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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Demographic Dead Ends

Mark Steyn makes the obvious point about the effects of birth rates that do not replace people who are dying. Japan is exhibit “A.”

Japan's population peaked in 2004 at about 127.8 million and is projected to fall to 89.9 million by 2055. The ratio of working-age to elderly Japanese fell from 8 to 1 in 1975 to 3.3 to 1 in 2005 and may shrivel to 1.3 to 1 in 2055. "In 2055, people will come to work when they have time off from long-term care," said Kiyoaki Fujiwara, director of economic policy at the Japan Business Federation.

Such a decline is cataclysmic for an indebted country that values infrastructure and personal service. (Who is going to maintain the trains, pay for social benefits, slice sushi at the Tsukiji fish market?) The obvious answers—encourage immigration and a higher birthrate—have proved difficult, even impossible, for this conservative society.

Steyn asks what the younger people in these countries will do.

The transformation of developed societies - either into old folks' homes (like Japan) or semi-Islamized dystopias (like Amsterdam, Brussels, etc) - will lead, in fact, to emigration. A young German or Japanese circa 2040 will have no reason whatsoever to stay in his native land and have most of his income confiscated in a vain attempt to prop up an unsustainable geriatric welfare system. So many will leave. Where will they go?

That's a very good question.

But the population of the earth is expanding and - I suspect – will continue to expand. Since the Japanese are not reproducing themselves, and neither are most of the Europeans, Russians, or Canadians, the answer is that the population will shift ever more heavily toward Africans or Asians. China has instituted a policy to limit births. In other parts of the world this is not so. India has not, Latin America has not, and neither have the Muslim countries.

In 100 years, the future may well belong to Latin America, Asia and Africa. Given their political past and present, that is not a reassuring thought.

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