Fertility rates in South Africa are expected to drop below the replacement level by 2040, according to the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).
"Births per woman will drop by 17% between 2010 and 2040, following a 20% slump over the past decade," the institute said.
In a report to be released next week, the institute said the "replacement rate" - the rate at which the population replaces itself - was expected to be 2.1 in 2035.
The African population would fall below the replacement level in the same year, while the coloured population would have reached this point in 2015.
The white and Indian populations, which already had fertility rates below 2.1, were expected to experience slight increases in fertility.
Data is sourced from Statistics South Africa’s mid-year population estimates and the Institute for Futures Research (IFR).
Population of SA
Last year, StatsSA estimated that the population was 50.59 million and that approximately 52% (approximately 26.07m) of the population was female.
The research showed a trend resembling the drop in developed countries.
This decline was partly due to improved education levels and higher female labour participation, accessibility of contraceptives and urbanisation.
Thuthukani Ndebele, a researcher at the institute, said that low fertility rates, combined with reduced mortality and increased life expectancy, would result in a growing proportion of older people and decreasing numbers of children and young people.
"The resultant shrinking workforce within an ageing population may have harmful economic consequences in the long term, notably an increasing burden of dependency on the economically active population," he said.
The country’s social welfare system would also be stretched, he said.
(Sapa, January 2012)