Muslim birth rate falls, slower population growth

Thu Jan 27, 2011 12:16pm EST
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - Falling birth rates will slow the world's Muslim population growth over the next two decades, reducing it on average from 2.2 percent a year in 1990-2010 to 1.5 percent a year from now until 2030, a new study says.

Muslims will number 2.2 billion by 2030 compared to 1.6 billion in 2010, making up 26.4 percent of the world population compared to 23.4 percent now, according to estimates by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report did not publish figures for worldwide populations of other major religions, but said the United States-based Pew Forum planned similar reports on growth prospects for worldwide Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Judaism.

"The declining growth rate is due primarily to falling fertility rates in many Muslim-majority countries," it said, noting the birth rate is falling as more Muslim women are educated, living standards rise and rural people move to cities.

"Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades -- an average annual growth rate of 1.5 percent for Muslims, compared with 0.7 percent for non-Muslims," it said.

The report, entitled The Future of the Global Muslim Population, was part of a Pew Forum program analyzing religious change and its impact on societies around the world.

Alan Cooperman, Pew Forum associate director for research, said the results refuted claims made by some critics of Muslim immigration that high birth rates would make Muslims the majority in Europe within a few decades.

Muslim minorities will grow to around 10 percent of the population in several European countries, he said, adding: "Those are substantial increases but they are very far from 'Eurabia' scenario of runaway growth."   Continued...