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article imageGlobal population trends: Revenge of the Demographers

By Paul Wallis     Nov 19, 2007 in World
Japan’s population demographic is turning upside down. The birth rate is now 1.26 per female, or below replacement rate. Much of the rest of the developed world is in pretty much the same situation, aging population, lower percentages of kids.
Compounding this situation is the fact that the Japanese have a very high average life expectancy. The result is that 40 per cent of the population are expected to be over 65 by 2050, while the birth rate will result in a population of children under 10 shrinking from 13.6 per cent to 8.6 per cent. Meaning the birth rate, very roughly, will be 0.8 per female.
The average for OECD countries, according to figures from this BBC article, is 1.6. Most of the growth is coming in the areas which can least afford big populations. The conspicuous exception in the OECD is the United States, but that's also a result of the current population moves, rather than the birth rate.
That said, try getting some current world population figures from the global-statistical holiday camp. Getting reputable figures seems to mean the World Fact Book, 1999, to someone. If that's not a historical document, what is? I tried some UN links, (which is where the BBC statistical material seems to have been originally sourced, despite the credits, because they're using the same graphs as the UN) and they kept crashing. I even found high school lessons before finding any major name organizations.
To find anything current which would condescend to load the page, I actually had to put in “2007” into the search. The US Census Bureau seems to be a bit less backward, and not only has stats per country, but projections.
The world population information stats aren’t the last word. Stats are always indicators, not the definitions. geography, which seems to be the other current source, uses US Census Bureau figures, but there’s a lot of information, easier to get at, and some graphics.
The aging population was predicted long ago by demographers, as was the scenario in the BBC article regarding the stagnant economics that those demographics produce. The irony is that the social predictions from economists and statisticians have been right all along. The working poor, the underclasses, they've been very accurate in terms of social trends. The massive economic migrations weren't factored in, as far as I know, until recently, but the basic ideas were correct.
It’s an interesting fact that governments around the world have been getting the correct demographic information for decades, and don’t seem to have understood them, except as an impact on welfare and pension payments. In Australia, for example, we have population growth which is maintained almost entirely by immigration. Like the rest of the Western world, we’ve managed to price ourselves out of economic family costs, into some dreamworld of ultra expensive suburbia.
The fact is that the sort of economics which produced the “good old days” no longer exist. (Actually the “good old days” were no charity for average wage earners either, but it was possible for them to buy their own homes.) The mortgage culture and the “user pays” mythology now mean that homeowners are effectively tenants in their own homes, and the percentage of debt to equity has gone straight backwards. All services charge whatever they can get away with, and education and health care costs are simply absurd and lethal.
Then all you have to do is raise a family, and pay for it.
This is the world the coming generations will find: an old folks home, where they’re outnumbered, living and working in a sort of conceptual museum. The good news is that older people tend to offload residential properties, so housing might well become a bit saner, if not necessarily all that much cheaper.
Education will be mainly online, so they'll have some chance of living through it. Health will no doubt become a plague of gerontologists, (that's where the money will be) with the occasional GP for some thematic contrast.
God help these kids, because the economics won’t.
More about World population, Aging, Demographics statistics
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