The global child population has been in decline, due largely to falling family sizes. Globally, the birth rate was 19.2 per 1,000 people in 2014, compared to 21.6 in 2000, while the fertility rate (the average number of children per woman) was 2.9 in 2014, compared to 3.3 in 2000. However, a shrinking global child population is expected to be a short-lived phenomenon. Looking ahead, the population of 0-14-year-olds is forecast to grow by 5% over 2014-2030, mainly due to strong growth in the child population in the Middle East and Africa, as well as Asia Pacific.
Largest 0-14 Year-old Population vs Traditional Toys and Games Growth 2014, Selected Markets
Source: Euromonitor International
Many of the world’s developing countries still have sizeable and rising child populations. The child population in some developed countries is also rising. The overall downturn in the child population globally has meant smaller household sizes and greater consumer expenditure per child, which has created more allowance for discretionary spending on non-essentials for children, especially toys and games. This has important implications for toy manufacturers targeting parents of 0-14-year-olds.
So, where are the 0-14-year-olds?
Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa are the biggest regions in terms of 0-14-year-olds, followed by Latin America. In 2014, there were almost 946 million children in Asia Pacific, accounting for more than half of the global total.
In China, the child population fell by 1.7% on average annually over 2004-2014, or by some 38 million in absolute terms, thanks mainly to the one-child policy, introduced in 1979, which has aimed to limit overall population growth. A partial relaxation of the policy in 2014, which meant that families would be allowed two children if one parent is an only child, has done very little to boost its flagging birth rate. China has the second largest child population in the world, at 211 million in 2014, after India at 368 million.
By 2030, the number of 0-14-year-olds is forecast to comprise 22.9% of the total world population. This is down from 25.5% in 2014, but nonetheless represents an extra 94 million children. That said, many developing countries will continue to demonstrate increasing birth rates, changing the make-up of populations.
Impact on toy sales
In 2014, the world’s population of children (0-14-year-olds) was 287 million greater than it was in 1980. On the face of it, this is the best thing since sliced bread for the toys and games industry. Or is it? Rather extraordinarily, over 272 million of these extra children live in the Middle East and Africa, neither of which is considered a core toy market by top players. However, there is a silver lining. A combination of increasing spend per child in developed markets and rising disposable incomes in emerging markets could just be the ideal combination to secure growth in sales.
Toy manufacturers ultimately worry that the declining numbers of children in core markets will constrain their growth prospects. However, where fewer toys are bought, their value tends to be higher. So, the industry can still advance through innovation, trading up and pricing. On the one hand, a greater number of children may be beneficial for companies focused on cheaper toys, such as Mattel, provided disposable income passes the level where it is high enough for a family to be able to afford any toys at all. On the other hand, fewer children and a subsequent higher spend per child may benefit more expensive toy manufacturers, such as Hasbro or LEGO, in markets such as Latin America.
Of the established toy markets, Australia, the US, France and the UK stand out as having relatively high birth rates of 12.5 per 1,000 population among them on average in 2014. The good news for toy manufacturers is that this should make these countries even more important in the future. Markets with a strong birth rate, high disposable incomes and ageing baby-boomers will offer a healthy environment in which both toys targeted at children and adults are poised to grow.