FRIDAY, 10 JULY 2015

Disability Insurance about to run dry in the USA

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Over at Forbes, Neil Howe has published a very interesting piece about the rise in the number of people in the USA on disability insurance (DI). It points to a number of factors including the cultural perception of work, the messy interplay between state and federal systems and of course our old favourite – an ageing population.

DI benefits are available to those who are disabled and cannot perform the activities required of their job, cannot adjust to another type of job due to their condition and their disability will last at least a year or will result in death. Those who are eligible for DI receive a monthly DI cheque until they reach retirement age, die or recover. The benefit that they receive reflects their previous earnings. Over the last few decades the number of working age people claiming DI benefits has doubled… click here to read whole article and make comments



The demographic tragedy in Greece

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I am writing this blogpost as the Greeks are heading to vote on the referendum that will have a huge bearing on their immediate political and economic future. I'm glad I'm not eligible to cast a vote in the referendum (mainly because I can't understand the question, not being able to read Greek...). But even if I could read the question the choices both seem impossibly bad.

In short, the next few months and years look pretty bleak for Greece. But, having said that, the last six years or so have been pretty bleak for Greece. The chart produced above (courtesy of shows two exoduses from Greece over the past few years: economic and demographic. Most of the previous few quarters have seen a substantial flow of money from Greek banks and presumably without the recent capital controls, this flow would only get worse.… click here to read whole article and make comments



What is kodokushi?

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Many Japanese people have heard whispers of Kodokushi, but most are completely unaware of the scale of the problem.   Literally the “lonely death”, experts estimate the number of people dying alone and unnoticed (sometimes going undiscovered for weeks or months) as a staggering 30,000 a year.  

With one of the fastest aging populations in the world and traditional family structures breaking down, Japan’s kodokushi phenomenon is becoming hard to ignore.  It is a horribly undignified, unnoticed end in an unmarked grave for these poor people.   Something has gone drastically wrong with our family and community structures when society can allow this to happen.  Where are the children, the brothers, the sisters, the friends? 

In Japan, the traditional three-generational structure of the home is breaking down.  Yasuyuki Fukukawa, a psychologist at Waseda University in Tokyo, believes that the aging population is now “beyond the capacities of family care". Japan currently has the world's highest… click here to read whole article and make comments



5000 Euros per baby

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As we mentioned on this blog a couple of years ago, the birth rate in Portugal has rapidly declined over the last few years, largely as a result of the financial crisis and its aftermath. Now there are more deaths than births each year and the population is slowly declining and getting older. This has led authorities across the country to try and come up with policies that will encourage young couples to have babies.

Alcouutim, a village in the south-east of the country near the border with Spain, has decided to financially support new parents with a payment of 5,000 euros for every new baby born. The Guardian reports that:

“Sun-soaked Alcoutim, in the south-east near the border with Spain, has lost a third of its population over the past 20 years.

Its fertility rate, meanwhile, dropped to one of Portugal’s lowest, at… click here to read whole article and make comments



Spain is still shrinking

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A couple of years ago we wondered on this blog whether Spain’s unprecedented population decline would continue. Today we can report that yes, it has continued, but at a much slower rate. According to The Local news:

“There were 46.4 million residents in the country as of the first of January, a drop of 72,335, or 0.16 percent, from the same time last year, according to figures from the National Statistics Institute released on Thursday.”

This is not because of a falling birth rate; in fact births were up 0.1 percent last year (the first time this figure has risen in five years), but because more people are leaving Spain than are entering the country. 102,000 more people left the country than arrived last year and not all of them are foreigners returning home; many Spainiards are… click here to read whole article and make comments


MONDAY, 29 JUNE 2015

Surprise slowdown in Australian births

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Data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights the continuing slowing of Australia's population growth.  The quarterly increase is now lower than that recorded during the global financial crisis.  Caused by an increase in deaths and a slowdown in births and immigration, the unexpected slowdown affects official growth forecasts and came as a surprise to many economists.

John Daley, chief executive of the think tank the Grattan Institute, comments that it could place the budget under pressure by reducing economic growth and revenue.  Gross domestic product has been slowing and is set to slow further.  It could also make interest cuts more likely.  In the long term, many also question how the decrease in population growth will affect house prices.  Any slowdown in population growth increases the risk of a surplus of housing.  Like Auckland, Australia is in the midst of a housing boom, and many people invest in property expecting a… click here to read whole article and make comments



Is Nigeria really as populous as we think?

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Nigeria is a globally important country. It is larger in area than France and Germany combined. Its GDP has recently overtaken South Africa’s to become the largest in Africa. It has the largest population in Africa and some predictions have it reaching nearly 1 billion people by the end of this century. We’ve talked before on this blog about western worries due to Nigeria’s population growth and looked at a couple of views from Nigerians themselves (here and here).  

However, today I want to highlight an issue that the Economist has highlighted that is good to keep in mind when discussing population numbers, and, even more importantly, when discussing population growth predictions. That issue is that we rely on official censuses and figures at our peril. Especially when those numbers have important economic and political implications.

The current estimates of Nigeria’s population stand at a… click here to read whole article and make comments


MONDAY, 22 JUNE 2015

The rise of the ‘elder orphan’

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There are unprecedented numbers of childless and unmarried individuals among the aging Baby Boomer population, leading researchers to coin the new phrase ‘elder orphans’.  According to U.S. Census data, about one-third of Americans aged 45 to 63 are single, a 50% increase from 1980, and nearly 19% of women aged 40 to 44 have no children, compared to 10% in 1980. The trend is causing concern among geriatricians and palliative care physicians who say that many are at risk of becoming ‘elder orphans’ with little support available to them as they age.  Sadly, many will have no known family member or designated person to act on their behalf.

New research led by Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at the North Shore-LIJ Health System, finds that there needs to be a greater awareness of this group.  To give a sense of the scale of the issue, the oldest Baby… click here to read whole article and make comments


FRIDAY, 19 JUNE 2015

Laudato si’ rejects population control

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Laudato Si' is the first encyclical written wholly by Pope Francis and is making headlines around the world. This is largely because in it the Pope accepts that climate change is happening, that it is largely down to humanity's actions and that it requires urgent steps to combat it. Of course, for many climate change activists this is a God('s vicar on Earth) send.
However, what is probably not going to be as popular (or as widely reported) is what the Pope has to say about efforts to combat climate change through population control. Population control is often touted as one way to reduce carbon emissions: fewer people = less pollution. This logic however has often seemed to me to be the easy way out. Parts of the world consume far too much and pollute far too much, therefore the answer is for… click here to read whole article and make comments


FRIDAY, 19 JUNE 2015

Europe’s population change in glorious technicolour!

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I love maps. Ever since I was a little boy I have loved looking at maps of the world, at historical maps, at typographical maps. In short, it is fitting that I write for a website entitled "Mercatornet". That is why I am so excited to present the above map to you, dear readers. (Go here for a larger, expanable version of it.)

As I do not read German, I had some help in interpreting it from CityMetric. Apparently, this map was prepared by BBSR (the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development) and it depicts the population changes in each European municipality in the decade 2001-2011. The parts of the map marked pink and red show population growth: light pink shows population growth of up to 1%, darker pink 1-2% and dark red over 2%. Conversely, the blue… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Welcome to Demography Is Destiny. We launched this to counter two media memes: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling to unsustainable levels. The real story is that intelligent and inventive human will rise to the challenge of climate change and that our real problem is the coming demographic winter. The editors of Demography is Destiny are Marcus and Shannon Roberts, who live in Auckland, New Zealand. Send them your comments and suggestions. 

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