Last month, two Chinese fishing boats were caught operating illegally in South Korean waters. The incident made local headlines and minor diplomatic waves, but it’s just a drop in the bucket in what has become a troubling trend for China’s foreign water fishing fleets. Over the last decade, there have been more than 4,600 cases of Chinese fishing boats being caught illegally in South Korea’s waters alone, according to the government, and these marine transgressions have not been limited to neighbors.
According to the UN, the planet has warmed faster since the turn of the century than any other period on record. Sea-level rise has also increased pace to 0.12 inches a year – almost double the rate observed during the 20th century. This “unprecedented” rate of climate change is expected to disproportionally impact developing countries, whose socio-economic, political, and physical landscapes make them particularly vulnerable to the effects. The GAIN Index, an interactive mapping tool recently acquired by the University of Notre Dame, can help policymakers prepare for these changes by comparing the climate change vulnerability and readiness of countries around the world.
Friction between Japan and China in the East China Sea has escalated this year to the point where jets on both sides have been scrambled and Chinese military vessels have locked their fire control radar onto their Japanese counterparts multiple times. The source of this tension is the Senkaku (as they are known in Japan) or Diaoyu (if you’re in China) Islands – specifically, who owns them.
›November 30, 2012 // By Payal Chandiramani
People don’t often think of gender issues when they think of the environment, but in fact sustainable development in many of the world’s most bio-diverse regions has a lot to do with women’s health and well-being.
At this year’s World Conservation Congress, where the theme was improving the inherent resilience of nature, ECSP’s Sandeep Bathala presented alongside Blue Ventures’ Gildas Andriamalala about the connections between women’s health and the environment – specifically on the potential of population, health, and environment (PHE) approaches as an effective sustainable development strategy.
The original version of this article appeared in The Nature Conservancy’s October issue of their Science Chronicles newsletter.
It seems like everywhere you turn recently, you hear how the planet’s population is headed to 10 billion. And obvious questions follow: How can we balance far more people with the natural resources needed for their survival? How will we get more food? How will we get more energy?
The National Intelligence Council is trying something new for this year’s Global Trends report: keeping a blog. So far, there have been postings from analysts and contributors on everything from migration and urbanization to international banking and precision strike capabilities, but over the past week, one of the most extensive series yet went up on demography. Though youth bulge theories have often dominated population-related security discussions, 11 posts highlight the newest and least understood of all demographic conditions: advanced population aging.In parts of the world, mainly Europe and several countries in East Asia, populations are set to become “extremely mature” because of sustained declines in average fertility to very low levels and steady increases in lifespan. Demographers measure maturity by a population’s median age – the age of the person for whom precisely half of the population is younger and half older. Japan and Germany currently have the most mature populations; both are reported to have a median age slightly over 45 years. By 2030, UN Population Division and U.S. Census Bureau projections suggest that there may be between 19 and 29 countries that pass this benchmark. In Japan, the median age is projected to be 51.
If 5 out of 10 people in a country over 50 years old sounds unprecedented, that’s because it is. In this series, titled “Population Aging to 2030,” a group of political demographers, economic demographers, political scientists, and historians discuss the implications of this never-before-experienced set of age structures.
In his introductory essay, “Population Aging: A Demographic and Geographic Overview” (cross-posted here on New Security Beat), Richard Cincotta outlines the upcoming demographic trend, identifying the particulars of these novel age structures and indicating the regions that are expected to mature into economically and politically advantageous and disadvantageous demographic profiles.
In “Population Aging – More Security or Less?,” Jack Goldstone examines the effects on the U.S. military of a maturing developed world. With the United States and their traditional allies having proportionally fewer young people, will this impact limit their ability to put “boots on the ground?” Can new partnerships be developed in order to make up for this shortfall in man power?
In “China: the Problem of Premature Aging,” Richard Jackson focuses on China’s unique set of aging issues. Due to strict immigration laws and the one-child policy, China is experiencing the most rapid aging of the major powers. The favorable age structure which has enabled huge economic growth will soon shift to being a major burden on a relatively smaller working-age population, having potential political and societal consequences beyond that.
“The Sun Has Yet to Set on China” provides a different interpretation of the challenges China faces. Jennifer Dabbs Sciubba argues that although there will be changes in age structure, the problems may be overstated and the United States may still face a challenge to its status as sole global superpower.
In “Population Aging and the Welfare State in Europe,” Ronald Lee and Andrew Mason emphasize the stresses aging will exert on the extensive social welfare programs of many European states. The combination of longer life expectancy and declining fertility rates has led to a large and increasing funding gap in the welfare system, leaving questions as to the future viability of these programs.
In “Population Aging and the Future of NATO,” Mark Haas foresees that the welfare funding gap could have far-reaching international security consequences. With European governments diverting more and more resources away from military spending to fund welfare programs, the current U.S. irritation with NATO is likely to continue, as European allies “free ride” on the back of U.S. military supremacy in order to cut their defense budgets.
