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15 Fastest Declining Countries in Asia

In this article, we will take a look at the 15 fastest declining countries in Asia. If you want to skip our discussion on the population trends in Asia, you can go directly to the 5 Fastest Declining Countries in Asia.

The Asia-Pacific region is home to a population of over 4.8 billion people as of 2020. The region is home to China and India, which are the two most populous countries in the world, with over 1.4 billion people each. According to recent data from the United Nations (UN), the region's population is growing by 0.64% per year, but this growth rate is slowing down. The composition of the total population is expected to shift in the future due to different speeds of population growth in the subregions. For instance, in 1980, 42% of the region's population lived in East and North-East Asia, but by 2050, only 31% of the population will live there. Instead, almost half of the region's population will live in South and South-West Asia by 2050. The Pacific is the fastest-growing subregion, and its share of the total population is expected to grow from 0.8% in 1980 to 1.1% in 2050.

It’s important to note that despite having a shrinking population with negative or bare minimum population growth, several countries in our list of the fastest declining countries in Asia are also among the top 10 fastest growing economies in Asia. These include China and Armenia. Despite efforts to control population growth, economic activity in these countries continues to boom. This is primarily because the total population in these areas still remains substantial, providing a large labor force and consumer base to drive economic growth.

China is the fastest-growing Asian country based on GDP. However, due to strict policies for population growth, including the one-child policy in the past, the Chinese population has seen a major decline in recent years. This decline was first noticed in 2022, when there was a difference of 850,000 in the Chinese population from the previous year. This marked the first population decline in the country in over 60 years. The one-child policy was lifted in 2016 and replaced by a two-child policy.


However, with the passage of time, Chinese authorities have had a shift in opinion about restrictions on fertility and reproduction and are encouraging people to get married and have more kids. This is because around 15% of the country’s population is aged 65 or older, and the fertility rate stands at 1.45 children per woman. A stable population requires a fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman, which China falls short of. According to the French Institute for Demographic Studies, if no changes occur, the Chinese population will drop to 1.3 billion by 2050 and may further decrease to less than 800 million in 2100.

Japan and South Korea are facing similar challenges. Japan and South Korea’s population is decreasing rapidly every year. The fertility rates in both countries are low, with South Korea having 1.1 children per woman and Japan having 1.4 children per woman. The future looks concerning, with Japan's population expected to decrease to 104 million in 2050 and then to 72 million in 2100 from the current 126 million. Japan witnessed a record decline in 2023, with a staggering decrease of 837,000 people within a year. This roughly translates to losing 100 people an hour. Despite efforts to encourage high fertility, Japan has struggled to reverse its declining population growth since 2005. The government has expressed concerns about the impact of low fertility on its economy and social welfare systems.

In South Korea's case, the figures are expected to drop from 52 million today to 46 million in 2050 and then to 24 million in 2100. The primary cause for this drop in fertility rates and population growth rates is urbanization and modernization. This declining population trend is common in most high-income countries across the globe. This is because urbanization leads to long working hours and high living costs, which discourage people from starting families.

Despite experiencing recent declines in population, some of the countries in Asia are projected to play important roles in the global economy in the future as well. For instance, China is forecasted to capture a significant share of 22.68% and achieve a GDP of $101 trillion by 2100. The Chinese economy is supported by various companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE:BABA), Tencent Holdings Limited (OTC:TCEHY), and, Inc. (NASDAQ:JD). Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE:BABA) and, Inc. (NASDAQ:JD) offer two of the most popular e-commerce platforms in China. Meanwhile, Tencent Holdings Limited (OTC:TCEHY) operates as a multimedia company.

Here's what Artisan Partners said about Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE:BABA) in its Q4 2023 investor letter:

“Pretty much all of our holdings rose during the quarter. Only one stock declined by more than a couple of percent—Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE:BABA), which was down 9% for the quarter and 12% for the year. This investment continues to be a disappointment. We estimate the shares are trading at around 5X EBITA—a valuation normally reserved for a company with evaporating profits. While it’s true Alibaba is underperforming its peers in the market, the fact is it remains the market leader in its core businesses, and the business is still growing. In the most recent quarter, revenues grew 9% and profits grew 26%. It’s not evaporating.

