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  5:20:33 PM

The Elderly Debate in New Zealand

We’ve talked before previously on this blog that many countries will find it harder to cope with the sheer number of people retiring as the baby boomer generations approach retirement age.  To take their place in the work force there are fewer young people meaning that there will be a growing proportion of elderly dependants to younger workers and taxpayers.  This means that it will be harder to bear the cost of cradle-to-grave welfare states.  This is particularly true since the grave is further off in the distance thanks to advances in medical science and palliative care and better lifestyles (although the obesity epidemic may have something to say about that…)

The other day I found a very interesting analysis of New Zealand’s retirement predicament which really brought this message home.  Essentially, the article’s premise was that a “pay-as-you-go” system of basic, universal… click here to read whole article and make comments

  8:17:11 PM

Tightening of abortion rules in the UK could result in 60,000 less abortions


The abortion rules in the United Kingdom are set to be tightened in what has been described as "the biggest shake-up in a generation".  The plan would introduce a mandatory obligation on abortion clinics to offer women access to independent counselling, which is run on separate premises by a group which does not itself carry out abortions. 

This makes sense to me given that you must be a fairly pro-abortion individual to be working for an abortion clinic - out of doctors who agree with abortion being a choice, few are actually willing to do it and much less specialise in it.  This must surely mean skewed advice?

Although difficult to quantify, pro-life campaigners suggest the change could result in up to 60,000 fewer abortions each year in Britain, meaning 60,000 more births. Last year,… click here to read whole article and make comments

  4:58:20 PM

No More Babies in Portugal by 3000 AD


Bosnia and Herzegovina has another 650 years or so.  Macau has about the same.  Germany has just over 1500 years and Brazil another 3000 years.  Until what? Until their populations disappear entirely!

This is based on some “back-of-the-envelope” calculations by The Economist that take the United Nations fertility rates for 2010 and extrapolate out how long it will take for the population to drop to zero.  The calculation goes like this: at the current fertility rates, how many girl babies would 1000 women have? And then how many would that second generation have, and so on until the number gets to zero.  For Hong Kong, it would take about 25 generations for 1000 women to have dwindled to none.  At an average age of childbirth of 31.4 years, the last woman will be born in Hong Kong around 2798 AD. … click here to read whole article and make comments

  11:46:53 AM

Famine - Too Many Mouths to Feed?


I’m sure that you, dear reader, are far too mature and sensible to ever watch the satirical (and far too crass) cartoon programme, South Park. I was not always as sensible and mature as I am now, and so in my younger years I often enjoyed watching an episode or two.  Two of South Park’s characters were a pair of redneck hunters called Jimbo and Ned who hosted a TV show called Hunting an’ Killing.  The state of Colorado (where South Park is set) kept on passing more and more restrictive hunting laws to stop Jimbo and Ned killing the state’s fauna. In the end hunters are only allowed to cull wildlife if the species is overpopulated and overburdening the ecosystem. This leads the two hunters to go out into the wild to “thin out the numbers” of the local deer population.… click here to read whole article and make comments

  2:14:59 PM

Sterilisation in India


Recently the UK newspaper, the Independent, has published an article about the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan in India, where there is a statewide target to sterilise 1% of the population.  

Of course the state officials cannot do so through coercion - that would be too much like eugenics! And last time that India tried forced sterilisation it proved to be “deeply controversial”:

“…the country's efforts at confronting the issue have had mixed and often deeply controversial results. In the 1970s, Sanjay Gandhi, son of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, oversaw a programme enacted during the State of Emergency in which unknown numbers of women were forced to be sterilised and men made to have vasectomies.”

Instead of forcing people to have sterilisation operations, officials at the national and the state… click here to read whole article and make comments

  6:30:07 PM

Recession and Childbearing in the US


We have discussed recently on this blog the effect of demography on a country’s economy and the potential link between fertility rates and the recession. Today I would like to draw your attention to an article from USAToday which suggests that the link runs both ways.

According to demographer Sharon Kirmeyer of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the struggling economy in the United States may have the added effect of women having fewer children.  Kirmeyer has released two reports that analysed historical demographic data, including form the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“Census data show that in 2010, 18.8% of women ages 40-44 were childless, echoing a trend from the 1930s found in the CDC analysis. Of 100,000 women born in 1910 who turned 25 in 1935 at the height of… click here to read whole article and make comments

  9:25:22 PM

Beckham birth ‘bad example’ or ‘good news’?


The recent birth of David and Victoria Beckham’s baby daughter, Harper Seven, is good news according to Dr. Dermot Grenham, a population expert who holds a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Oxford and a specialist masters degree in population and development from the London School of Economics.  However, others beg to differ.  He comments in an interview with CNA :

"Congratulations to David and Victoria! The arrival of a fourth Beckham baby is certainly great news for them – but it’s also good news for the economy and the future of the planet...Good on the Beckhams for having four children and future taxpayers who - if they are half as successful as their parents - will be contributing mightily towards my pension...Many poorer countries are already having to deal with an aging population before they… click here to read whole article and make comments

  11:44:24 AM

Just where does all this government spending go?


Following on from the discussion this week on the connection between the current financial crisis and demographic change, I draw your attention to this interesting discussion of the US debt crisis by a prominent New Zealand financial analyst. 

He draws particular attention to the fact that the two main expenses for most countries, including the United States, (and the reason for so much borrowing) are social security and health, making an interesting comparison between New Zealand and the United States. 

These two expenses make up 44.1% of all spending in the United States and, within that, most social security payments go to retirees.  Analyst, Brian Gaynor stresses that 'this is a precarious situation because of our ageing societies, the huge increase in pension and healthcare demands and the fall in the ratio of workers to retirees'. … click here to read whole article and make comments

  3:58:00 PM

Is China Waking Up?


We have mentioned before rumblings about the Chinese government’s one child policy emanating from Guangdong province. 

The Economist has recently run a feature article on this story which provides a few more details.   What is interesting about this story is that:

“Until recently most discussion in China has been confined to academic demographers…This month the debate became political. A provincial official went public with a request to let Guangdong — China’s most populous province, with 104m people — loosen the rules. Speaking to newspapers, Zhang Feng, director of Guangdong’s Population and Family Planning Commission, said he had applied for “approval to be the leader in the country in the relaxation of the family-planning policy”.”

It is not the call for the relaxation of the rules itself, which… click here to read whole article and make comments

  10:06:45 AM

Getting old – the Reason for Our Economic Malaise? Part II

In my last post I discussed an article published in the New York Times written by Chrystia Freeland.  

That article argued that demographic decline is the cause of much of the West’s economic problems. There are not enough young people to support the country’s economic burden as more and more people reach the age of retirement.

Freeland’s article did not impress Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.  He wrote a response to her argument in the Business Insider. 

According to Baker, the “fundamental problem” that is facing both the US and the European countries is not anything to do with age, but instead:

“…is the lack of sufficient demand to fully employ their workers and their productive capacity. There are few economists… click here to read whole article and make comments


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