2 and 3 are accessible via subscription.

The promo: Shocked by data on declining birth rates in Europe and Japan, Stephen embarked on a 24-country journey in order to understand the causes of this phenomenon. Along the way, he came face-to-face with the economic, social and individual consequences of childlessness and declining birth rates… [T]his thought-provoking documentary combines deeply personal stories with never-seen-before demographic data to reveal the surprising reality of what has been happening across the globe. Mr Shaw, a father of three, is a self-described “life-learner” who occasionally enrols in university courses….

Like so many data freaks, Shaw once believed Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb thesis, the notion that we’re reproducing too fast for the food supply and mass starvation is around the corner. But then he came face-to-face with the facts: no credible data supported Ehrlich. I had assumed before this project that the world’s population was growing exponentially out of control, almost that it didn’t matter what we did for the environment and because there are going to be so many people. I saw that the world’s population is destined to maximize quite quickly, and then quite quickly go down. Thus began the scholarly odyssey culminating in Birthgap – Childless World, a cinematic exposition about the birth dearth. Conclusion? There is a global pandemic (a real one) of unplanned childlessness. We teach people so much about biology in schools… We teach young people how to not get pregnant. We really don’t teach anything meaningful about the fertility window. Educrats love sex education, birth control and abortion rights; there is scant attention to the finiteness of human fertility. Birthgap provides a compassionate and much-needed platform for victims of unplanned, unintended childlessness. Their suffering has thus far been hidden from public view. That is changing thanks to Mr Shaw. People are now “coming out” about a sensitive personal issue critical to our survival….

Watch 3-minute trailer of Birthgap.