Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The Demographic Bomb

by rdf Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 10:30:17 AM EST

From today's press:
German Population Plunge Expected

Germany's population will drop by as much as 12 million by 2050 due to low birth rates, according to an official forecast released Tuesday.

What really worries demographers is a seemingly inevitable trend here towards a growing number of elderly people. Statisticians reckon that by 2050 the group of people past the age of 60 in Germany will be twice as high as those under 20. [my emphasis]

I think that the situation in Italy is similar (and Japan).

This would also be true if immigration was stopped in the US. Notice that the press and politicians see this as a problem with not having enough workers to make "stuff".

What is it going to take to get people to realize that this is an opportunity to transform society into one less dependent on non-renewable resources?

Any people in areas where these demographic changes are happening interested in making some remarks on how things are changing?

Notice that the press and politicians see this as a problem with not having enough workers to make "stuff".

What is it going to take to get people to realize that this is an opportunity to transform society into one less dependent on non-renewable resources?

This is exactly the problem, the elites continue to think of the people as cannon fodder or cheap unqualified labour. With a declining, more experienced population (where people over the age of 60 won't be "elderly" but active) you can improve the standard of living even if GDP stops growing.
Any people in areas where these demographic changes are happening interested in making some remarks on how things are changing?
In Spain there is a growing problem with people of middle-age and older, even nearing retirement, who have to take care of elderly parents in their 70's, 80's or 90's. The government is reacting to this by instituting support mechanisms through a "Dependency Law".

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 11:33:54 AM EST
This is exactly the problem, the elites continue to think of the people as cannon fodder or cheap unqualified labour. With a declining, more experienced population (where people over the age of 60 won't be "elderly" but active) you can improve the standard of living even if GDP stops growing.

I was having a discussion with friends last night about the US.  In the US, there's a significant group that has sufficient private pension funds to retire, but is unable to because they are unable to get health coverage.

I would love to see the universal coverage that Americans over 65 are now eligible for (Medicare) expanded on a pay for play basis to those who are 55 and over.  Doing that could remove a large number of employees who have delayed retirement plans and have blocked the upward mobility of younger workers, that in turn would shrink the labor supply.  And we know that where the supply of labor is reduced and demand is constant, one of two things will happen.  Either wages will increase, or employers will substitute capital investement for labor..

That I believe is one vital distiction between Europe and America.  In Europe where the relative minimum wage is higher inefficient positions have been eliminated and employers either substitute captial  (ie machines) for labor, or invest in human capital (ie education) to make their workers more productive.  In the end both employer and employee survive the better for it.

In particular, the cheap labor conservatives deny America the full use of its investment in human capital because the capital investments to create skilled positions that are more productive doesn't exist when employers can cheat and pay their workers less than they are worth through market manipulation (ie encouraging workers with no legal right who ae supsectible to private coercion to emigrate without permit.)

As for the aging of Spain, right now would be a good time to invest in nursing homes (aka old age homes)  The force at work here is gender equality, as women leave the home for the workplace they can no longer care for the grandparents.  So first, families try to do at home with a nurse, and then later they end up in a state or church run facility.  The question for the long term is whether the provinces will create nursing homes, or whether they will leave that to the private sector.  With the federal nature of healthcare in Spain  you could see a patchwork arise.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 01:43:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no porblem to have less people. Actually a little decay is very healthy.

And if you consider that the decay is too high.. well import people.. ups.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 01:25:25 PM EST
Actually what was different in this latest report was the claim that Germany won't be able to "import" people at a level that will prevent a net drop in population.

I don't know if this is because there are restrictions, or a lack of space, or a lack of opportunities, or anti-immigration social pressure or some other reason. But the report assumed some measure of immigration and still sees the population declining.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 01:31:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]

  • people over 60 are mostly healthy (studies show that, just like in the past, people are in good health except for the last year of their life - which may sound trivial but really means that they are old and healthy much longer)

  • declining populations also mean lower numbers of young dependents (children), so the "burden" of non-productive citizens is not even necessarily so much higher.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 03:37:05 PM EST
With people getting older and healthier it's common sense that they also work longer.

For example, when Bismarck introduced pension at 65, the average German laborer died at 62. So if we should continue in his footsteps people should retire not at 65 like they do today but when they turn 85.

But well, I guess we can do better than Bismarck. 70 is a good age. Or seriously, why don't retire when you feel like it? The longer you work the higher your pension will be.

If Hans Blix can work at 78, so can I.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 05:01:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, so can't nurses or firemen or a dozen of different occupations where you dont sit around sipping martinis all day.

As if Hans Blix is some kind of an example for the regular working person...

by Trond Ove on Sat Nov 11th, 2006 at 08:20:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a report published recently also predicted a lesser crime, hence decreased costs.