In “The Beginning of History: Advanced Aging and the Liberalness of Democracies,” Richard Cincotta examines the future of the liberal democratic political systems across aging countries. With increasing pressure on resources and a large disparity likely between the native born and migrant populations, it may become challenging for these states to remain liberal and democratic.
For Toshi Yoshihara, author of “The Strategic Implications of Japan’s Demographic Decline,” the aging process will pose a question of priorities for the leaders of Japan. The decreasing number of personnel available to the military, the effects of which were highlighted by the recent tsunami, will force a strategic decision between a defense force that is prepared primarily to address immediate and local security threats or one that is trained primarily for broader humanitarian interests.
“A Demographic Sketch of a Reunified Korea” provides interesting insights into the hypothetical demography of a single, unified Korea. Putting aside the two very distinct social paths that evolved during the past 60 year, Elizabeth Hervey Stephen uses demographic projections to envisage the challenges and opportunities that could arise from reunification.
David Coleman points to immigration as a possibly-mitigating force to aging in the developed world. In “The Impact of Immigration on the Populations of the Developed World and Their Ethnic Composition,” Coleman concludes that the developed world is likely to become “super diverse” by 2030. But this trend can be volatile. International migration is subject to many political and economic factors, bringing into question whether the developed world can rely on migration to supplement their native growth rates.
In “The Ethnic Future of Western Europe to 2030,” which wraps up the series, Eric Kaufmann examines the ethnic make-up of Western Europe in the coming decades. While the size of ethnic minority populations may be smaller than in the United States, the speed of growth in these minorities is likely to be much more rapid in Western Europe. This unprecedented increase in migrant populations could exacerbate ethnic social tensions, particularly in urban areas.
The broad nature of these essays suggests that advanced population aging will emerge within the context of many types of policy debates in the coming decades. While these 11 brief essays only scratch the surface of their respective areas of research, they provide a broad introduction to the politics of advanced population aging.
Jonathan Potton is a student at the University of Aberdeen and currently interning at the Stimson Center for demographer Richard Cincotta.
Sources: UN Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Richard Cincotta. Data from U.S. Census Bureau’s international database.
›March 9, 2012 // By Elizabeth Leahy MadsenThe “demographic dividend,” a concept that marries population dynamics and development economics, is on the rise in policy circles – Rajiv Shah, Melinda Gates, and African government ministers have all discussed it recently in high-level forums. Most notably for demographers, World Bank Chief Economist Justin Yifu Lin wrote a blog post that focuses on the demographic dividend’s potential to give developing countries a powerful economic boost through declining dependency ratios and a proportionately large working-age population.
However, as Lin’s post demonstrates, discussions about the dividend often give rise to two common misconceptions: one, that all youthful age structures open an opportunity for the dividend; and two, that once age structure changes are in place, economic benefits will accrue automatically.
When a Youth Bulge Is Not
Population age structure is the key link between demography and economic development. If countries wish to incur the potential economic benefits of the demographic dividend, their age structure must change. While Lin’s post describes these age structure changes in detail, it completely omits a critical step required for them to happen: fertility reduction.
Lin describes sub-Saharan Africa’s youthful population age structure as having a “youth bulge.” But this is a tricky term.
Most researchers use “youth bulge” to describe large cohorts of young adults (typically ages 15 to 29), regardless of the number of children under 15. But as Sarah Staveteig pointed out in ECSP Report 11, a “bulge” shape is only apparent in a population profile when the number of children is smaller than older age groups. For example, the U.S. age structure in 1980 (see figure below) shows a clear “bulge” of young adults due to the drop in average family size during the 1970s after the baby boom of the 1950s and early 60s. This type of youth bulge can trigger a demographic dividend, provided other sound policies are in place, because dependency ratios (the share of dependent children relative to working-age adults) decline, allowing increased savings, productivity, and investment.
Even though it’s often described as having a youth bulge, a country that simply has many young people (like Iraq in the example below) will not incur the potential economic benefits of the demographic dividend. Whether the under-15 cohort is growing or shrinking is key – and for it to shrink, fertility rates must decline first. Dependency ratios do not decline when a large cohort of youth enters the labor market and those youth are followed by even larger, younger cohorts. In that case, a country’s youthful population is on track to continue unabated into the future.
