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  5:47:49 PM

Iran’s demographic collapse

On my currently ignored Kindle (I’ve refound the joys of the university library – an incredibly rich resource I’m lucky enough to have access to) is a book on my “to-read” list: How Civilisations Die (and How Islam is Dying, Too) by David P Goldman.  I will read it and give you a book review about it sometime soon. In lieu of that, I found (and read!) an article by the same author about Iran’s foreign policy and how it is analogous in some ways to Germany in 1938.  Now, I don’t necessarily share the author’s pessimism, but that could be me not wanting to share it rather than based upon any rational calculation.  Even if you don’t agree with all of Goldman’s analysis, the general picture he paints is grim.

“Dying civilizations are the most dangerous, and Iran… click here to read whole article and make comments

  5:14:55 PM

The One Child Policy Revisited

We’ve talked many times on this blog about the One Child Policy in China. We’ve discussed its horrendous human cost: the forced abortions; the dead babies and dead mothers; the forced sterilisations; and the drastic curtailment of the Chinese people’s liberty.  We’ve also discussed the social and economic effects - the lack of girls and women, the shrinking labour force and the ageing population.  We’ve also discussed the difficulty that China will have in reversing its low fertility rate anytime soon.  Against all of these horrendous costs, the apologists (and there have been a few in the commentators on this blog) of the policy have posited its one unquestioned boon – the curtailment of China’s runaway population explosion up to 1980.

Well, today I’m going to question… click here to read whole article and make comments

  2:07:19 PM

The digital revolution is changing the way we pay tax

Consumer spending habits are changing the world over.  More and more of us are turning to our computers or smartphones to find the products and services we want at least some of the time.  Here in New Zealand, I have noticed an explosion of ‘bricks and mortar’ shops shifting their attention to the creation of websites and attracting online sales.  Over the last few years my inbox has slowly become ever more crowded with internet deals, while online websites attempt to entice me with every google search – especially if I have recently been ‘googling’ a product they sell.  Many websites now offer free shipping, further inducing consumers.

This trend is raising questions about how international internet sales should be taxed and what our international taxation system can do to capture the income they earn.  One question is how domestic goods and services taxes are… click here to read whole article and make comments

  9:45:10 AM

How does your country rank at the global table?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how overconsumption, misuse of resources and waste are leaving some people obese, while others have very little to eat.  Oxfam has just released an interesting infographic, to go alongside the first index of this kind, which shows broadly how each country eats at the global table.

European countries take up the entire top twenty, with The Netherlands, France and Switzerland making up the top three for overall food quality, affordability and availability.  Angola and Zimbabwe endure the most volatile and uncertain food prices, while the United States enjoys the cheapest and most stable.  Chad in middle Africa was found to be worst off overall.

There is another enlightening interactive graph on the Oxfam Food Index website which ranks each country according to their overall score, whether people have enough to eat, affordability, food quality and… click here to read whole article and make comments

  6:56:54 AM

How to maintain the brains of aging employees

More companies are investing in their employees’ health as the workforce ages.  Germany’s main rail service, Deutsche Bahn, is one such company that is embracing – or at least accepting – demographic change and an aging workforce.  It wants to keep its experienced workers until they are over 65, so is taking active steps to do so. 

One such step is a programme which includes regular mental and physical exercise for employees who opt into it.  The mental exercise is aimed at increasing memory and maintaining brain function for longer, while the physical exercise is based around strength exercises.  It also involves instruction on nutrition and living well.  Part of the aim is to make employees realise that there are things you can do to age ‘gracefully’ and better.

So far, the programme, which involves the equivalent of five days of work over several months,… click here to read whole article and make comments

  6:44:52 AM

USA’s childless women

The story of changing fertility and demographic structures is continuing to gain media attention in the US. The Pew Research centre has crunched the numbers from a recent UN report, the World Fertility Report 2012.   

According to the UN’s data, US women who are coming to the end of their childbearing years (40-44 years old) are among the most likely to have to childless compared to similar cohorts around the world.  Among 118 countries with comparable data, only six have higher childless rates than the US’s 19%.  So nearly a fifth of all women in the US in the 40-44 year old age category do not have children, and are unlikely to do so. It would be interesting to note how many of these women made a conscious decision to not have children, how many put the… click here to read whole article and make comments

  8:48:22 AM

Fewer siblings changes personality

It has long been known that birth order affects personality to some extent.  I remember observing that quite a few of the people I worked with in a corporate firm seemed to be oldest children.  Their younger siblings often enjoyed more relaxed careers, happy to cruise through life a bit more (although they were often very successful at whatever they cruised into, while somehow avoiding all the achievement angst of their older sibling!).  

In fact, some researchers believe birth order is on par with genetics in influencing behaviour.  A recent study published by Oxford University press noted this and among its conclusions was:

When more than one child is studied per family, it is apparent that siblings in the same family experience considerably different environments, in terms of their treatment of each other, in their peer interactions, and perhaps in terms… click here to read whole article and make comments

  10:16:38 AM

Chief medical officer warns British women

The British government’s chief medical officer has recently warned women that they may remain childless if they leave having children too late, once again stirring the debate about the rising age of mothers.  It is a sign of the times that her realistic and purely scientific observation caused outrage among many women.  'How dare she tell us that we should be having children?' was the reaction of many.  Have we really become that disconnected from the facts of life and raising a family?  

Women today are much more likely to be focused on their working life or travel than their mothers or grandmothers were.  Having a baby is often seen as a disruption to be postponed ‘just another year until I’ve done…' or 'saved X amount to afford it'.  Some couples have very sound financial reasons for waiting to have children in… click here to read whole article and make comments

  7:30:26 AM

Obesity in the UK

When we think of the future population in many western countries, we think of it as getting older, and if not declining, propped up by fairly large scale immigration. We may have to add getting fatter to that list.  In the UK, a pressure group, the National Obesity Forum has released a report calling for greater action by the government to prevent the bleak, fleshy future for Britain’s population.  In 2007, the Foresight report predicted that by 2050, 50% of England’s population could be obese. The Forum is no stating that this could be an underestimation of the scale of the obesity crisis.  Recently, Public Health England estimated that by 2050, 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children could be obese.

So what is the Forum’s call for action entail?  It wants hard-hitting public awareness campaigns similar to… click here to read whole article and make comments

  7:10:59 AM

Some go hungry, while others are obese

One in eight people go to bed hungry according to the latest figures.  That’s more than 840 million people every day, despite the fact that enough food is produced to go around. 

Many people like to take the easy way out and say that must mean that there are too many people and we should aim to have fewer.  In fact, Oxfam identifies in a recent comprehensive study that overconsumption, misuse of resources and waste are what leaves many on our planet without enough good food to eat.  A lack of investment in agriculture and infrastructure in impoverished countries also plays a part, as does politics and corruption.

Oxfam studied 125 countries with the objective of discovering the best and worst places to eat.  It is the first study of its kind and identifies the many different challenges various countries face.  Interestingly, but not… click here to read whole article and make comments


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