Understanding the aging body

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Most people are now aware that the world’s workforce is aging and that fewer young workers are entering the workforce.  As a result, what we can do to ensure that the workers we have remain healthy and able to work has become a key concern for business.  Interestingly, the ergonomics department at Chemnitz University of Technology is helping to provide solutions to this changing demography.

As part of their research, scientists there have developed age simulation computer programmes and even an age simulation suit dubbed "Max" to allow those involved in planning and optimizing the workplace to better appreciate the effects of aging.  Max simulates how an older worker might experience a job by doing things like slightly blurring vision, muffling hearing and reducing co-ordination.  The computer programme simulates a worker at different ages and allows the user to see what movements and jobs would be unhealthy or hard for an older worker.… click here to read whole article and make comments



One child changes: No effect?

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A few weeks ago we mentioned the news that China was relaxing its despicably evil One Child Policy. Understandably perhaps, the only response to that post was scepticism that we should take anything that the Chinese Government says at face value. To add a large pinch of salt to anything announced by the Chinese Government is certainly a prudent thing to do, but the fact that it acknowledged publically that a bedrock piece of social engineering was no longer desirable is surely worthy of mention and comment.

Then, a couple of weeks after that announcement, Dermot Grenham wrote a great post arguing that China may not be able to lift birth rates anyway due to changes in Chinese attitudes to sex and family ingrained by decades of propaganda.  Today, I wanted to follow up Grenham’s post with a piece from the Wall Street Journal that argues that… click here to read whole article and make comments



Every birth and death in the world in front of your eyes

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Dear all, it’s stunning weather today in Auckland. It certainly feels that summer is upon us and that Christmas is just around the corner! This is all very exciting, but made last night very tiresome as Thomas found it much too hot to sleep well at all. Which has made me a somewhat tired father today! So nothing too cerebral today.

Instead I am sharing with you another fantastic little graphic from the Atlantic. (You may remember the last one I shared about the most popular first names in the USA a couple of months ago.) This graphic is a simulation of the births and deaths in the world occurring in real time. That is, it is a simulation which tracks the births and deaths in the world as they occur (factiously of course, but the countries and timing is based upon the current numbers and projections) The designers… click here to read whole article and make comments



Study shows complementarity of men and women’s brains

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A new brain connectivity study published last week has found that men and women’s brains really are wired differently – surely something that is already clear to anyone who lives, works or generally associates with both men and women? 

The study, published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, found striking differences in the neural wiring of men and women giving credence to commonly-held beliefs about their different skills and behaviour.  Ruben Gur, a co-author on the study, said in a statement that "it's quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are".

Ragini Verma, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said the greatest surprise was how much the findings supported old stereotypes, with men's brains apparently wired more for perception and co-ordinated actions, and women's for social skills and memory, making them better equipped for multitasking.  The study also found that women are much more intuitive, better at listening,… click here to read whole article and make comments



New Zealand needs more people!

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More data has been released from New Zealand’s census which was held earlier this year. The figures released show a fairly typical 21st century western nation: with population growth slowing down and the population as a whole becoming older.  So, the data shows that the country is growing, albeit at half the rate that the previous census showed (0.7% per year in 2006-2013, against 1.5% in 2001-2006). The overall population is just under 4 and a quarter million people and the median age has increased to 38 years old.  At the same time, the number of those aged 85 years and older is now 73,000 people (1.7% of the population).  Other stats that I didn’t know/found interesting include:

10% of New Zealand’s dwellings are unoccupied (I think the Christchurch earthquake has a bit to do with that!)

The top four spoken languages are English, Maori, Samoan and Hindi

A… click here to read whole article and make comments



The social cost of no siblings

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It was recently announced that China’s one child policy will be relaxed.  Families are to be allowed a second child if at least one parent is an only child. Currently, only families with two only-child parents are allowed to have two babies.

However, the effect of the unprecedented family experiment that began in 1979 remains unknown.  Before that time Chinese families had an average of four children each, and more and more information is coming to light about the effect of unnaturally limiting families. 

At first the rules were a major adjustment, but now having only one child has become culturally engrained.  This means that a majority might not choose to have more children even if they are allowed to, putting China's fertility rate well below replacement rate.  That raises the question of whether discrimination against girls will also continue well into the future.  More practically there is the problem of affording a… click here to read whole article and make comments



Typhoon destruction due to too many Filipinos

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Population Matters is a “campaigning organisation” that is dedicated to curbing population growth. One of its high-profile members is David Attenborough – he of the “humanity is a plague” quotation.  The organisation has a vision of “a global population size enabling decent living standards and environmental sustainability” – I’m not sure what that size is, and I don’t think that Population Matters has put a number on it either. How many people must cease to exist (ie die) for the remaining, lucky ones to have “decent living standards”? David Attenborough should surely be able to tell us…

Anyway, it is probably of little surprise that Population Matters has used the death of thousands of Filipinos in Typhoon Haiyan as a chance to climb back onto the anti-population soapbox.  The severity of the effect of the typhoon was apparently worsened by the fact that there are so many… click here to read whole article and make comments



Roma migrants increase fear of immigration in the UK

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Fear and contempt is increasingly the way the ever more marginalised Roma are viewed in Europe.  Some argue that the two trends are worrying and mutually reinforcing: marginalisation breeds contempt, and vice versa, and that the only escape from this trap is to invest in the education of the Roma people.

Citizens of the United Kingdom are getting anxious that they will be overrun with migrants from Romania and Bulgaria when border controls lapse in the New Year.  From then on migrants from within the European Union will begin to have the same working rights as Britons.   As a result of pressure from within the UK, David Cameron has now promised to introduce tighter controls around the receipt of benefits and social welfare by immigrants; although he will have to be careful such rules don’t contravene EU law which are based on the principle of the free movement of workers. 

Within the United… click here to read whole article and make comments



Can China and Japan reverse their birth decline?

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In the Asian fertility video posted a few days ago on MercatorNet, the dramatic decline in birth rates in Asian countries was dramatically demonstrated through some very smart graphics. But leaving aside the fancy artwork the fundamental question remains about what these declines in birth rate presage and what if anything could be done to increase them.

The fact that the world has never before experienced such low fertility rates is not in itself a cause for worry. The world had never previously known all sorts of developments, from industrialisation to the iPhone, and seems to have survived, for better or worse.

Are low birth rates just another such development that we will take in our stride or is it different? Does it mean, in itself or as a symptom of some more fundamental change, that the world is entering a new era that will challenge… click here to read whole article and make comments



Global hunger - gone in our lifetime?

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A few weeks ago, we posted an article showing that while the population of the world was increasing, the number of people in absolute poverty was decreasing. In short, the link between overpopulation and hunger is simply not there. This was building on from an earlier piece arguing that scarcity of resources is a political, not a demographic problem

Today, I want to hit this theme again, because I think that the myth of overpopulation is still ingrained in many people’s consciousness.  Why are people hungry today? Not because there are too many of us, but because of politics.  We cannot share what we have adequately. And this is backed up by Jose Graziano da Silva, the head of the UN food and agriculture agency.  According to Graziano, the scourge of hunger in Africa could be eradicated by 2025 (12 years away!) “if Africa’s leaders champion it… 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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