The G7 was established in the 1970s in order to bring the world’s leading (free) economies together to deal with the economic fallout of the oil shock. France, Germany, Japan, the USA and the UK met for the first time in this forum in 1975 and were joined a year later by Italy and Canada.
Since then Russia has been added and then kicked off the team. As times and circumstances have changed, there have been calls for the G7 to be abandoned or amended or revamped. After all, what does the G7 do that the G20 doesn’t? Where do the BRICS countries fit into all of this? If you were picking the most influential seven economies in the world right now, I don’t think you’d pick the current G7…
In an ever-changing world, there is one aspect of the G7 has not changed much in the years since it was established. That is that these seven nations have been older and less fecund than the rest of the world. According to the Pew Research Centre, when the group was established in the mid-1970s the global fertility rate was nearly 4.5 children per woman. Even then, it was below replacement for the G7: only 2.03.
Since then the gap between the world’s and the G7’s fertility rates has closed: the G7’s fertility rate has declined, but the world’s has plummeted. Currently the total fertility rate of the G7 is 1.61 while the world’s sits at 2.42. These low fertility rates have flowed on to the number of births in the G7 nations: in 2018 Japan and Italy both reported their lowest number of annual births since data has been collected. In the US the number of babies born is at a 32-year low.
At the other end of the scale, the G7 nations are all much older than the global average. All of the G7 countries have a median age higher than that of the world’s average. By 2025 the median age in Japan will reach 50 years, that same milestone will be reached in Italy in 2030. By the end of the century it is predicted by the UN that the global median age will be 41.9 years while that of the G7 will be 48.5.
Interestingly, while the UN has identified the ageing of the global population as one of the most significant social transformations of this century, the countries leading this transformation will not be discussing it. In Biarritz, where the G7 met this weekend, the participants focused on access to health care and education and gender equality and the status of Russia as a member instead.
Marcus Roberts is co-editor of Demography is Destiny, MercatorNet's blog on population issues.