What can governments do to increase birthrates?

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In so many countries around the world today we see low birthrates, ageing populations and governments struggling to think up ways to ensure that there will be enough taxpayers to pay for future old age pension schemes and healthcare. As The Economist notes, there are many different ways that countries have sought to encourage their citizens to have more babies:

“In Singapore couples receive S$6,000 (US$4,450) for having one child, another S$6,000 for a second child and a further S$8,000 for a third. Families with babies go to the front of the queue for government housing, in which most Singaporeans live. In South Korea the state reminds lovers that they can marry cheaply, without throwing an expensive wedding. In Russia couples are encouraged to get it on for the sake of the motherland on an official "fertility day"; a patriotic woman who gives birth exactly nine months later might… click here to read whole article and make comments


MONDAY, 27 JULY 2015

China may soon move to ‘two child policy’

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It looks like China may further relax its one child policy, creating a ‘two child policy’ across the country.  The South China Morning Post last week reported that the changes may happen by the end of the year and mean that the majority of couples will be allowed to have two children.  Back in late 2013 we discussed the then relaxations to the one child policy, including changes to allow parents who were both only children to have a second child.  There have also been pilot schemes implemented which allow women in rural areas to have a second child under certain conditions, including when the first child is a girl. 

The impetus for now considering a two child policy across the country is increasing government concern about the impact of China’s ageing population and shrinking workforce on economic development.  The working-age population, being those aged 16 to 59, click here to read whole article and make comments



Ageing populations, announcements and Happy Meals

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The current population projections for South Korea are pretty dire (as we've discussed before on this blog). With a fertility rate of about 1.2 children per woman, South Korea has one of the lowest birth rates in the world and is the fastest-aging country in the OECD. By 2026, one-fifth of the country is expected to be over theage of 65 years.

Not only will this radically change the make up of Korean society, it also will have an impact on the country's economy. This is of concern for all in the region as South Korea is the fourth largest economy in Asia. It is also of concern for the South Korean government. And so now the Government will announce “a new package of measures late this year to cope with the country's chronically low birthrate and aging population”. In a speech at an economic… click here to read whole article and make comments


MONDAY, 20 JULY 2015

Women have not always lived longer than men

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It turns out that women have not always lived longer than men.  A new study supported by the United States National Institute on Aging reveals that the trend only began during the turn of the 20th century.

For many, 1900 was a time of urbanisation and fast-moving technological change.  Access to electricity, automobiles, and indoor plumbing was not widespread, but they were just around the corner.  In the United States, life expectancy averages were just 46.3 for men and 48.3 for women, largely due to child mortality.

Today, across the European Union life expectancy is 75.3 years on average for men and 81.7 years on average for women. French women (85.0 years) and Swedish men (79.4 years) have the longest life spans, according to OECD data.  This fascinating chart also shows healthy life expectancy (as in how many years you can expect to function healthily in different countries).  Australia and New Zealand just scrape into… click here to read whole article and make comments


FRIDAY, 17 JULY 2015

What is going to happen to all those rest homes?

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Tauranga is one of New Zealand’s larger cities that has rapidly grown in the last few decades due to its wonderful climate (generally warm and fine), its fine beaches and the generally high quality of life that its residents enjoy. It has also become a city of choice for more elderly New Zealanders looking for somewhere to retire. It has therefore become a city with a large number of elderly residents and resthomes. This is causing some concern as social scientists warn of a future Tauranga full of “ghost suburbs and empty retirement villages”.

The rate of growth of elderly people in the Tauruanga area can be seen in the following figures:



A sign of things to come…

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Is this perhaps what we have to look forward to as our population ages? The horror.

click here to read whole article and make comments


MONDAY, 13 JULY 2015

China’s forgotten children

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The purpose of preserving and protecting the family structure is largely to protect the vulnerable: children, the elderly and women (or men in some cases) who sacrifice present and future income to bring up their children and cultivate the ‘family life’ of the home. 

Last week I wrote about the horrifying numbers of elderly people dying alone undiscovered for weeks in Japan due to family structure and community breakdown.  

Another story has emerged out of China about staggering numbers of forgotten rural children.  It is again a story of family breakdown leading to society’s most vulnerable being forsaken – this time as a result of poverty and government imposed people flow rules.  

China was shocked last month by the suicide of four children abandoned by their parents. The children, aged 5 to 13, were found dead after drinking pesticide at… click here to read whole article and make comments


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


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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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