Unless Hell's Grannies strike again.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 06:33:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
where i lived before, in hawaii during the mid 70's and till the end of the 80's, there was a high birthrate, many people i knew, often poor, popped out 3 or 4 kids, and though i wish the general level of health awareness had been a lot higher,(never seen so many little 2 year-olds with metal front first and second teeth replaced with metal, from being put to sleep sucking on sodas all year round) the sense of fertility was palpable all around, but not entirely in a 3rd world way.

after all, pre-industrial hawaii had supported far higher native populations, without matson liners arriving loaded with junkware to fill the groaning shelves of the mall-sprawls, where acres of quickmart, next to jolly mart, next to walmart, next to whatever, each with an aircraft hangar size space to exhibit the flashy packaging and screaming ads, sprouted, each just out of the dying town centres, impossible practically to reach on foot.

sorry, ranted off there.

the big island had 400,000 inhabitants, until european common cold and such exotic virii laid many to waste, tha locals' environment being so pure, their immune systems were lacking in any antibodies other than those needed before the charles cook arrived.

here in italy there are almost no children around....

i know it's pc and all, but it hits me like an episode of the twilight zone, and i worry about the psychological effects of seeing so little fertility.

as the young parents on this board know well, kids lighten up life like nothing else, and while i applaud the rationality viz a viz planetary resources, i wonder sometimes why it feels so sad, and even sinister to think about this trend continuing.

i have wondered if it's a con that we can't support even double the population foodwise, if distribution were made more fairly and compassionately, and the corporations have sold us a line because they know peeps save more when they have families, and therefore aren't continuing to stir the soup of consumerism like crazed marionettes, all the more crazed because there aren't more kids around to keep them sane and real.

many speculate why italy, where motherhood has been traditionally venerated to sometimes alarming (!) proportions, should so suddenly decide post war to become the least reproductive of any '1st world' societies...'it's selfish', scold the old nonnas, 'who will take care of you when you're old?'

sure some of these attitudes stem from pre-pension times, when a much higher proportion of children did not live to be young adults, never mind old ones, and having only 1 or 2 kids was choosing very few baskets for your eggs...risky.

of course having your government change sticky hands almost as fast as a stripper changes costumes might ahave had something to do with it too, lol!

i shouldn't probably be so ethnocentric, but i find it a tad sad to see a continent committing slow racial suicide, even with impeccable logic,(which my comments do certainly NOT have, lol!)

is this my inner racist?

i ahve a 90-year old client i massage, and she is so lucid and amusing it always cheers me up enormously to let myself go under her spell.

being that old is heroic, imo, and living old age with joy and serenity, doubly so.

 maybe we'll relearn the respect old age should be due, though all too often so sadly isn't, and find some of the innocence of childhood through caring better for those whose adventure is coing to a close.

learning to listen between the lines of what they say to what they're really saying is an art, (just like with kids!) and it seems we may be getting a whole lot of practice in it these next decades.

seems half the jobs in the help wanted columns here are for help looking after old folks....

is it a weird form of collective self-hatred, perhaps only as a metaphor?

or are we just knackered from the two biggest wars in history still?

or ashamed of the shadow side of our heritage...

time to move over and let rover take over?

couldn't happen to the continent that invented and practiced eugenics, could it?

karma's a 'just for asians' thingy, yup...

very mixed feelings, doubtless reflecting the confusion in the public sphere about immigration right now, and free movement across state lines, sorry if i went on a bit much.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 08:41:02 PM EST
Yes, it is a mixed bag of feelings, because on one hand kids are the future, on the other their future will be better if they are fewer. Because that overpopulation thing is no joke (and no elite conspiracy either as far as I can tell, and I know some people who do this research). Yes, we could house a lot of people on this planet if everybody shrinks their ecological footprint, but right now our total ecological footprint is bigger then the planet can provide. And then we might want to leave some room for other animals then our domesticated ones.

It is not at all sure that we have entered a permanent decline. The tendency to draw every curve in the direction of its current tangent untill it reaches zero or infinity is what leed people to believe - just a few decades ago - that the population was in permanent exponential growth. And it was not.

What we in Europe (and Japan) is experiencing now is stage four in the demographic transition. What will happen next is anybodys guess as this whole demographic transition theory is a generalisation on the rich countries experiences. So we are in the frontline, were we can guess how other populations will develop but are a bit blind when it comes to our own future.

But taking a stab in the dark, I think (barring global collapse of the ecosystems we depend upon) that the following will happen in stage five:

  1. Populations will stabilise on a lower level, that is every women will have about 2.1 children or just above.

  2. As this is mainly dependent on womens situation one of the two following will happen:

2a. The negatives of childbirth are externalised. That is society in large pays for the costs of raising children, free healthcare for mother and children, free or very subsidised childcare (Sweden did a lot of this in the 30ies, it was very succesfull in keeping the birthrate up (and then people with unwanted characteristicas was sterialized at the same time, giving you a better picture of the goal of the policy)). The societal negatives are abandoned when giving birth to and taking care of children are seen as a positive experience and not as loss of valuable time to gain other experiences.

2b. Patriarchy reaffirms itself and takes back the power over womens reproductive systems. As knowledge is power sexual education is banned or at least abandoned. Abortion is banned (except if you were raped, by your father and the moon was full), preventiv measures are limited (no day-after pill). Women are in practice hindered to get a well paid job, making them dependent on a man. And so on and so forth.

But I would bet on global collapse of the ecosystems we depend upon, which probably will make birthrates go up as soon as we are poor and sick enough.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 05:59:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks like not enough loving going on up there in Germany, eh?

Hmm...maybe Houellebecq is right!


The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 11:55:12 AM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]