The Economics of Dependency

This article first appeared at Foreign Affairs.

How countries hit the demographic sweet spot.

Demographics are among the most important influences on a country’s overall economic performance, but compared with other contributors, such as the quality of governance or institutions, their impact is underappreciated. Demographic factors, such as the age structure of a population, can determine whether a given economy will grow or stagnate to an even greater extent than can more obvious causes such as government policy.

One of the most consequential aspects of demographics as they relate to the economy is a phenomenon known as the “demographic dividend,” which refers to the boost to economic growth that occurs when a decline in total fertility, and subsequent entry of women into the work force, increases the number of workers (and thus decreases the number of dependents) relative to the total population. The demographic dividend has contributed to some of the greatest success stories of the twentieth century, and countries’ ability to understand and capture this dividend will continue to shape their economic prospects well into the future. Continue reading at Foreign Affairs >>>

2016 populyst Index™ First Quartile Demographic Scores

In constructing the populyst Index™, we use multiple sources to arrive at a rating for two of the index’s three pillars: Innovation & Productivity and Society & Governance. However our Demographics rating is developed by populyst. The score ranges from -2 to +2.

Countries of the West and of the former Soviet bloc all rate at or below zero. As is well publicized, Japan, Germany and Russia are some of the major countries in this group that have the most challenging demographics, defined as a declining population and rising dependency ratio. See also America Without Immigration and Would Reaganomics Work Today?

Countries of the Middle East and North Africa have more dynamic population growth. With some exceptions, their demographics are strong and their populations are young. But their economies in general seem ill prepared to absorb the large increase in people seeking employment. See also MENA Economies: Trouble Ahead. Read more

A Rough Estimate of GDP Growth in Africa and Asia

It is morally right that every child should be given the best chance to survive, eat well, stay healthy, and receive an education. Now we also know that it is among the best investments we can make. Healthy, well-educated kids grow into productive adults, capable of providing a better future for their own children, creating a virtuous circle that can help build a better, more prosperous world.   Bjorn Lomborg, Copenhagen Consensus.

In coming years, the global economy is going to need all the help that it can get. All countries of the West face a severe demographic challenge from the twin effect of an aging population and a large inflow of foreign migrants. Technology and innovation will continue to be powerful drivers of the economy but they will only partially offset the sluggish aggregate demand seen in richer countries. Read more

The Relationship Between Fertility and National Income

We all heard that “demography is destiny”. But how many of us truly believe it? If demography was destiny, the world would look very different today. The two demographic giants China and India would be uncontested economic and military powers. The United States would be a regional power struggling to keep up. Larger European nations such as Britain, France and Germany would barely register on the economic map, while smaller ones such as Switzerland and Finland would be invisible. Nigeria and DR Congo would be African powerhouses. Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines would be the shining stars of their continents. Read more

In One Chart: Achieving the Demographic Dividend

The experience of China provides a useful policy template for countries with booming populations in south and southeast Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa. The Chinese boom showed that a growing working-age population combined with a declining fertility ratio can result in a large demographic dividend if certain conditions are met. As noted in this recent post, two important drivers of lower fertility are an increase in female literacy and a decline in child mortality. Read more

How Many People Will Live in Africa in 2050 and 2100?

Large declines in fertility will depend on raising female literacy above 80%.

Every few years, the United Nations Population Division releases demographic projections for the entire world and for every country, region and continent. Although the UN’s database is the most used source on demographics, the data is not equally reliable for all countries.

Countries in the developed world conduct regular censuses and produce detailed numbers that are considered reliable. Less developed countries conduct censuses on an irregular basis or are completely unable to conduct them and have instead to rely on demographic sampling. In the poorest countries of the world, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, censuses are infrequent or nonexistent and even sampling can be irregular and unreliable. Read more

Report: Africa’s Demographic Transition, Dividend or Disaster?

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 1.53.28 PMA recent report published jointly by the World Bank and by Agence Française de Développement highlights the challenge of realizing Africa’s promised demographic dividend. The title Africa’s Demographic Transition: Dividend or Disaster? (see footnote 1) sums up the authors’ thesis that the dividend is not an automatic result of falling fertility ratios (TFR).

Instead, falling TFRs open a window of opportunity which can lead to a demographic dividend when governments and the public sector implement the requisite steps to capitalize on this opportunity. Lower child mortality usually leads to falling fertility ratios and improvements in women’s health. But most important among concurrent or subsequent initiatives are investments in education, and the provision of sufficient jobs to a booming working-age population. Read more

Now a Trade Partnership with Africa?

A few days ago, the United States reached agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with eleven other nations (see list in tables below). Here is how the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) describes the TPP on its web page:

President Obama’s trade agenda is dedicated to expanding economic opportunity for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses. That’s why we are negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 21st century trade agreement that will boost U.S. economic growth, support American jobs, and grow Made-in-America exports to some of the most dynamic and fastest growing countries in the world.

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