AT 60, Hiroshi Ikeguchi wryly describes himself as one of the youngest in his district. He has lived his whole life in Irifune, just above the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard. But like his ageing neighbours, the Nagasaki suburb is collapsing around him. A dozen houses have been left to rot after their owners have died.Similar trends are occurring in other Japanese cities and towns -- and in towns across North America and Europe. Eastern European (former Soviet bloc) nations are particularly advanced along the downward curve. South Korea is following the same path as the Japanese. What about China?
...Since the 1960s a brain drain has sucked people towards Osaka and Tokyo. Young people who left to find jobs elsewhere never came back. Even now, seven in ten college students leave to study, and over half of young people find jobs elsewhere.
The brain drain reinforces a demographic trend. The prefecture’s working-age population has shrunk from over 1m in 1990 to 874,000 in 2008, a result both of the exodus and a declining birth rate. The prefecture of 1.45m is shrinking and ageing so fast that one of Nagasaki’s main department stores, Tamaya, has closed down its children’s department and stocked up on undergarments and hearing aids. With shrinking investment, and fewer jobs and young families, new house-building has fallen by half in the past ten years. _Economist
Neil Howe and Richard Jackson, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in the Washington Post about China's demographic plight:
Consider China, which may be the first country to grow old before it grows rich. For the past quarter-century, China has been "peacefully rising," thanks in part to a one-child policy that has allowed both parents to work and contribute to China's boom. But by the 2020s, as the huge Red Guard generation born before the country's fertility decline moves into retirement, they will tax the resources of their children and the state. China's coming age wave -- by 2030 it will be an older country than the United States -- may weaken the two pillars of the current regime's legitimacy: rapidly rising GDP and social stability. Imagine workforce growth slowing to zero while tens of millions of elders sink into indigence without pensions, without health care and without children to support them. China could careen toward social collapse -- or, in reaction, toward an authoritarian clampdown.
Howe and Jackson aren't alone in their assessment of China's future. AT's Thomas Lifson notes that because Chinese parents widely prefer that their one child be a male, aborting female fetuses, there will be about 40 million bachelor males in 2020 unable to find a female spouse. Not only does this reduce births, it provides an ample supply of unattached males suitable for military service.
Rodger Baker wrote recently at Stratfor about the end of China's economic miracle in the "not-so-distant future." But the Baker article chiefly addresses the evolution of the Chinese military into a broader leadership role within the country.
Global aging is affecting all of the advanced, affluent nations with educated populations. It is only in the backward third world that populations continue to explode upward and outward. This outbursting of uneducable third worlders is threatening the peace not only in their own backward nations, but in the more wealthy -- but rapidly aging -- centers of more advanced civilisation.
By the 2020s, an ominous new conjuncture of demographic trends may once again threaten widespread disruption. I am, of course, talking about global aging, which is likely to have a profound effect on economic growth, living standards, and the shape of the world order.Many violent social upheavals are taking place around the world which are considered to be coincidental, but which are actually direct and indirect consequences of the demographic transition described above.
Long-time readers of Outside the Box are familiar with the work of Neil Howe (PDF), co-author of one of the most prescient books of the last few decades, The Fourth Turning (written in 1997), which described and indeed virtually nailed our current social climate. _JG
Intelligent populations experienced industrial growth, affluence, widespread education, and expansion of "universal rights". As women in particular grew more educated, politically influential, and no longer impeded sexually by pregnancy or societal disapproval, birth rates plummeted and populations of more educable groups often began to shrink.
As more intelligent and educable humans abandon the field, younger populations less afraid of breeding and less capable of providing for themselves spring into the picture -- eager to seize the affluent lifestyle which the more advanced groups are leaving behind, as they disappear from the scene.
Demographic changes that took place inside Lebanon -- and are taking place inside Israel -- provide a helpful preview to what will happen in fitful and violent stages across Europe, North America, and Oceania.
The weak and appeasing nations of Europe, such as Sweden and Belgium, will be first to be overrun and subjugated. European people more resistant to the change will be taken over province by province. It is inevitable in many parts of Europe, since many areas, just like Japan, have passed the point of demographic return.
The people of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of South and Central America, may have been warned early enough to prepare fortified enclaves of resistance to the billions of untrainable and unassimilable third worlders pouring out of their home countries. Governments will have to be muzzled and restrained, in order to allow the spirit of the people -- their goals and aspirations -- to be expressed through their natural talent and energy.
But if the people allow themselves to die out, their dreams and aspirations will die with them.