Not even WWIII can save us now

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According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (and reported here by the BBC) there is nothing that we can do about the world’s burgeoning population.  What about starting a global conflict? Surely that will halt population growth I hear you say.  What about if we implement a strict one-child policy like China has? That will surely help, won’t it?  Well, the authors of this study who used data from the World Health Organisation and the US Census Bureau’s international database, even a “catastrophic event” that killed “billions of people” would “have little effect” on the number of people in 2100 dropping below current levels.  Even if China’s one-child policy was to be implemented worldwide, the world’s population would be anything from between five and 10 billion people.  The study concludes that attempts to curb our population as a short-term fix “will not work”. 

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Chinese journalist shocked at conditions for elderly

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A disturbing article appeared in the South China Morning Post this week written by Chinese journalist, Lijia Zhang.  A visit to the hospice in China where her father was recently moved left her shocked at the conditions for those who did not have family to sit with and look after them, and worried about the dignity of the elderly in China in general - even more so given the increase in the elderly population to come.  She writes:

At 50 and in excellent health, I had hardly given any thought to ageing. Having spent the past two weeks at my father's hospice in Nanjing, however, I was pushed to confront the grim reality of it and the extremely alarming situation China's vast ageing population will face… Caregivers are supposed to provide a 24-hour service, from changing nappies to feeding people and cleaning rooms. Weighed down with too many tasks, however,… click here to read whole article and make comments



Control UK’s population: Oh Goodies!

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Hello again everyone, I’m sorry that the blogging has been a bit light over the last few days: it’s been the last week of university lectures down here in Auckland and things have been very busy! Luckily you’ve had Shannon’s excellent last blog post to keep you entertained. Now I’ve got a bit of breathing space as the exams aren’t for a couple of weeks. Then the joy that is marking can begin! Hopefully the baby number 2 will be a good boy and hold his horses for a few more weeks yet and allow us to get a few things finished (including marking) before then. On that note, Shannon and I had the final scan today for the baby and everything was healthy and tracking well. He seems to be bigger than average and may decide to come a bit earlier than we had thought. Oh well, we can’t plan… click here to read whole article and make comments



A renewed global focus on the rights of children

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It is interesting that, once a child is born, family law principles all seem to boil down to “the well-being of the child”.  At least in theory, it outweighs almost anything else which might be a factor in a dispute.  Yet, before birth, in conceiving children, and in dealing with the actual relationship breakdowns caused by adults who can’t handle remaining in the family home for any number of reasons, society seems to place so much more weight on the adult’s ‘right’ to that child at any cost or ‘right’ to be happy than on a child’s well-being and natural need to have a stable family unit to fall back on.  

The newly formed International Children’s Rights Institute wants to put some focus back on the rights of the child.  A non-partisan, secular educational and research centre comprised of scholars from around the world, it plans to focus on the rights of… click here to read whole article and make comments



USA Labour Force Participation Revisited

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Today I would like to follow up to last week’s post about the stubbornly low level of workforce participation in the USA.  This post was inspired by comments made by John Tepper Marlin who writes on public policy and economics over at In an update, Marlin muses further on why there is a low employment-to-population ratio in the US. He thinks that the following could be factors:

“Some married men are dropping out of the labor force, or reducing their hours, to allow their successful wives to devote themselves entirely to the stresses of the workplace.

Some working women are rethinking their priorities and are taking more time at home.

Baby boomers not tethered to the workplace because of the financial setbacks from the 2008 financial crisis are leaving so that they can start small businesses - which would take them off… click here to read whole article and make comments



Australian academics moot trading in children

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Two Australian legal academics have mooted the idea that, as emissions trading schemes are so in vogue, one way to reduce population growth is to include family planning in carbon markets.

Basically this would involve the government setting a cap on the total allowable number of children (who would be equated with emissions). They suggest that the scheme could work as follows:

Families (or a female individual) would be offered carbon credits if they (or she) elected to have one child (which is less than the replacement fertility rate of roughly 2.1 births per woman for developed countries).

For each additional child, credits must be purchased from the relevant carbon market that may be a local, national or international one depending on the scope of implementation of the scheme. If a family or an individual chooses not to have children, they (or she) can sell those credits on the market.

To… click here to read whole article and make comments



A change to the USA’s employee structure?

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John Tepper Marlin writes a very interesting blog over at CityEconomist dealing with local (New York) and international politics and public policy from an Economics point of view.

One of his recent posts was on the USA’s improving job figures in which he speculates that we might be seeing a structural change in work-force participation.  Those not working may not all be “discouraged workers” but members of society choosing to stay at home and, as Marlin wrote in an email to me this week, “maybe this is part of a conscious choice to reassert the values of family and home against those of the workplace.” An interesting suggestion and one that, if true, could be the start of a societal trend in the post-industrial west.  

Marlin's post stems from the steadily improving US economy and its job figures. Marlin notes that: 

“The BLS jobs report for September [link is to… click here to read whole article and make comments



Retiring Baby Boomers herald a new era of innovation

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Of late, I have noticed a few commentators around the world emphasising that elderly people aren’t the sad, arthritic bunch we might stereotype them to be.  In fact, many wait for retirement to put into action their most daring and risky business ventures, pushing the boundaries of innovation that they have previously not been financially free enough to do.  As the Baby Boomers move into retirement, this trend could well actually create more jobs and lead to a more efficient society.

A recently released study conducted by the IIASA, the Max Planck Institute and the University of Washington certainly supports a link between an aging population and innovation.  It finds that for retired people the relationship between leisure, work, and housework will change, with leisure time increasing on average.  That will leave the relatively well-educated, healthy and financially secure Baby Boomers more time to think and innovate.

Last year, United States… click here to read whole article and make comments



More Males, Fewer Jobs

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As you can see in this short video clip from Bloomberg, economists are getting worried about the effects of a demographic imbalance throughout the world: too many men compared to the numbers of women and the number of jobs. A large number of men without the chance of wives and jobs can be a force for change. Often violent change. Apparently the historical examples are not comforting...Go and have a look at the video here.

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Is there a Russian demographic revival?

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Did you know that demography debates can get a bit heated at times? I thought that the idea of side remarks and veiled ad hominem attacks by compilers of dry population statistics was faintly absurd. And unseemly. But then so is the idea of academics holding long running disputes about the meaning of a word in a statute or the meaning of a particular case: and I can tell you from experience that these debates can get very personal and bitter. (I haven’t been involved in one yet, but am looking forward to my first proper academic feud; it will be proof-positive that I have “made it”.) So perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that demography can result in vendettas written via blogs and publications. This is especially so when one realises that demographic numbers are inherently political and especially so when these numbers can potentially show… 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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