The causes and consequences of depopulation

Wittgenstein Centre Conference 2021

Vienna, Austria, 29.11. - 01.12.2021
Online via Zoom

Although global population is still growing, an ever larger number of regions and countries are experiencing a decline in population size, and the COVID-19 pandemic may have further accelerated the process. Undoubtedly, depopulation poses many challenges from economic, social, political, and strategic perspectives. In the public and policy discourse, negative views are often emphasised but may population decline also open up opportunities?

Thematic questions are:

  • What are differential drivers of population decline?
  • What are the long-term consequences of population decline for economic growth and investment, the sustainability of social security systems and governments’ budgets, and the maintenance of public infrastructure and services?
  • Are there differences in the economic consequences of population decline when the decline is driven by low fertility or by outward migration?
  • Are declining populations less innovative?
  • What is the impact of population decline on inequality and equal life chances?
  • How might (the fear of) depopulation be linked to perceived threats to culture and identity?
  • How to include potential demographic, social, economic, and environmental feedback effects into models of depopulation?
  • Which policies could mitigate the challenges associated with population decline?
  • Might population decline be something desirable, e.g., from an environmental perspective?

This conference aims to bring together researchers from around the world working on population decline and its consequences from demographic, economic, sociological, political, environmental, and geographical perspectives. We are happy to announce as keynote speakers:

  • David Bloom, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Josh Goldstein, University of California
  • Anne Goujon, European Commission Joint Research Centre, Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography
  • Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission for Democracy and Demography

Additionally, a policy-oriented discussion will be presented as a special session hosted by UNFPA.

The conference will take place 29.11.-01.12.2021 in full distance mode via Zoom. There is no conference fee. A special issue of the Vienna Yearbook of Population Research will focus on the conference theme, Depopulation. Conference participants will be invited to submit their research to the journal.

Conference Organisers at the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, OeAW, University of Vienna):

Ekaterina Zhelenkova, Conference Coordinator (University of Vienna)

Zuzanna Brzozowska (VID, Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Stuart Gietel-Basten (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)

Michael Kuhn (IIASA)

Michaela Potančoková (IIASA)

Klaus Prettner (Vienna University of Economics and Business)



If you have any questions regarding the conference, please contact conference.vid(at)