The management seems to be making meaningful changes designed to enhance shareholder value, including structural changes to improve profitability and restore its competitive position. It is monetizing non-core assets and making improvements in capital allocation. A lot of good things are happening that are not yet recognized in the share price. There are reasons—primarily geopolitical—for this, but at the current valuation, we could easily see the shares double and they would still be cheap.”

15 Fastest Declining Countries in Asia
15 Fastest Declining Countries in Asia


Our Methodology

To shortlist the fastest declining countries in Asia, we consulted high-authority sources such as the World Bank, the United Nations, and the CIA. We used these sources to gather the latest population data for Asian countries and shortlisted 15 countries with declining population growth rates. All countries in this list have a population growth rate lower than the world average population growth rate. The countries are ranked in descending order of their annual population growth rate as of 2022, sourced from the World Bank. It is important to note that while some of these countries have positive population growth rates, they are still observing a decline in their total population as compared to previous years.

You can also check out the 50 Most Populated Countries in the World in 2024 here.

By the way, Insider Monkey is an investing website that tracks the movements of corporate insiders and hedge funds. By using a consensus approach, we identify the best stock picks of more than 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years (see the details here). Whether you are a beginner investor or a professional one looking for the best stocks to buy, you can benefit from the wisdom of hedge funds and corporate insiders.

15 Fastest Declining Countries in Asia

15. Indonesia

Population Growth = 0.64%     

With a population of 275 million, Indonesia has an average annual population growth rate of 1.1%. The country’s last recorded population growth rate was 0.64% in 2022, signifying a drop in population growth. Projections suggest that this trend will continue, leading to a further decline in the population growth rate in the coming years.

14. Bahrain

Population Growth = 0.61%          

Bahrain has seen a significant decline in population growth rates. The country's population growth rate has declined from nearly 3.5% in 2016 to 0.61% as of 2022.

13. Cyprus

Population Growth = 0.59%          

With a population of 1.25 million, Cyprus stands as the third most populous island in the Mediterranean Sea. Cyprus has maintained an average annual population growth rate of 1.3%. In 2022, the growth rate was recorded at 0.6%. Projections from the United Nations suggest that this growth rate will further decrease to 0.20% by 2050.

12. Kuwait

Population Growth = 0.44%

With a population of 4.3 million and an average annual population growth rate of 3.6%, Kuwait has experienced a decline in population growth in recent years. However, there has been an improvement from the previous population growth rate, which was -2.5% in 2021.

11. North Korea

Population Growth = 0.37%          

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea, has maintained an average annual growth rate of 0.5%. The current population growth is slightly below this average at 0.37%. According to UN projections, the population is expected to decline in the upcoming years, reaching -0.28% by 2050, with an estimated population of 25.8 million.

10. Sri Lanka

Population Growth = 0.27%

Sri Lanka has been experiencing a steady population decline since 2011. The country has an average annual population growth rate of 0.8%. The current population growth is on a downward trend and is projected to reach 21.8 million by 2050.

9. Qatar

Population Growth = 0.26%          

Qatar makes up about 0.03% of the world's population. The average annual growth rate in Qatar is 6.5%, with the growth rate peaking in 2007 at 21%. The population growth in Qatar is expected to drop to negative before going up to 0.8% in 2050.

8. Thailand

Population Growth = 0.13%          

The current population of Thailand is 71 million, with a growth rate of 0.13% in 2022. Thailand has experienced a steady decline in population growth since 1965, and it is expected to decrease further in the coming decades, reaching -0.51% in 2050. The average annual population growth between 2000 and 2022 has only been 0.6%, making Thailand one of the fastest declining countries in Asia.

7. Georgia

Population Growth = 0.10% 

Georgia has an average annual population growth rate of -0.4%, with a population of 3.7 million. The country’s annual population growth rate is projected to decrease further to -0.43% by 2050, with an estimated population of 3.4 million.

6. Azerbaijan

Population Growth = 0.04%          

Azerbaijan has an average annual population growth rate of 1.1%, with a population of 10.1 million. The country’s population growth rate in 2022 was 0.04% and is expected to drop to -0.20% by 2050.

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Disclosure: None. 15 Fastest Declining Countries in Asia is originally published on Insider Monkey.