Elon Musk Sounds an Alarm on Italy, Hong Kong, South Korea

Tesla’s CEO, the world’s richest man, is increasingly commenting, and acting, on matters of global concern.

Elon Musk can’t get a particular problem out of his head. 

He runs several companies — two of which, Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc Report and SpaceX, are leaders in their respective fields of electric vehicles and space tech.

Musk is further occupied with his hectic $44 billion acquisition of microblogging site Twitter  (TWTR) – Get Twitter, Inc. Report

And he (and investors) are contending with the more than 40% drop in Tesla’s shares since January. As of May 24 that’s knocked more than $77.6 billion off his personal fortune, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Still and all, the man finds time to worry about other issues. 

For a few weeks now the tech tycoon has been sounding the alarm about the continued decline of populations in wealthy countries due to collapsing birth rates.

“At risk of stating the obvious, unless something changes to cause the birth rate to exceed the death rate, Japan will eventually cease to exist,” Musk posted on Twitter on May 7 TheStreet reported at the time. “This would be a great loss for the world.”

The headquarters country of Sony  (SNE) – Get Sony Corp. Report and Toyota  (TM) – Get Toyota Motor Corp. Report recently said that the population in 2021 declined by 644,000 from a year earlier to 125.5 million people. And 2021 marked the 11th consecutive year of decline.

Musk Fears Extinction of Italy’s Population

Since then, Musk hasn’t stopped posting messages that raise alarms about declining population and that celebrate children. This problem has become a personal concern. During Twitter exchanges on May 24, the father of seven drew attention to Italy, South Korea and Hong Kong. 

Italy’s population is aging, according to official data, and Musk fears that the country could die out.

“Italy. Despite we have a good welfare birthrate is failing 🥲,” posted cybersecurity researcher Andrea Stroppa, with a demographic-trend chart showing the birth rate falling in Italy from 1946 to 2019.

“Italy will have no people if these trends continue,” the mogul responded.

The number of births in Italy fell in 2020 to its lowest level since the country’s unification in 1861, according to Istat, the Italian National Institute of Statistics. This was the the 12th consecutive year of decline.

It stood at 404,892, or 15,192 fewer births than in 2019. The number of deaths rose to 746,146 in 2020 and the population decreased to 59.3 million inhabitants.

The decline continued in 2021, according to available data from January to September, with 12,500 fewer births over the period than in the first nine months of 2020. The average number of children per woman residing in Italy was 1.24 in 2020, one of the lowest fertility rates in the world.

The covid-19 pandemic largely explains the drop.

Besides Italy, Musk estimates that the populations of South Korea and Hong Kong are declining at worrying rates.

“South Korea and Hong Kong are experiencing the fastest population collapse,” the Tesla CEO wrote. 

He added that with World Bank data showing the countries with the lowest birth rates, “2.1 kids per woman is replacement rate.”

Do Rich People Have Fewer Kids?

The billionaire seems determined to use his platform — he’s currently the most influential CEO in the world, has nearly 95 million Twitter followers and is wooed by politicians — to shine the spotlight on this issue and push for a broader world reaction. 

In addition to sounding the alarm, Musk also seems to want to buck the conventional wisdom that it’s the cost of living that discourages some people from having children.

“Contrary to what many think, the richer someone is, the fewer kids they have,” the serial entrepreneur argued. “I am a rare exception. Most people I know have zero or one kid.”

When Billy Markus, the co-founder of the meme coin dogecoin, observed that “honestly the major reason for that is people can’t afford to have kids 🤷‍♂️,” Musk objected.

“Then why is it that the richer someone is, the fewer kids they have?” he responded.

Musk also seems unconvinced by the effectiveness of the various policies put in place to try to halt population decline.

“okay so whyd you come out against Build Back Better which had universal pre-k, childcare investments, child tax credit, paid family leave, etc?” a Twitter user asked the tech tycoon.

“None of those programs prove to raise fertility levels,” another user answered. “Most European and East Asian countries have all those policies and they have fewer children than we do.”

An opinion shared by Musk: “Exactly!” he said.

For him, to solve the collapse of the population, which he describes as “the biggest threat to civilization,” we must start by celebrating children.

“We just need to celebrate having kids,” he said.

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