A FALLING birth rate coupled with rising longevity is likely to make the 21st century the last century of youth, according to an Oxford University professor.

Prof Sarah Harper, director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, says UN estimates show the proportion of children per population in most countries is likely to fall to 15 per cent or lower by the end of this century.

In some countries, it could dip to that level by the year 2050. Prof Harper, right, said there were warnings of a ‘low fertility trap’, where children in low-fertility countries adapt to the childless or one-child family model, causing fertility rates to decline further.

She added that life expectancy was now increasing rapidly in the developed world, thanks to improvements in public health and medical advances.