Rugby World Cup 2011

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I know that this blog is usually about all manner of things demographic but today there can only be one thing on the mind - the start of the Rugby World Cup 2011 here in New Zealand.  At about 4pm this evening festivities will get underway here in Auckland, followed by the opening ceremony and the first game later on tonight. I am lucky enough to have been given a ticket to this first game, New Zealand vs Tonga, and needless to say I am very excited! Thousands of extra visitors have been pouring into New Zealand over the last few days and Auckland is absolutely buzzing!

Of course, I'm hoping for a New Zealand victory, but there are four other teams who could easily go on to win it instead - England, France, Australia and South Africa. Although Ireland and Wales might also claim to be in that group, I can't realistically see… click here to read whole article and make comments



US Politics and Counting Heads

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For all of you who live in the United States, you must forgive my ignorance in this post (let us hope it is not invincible ignorance!)  But I was looking on the New York Times the other day and I found this article about the 2010 US census and its political effect.  There were a few things that I did not know about the census which I found interesting and thought that I would share with all you lucky readers

First, I did not realise that Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution actually requires the country to have a census or “Enumeration”.  I suppose that makes sense if you are basing Electoral College votes upon population – which the US Constitution also requires.  According to the New York Times, the census is important because it:

“…determines how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives, and helps… click here to read whole article and make comments



The Elderly Debate in New Zealand

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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 retirement superannuation only works with positive trending demographics.  Now, in… click here to read whole article and make comments



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

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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, 202,400 abortions were carried out in the United Kingdom. Robert Mendick… click here to read whole article and make comments



No More Babies in Portugal by 3000 AD

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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.  And then that’s it. No more babies.   

click here to read whole article and make comments



Famine - Too Many Mouths to Feed?

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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. Once they have done this - with a flame thrower… click here to read whole article and make comments



Sterilisation in India

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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 level have turned to incentives:

“Technically,… click here to read whole article and make comments



Recession and Childbearing in the US

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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 the Great Depression, 19.7% were childless by age 50.” click here to read whole article and make comments



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

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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 have generated enough wealth to be able to provide the… click here to read whole article and make comments



Just where does all this government spending go?

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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'.  We want to continue to look after the elderly in… 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 editor of Demography is Destiny is Marcus Roberts, a New Zealand lawyer. Send him your comments and suggestions. 

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