Unfortunately, Lin conflates these two very different demographic scenarios. “In a country with a youth bulge, as the young adults enter the working age, the country’s dependency ratio – that is, the ratio of the non-working-age population to the working-age population – will decline,” Lin writes. He continues:
If the increase in the number of working-age individuals can be fully employed in productive activities, other things being equal, the level of average income per capita should increase as a result. The youth bulge will become a demographic dividend. However, if a large cohort of young people cannot find employment and earn satisfactory income, the youth bulge will become a demographic bomb, because a large mass of frustrated youth is likely to become a potential source of social and political instability.At first, Lin is writing about populations with a true youth bulge – those where the dependency ratio has declined as fertility has declined. As the post correctly explains, the increase in the proportional size of the labor force, if productively employed, leads to increases in income and savings as families tend to have more workers and fewer dependents.
However, in the second part of the paragraph, Lin describes the potential “bomb” effect of a population with a large share of unemployed and frustrated youth. This is linked to a different kind of age structure, one where fertility rates remain high and the size of the cohorts entering the labor market grows year after year. As Henrik Urdal writes in his seminal study of age structure and conflict, “youth bulges in the context of continued high fertility and high dependency make countries increasingly likely to experience armed conflict.” Once dependency ratios decline – as a consequence of fertility decline – the risk of conflict goes down, even while there is still a large share of young adults.
Dependency Differences: South Korea and the DRC
To illustrate, it’s helpful to compare two different age structures that could be characterized by a “youth bulge” but face quite different development trajectories.
The World Bank post cites the example of South Korea, a frequent case study in the demographic dividend literature. South Korea and the other East Asian “Tigers” experienced annual increases in per capita income on the order of six percent between 1965 and 1990. Fertility in Korea declined over the same period from six children per woman to less than two. Studies indicate that such demographic changes were responsible for between one-fourth and two-fifths of the economic growth in the region.
nearly half of South Korea’s total labor force was composed of young adults between the ages of 15 and 29, which certainly created a “youth bulge” in the job market. But, importantly, the dependency ratio was on the way down as well: There were 61 dependents (including children and older adults, but mostly children) per 100 working-age adults – down from 81 dependents for every 100 working-age adults in 1960. Children ages 14 and younger comprised about one-third of the country’s total population, a decline from 41 percent in 1960. You can see this “bulge” in the working-age population in South Korea’s population profile for 1980 (see figure to right).
In contrast, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), young adults ages 15 to 29 comprised 54 percent of the total labor force in 2010, about five percentage points higher than South Korea’s share 30 years ago. The key difference is the size of the dependent younger cohort. Currently, children younger than 15 make up 46 percent of the DRC’s total population. Every 100 working-age adults has to economically support 96 dependents, nearly all of whom are children.
Including the dependency ratio in any discussion of age structure reveals there is little comparison between South Korea 30 years ago and the DRC and many other youthful countries in sub-Saharan Africa today. Women in the DRC have had an average of six children each since 1950, and as long as that fertility rate remains constant, the ratio of dependents to working-age adults will remain essentially equal.
As only six percent of married women in the DRC are using an effective contraceptive method, it is very unlikely that fertility will decline. More than one-quarter of women have an unmet need for family planning, meaning that they have expressed a desire to avoid pregnancy but are not using any contraception. Unless this need is met, fertility will not decline, the dependency ratio will stay high, and the DRC will not have a chance to enjoy the benefits of the demographic dividend. But this caveat is absent from Lin’s post.
More Than Age Structure
The second key misconception about the demographic dividend is that once age structure changes are in place, economic benefits will accrue automatically. Lin thoroughly summarizes the major socioeconomic investments that governments wishing to capitalize on the dividend must make, such as educating young people beyond primary school, improving the health of the population, generating jobs for youth entering the labor market, and shifting employment from agriculture towards manufacturing and service industries.
Other scholars have reviewed the importance of trade openness, flexible labor markets, and stable financial systems that encourage savings and investment – factors that were lacking in Latin America, for example, as its countries achieved a lower dependency ratio in the 1980s and 90s.
As promising as the potential benefits of the demographic dividend may be, they will not be realized without several prerequisites. Before making investments in human capital and other areas of economic development, policymakers must establish policies and programs that promote age structure changes, such as education for girls and the provision of family planning.
In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, the preeminent scholars of the demographic dividend, David Bloom et al, said it best: “If policymakers can urgently place much more emphasis on educating and empowering African girls, who ultimately represent one of the continent’s most important sources of economic and social progress, they can expect their countries to reap corollary rewards.”
Elizabeth Leahy Madsen is a consultant on political demography for the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and senior technical advisor at Futures Group.
Sources: Bloom, Canning, and Sevilla (2003), Cincotta (2008-09), Gender Action (2011), Goldstone (2008-09), Lin (2012), MEASURE DHS, Staveteig (2005), Tsui and Hebert (2011), UN Population Division, Urdal (2006), World Bank.
Chart Credit: South Korean age structure, 1950, 2010, 2050 (medium variant estimate), data from UN Population Division; Panel A and B, Staveteig (2005); Figures 2 and 3 arranged by Sean Peoples, data from UN Population Division.
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