Posts Tagged ‘population decline’

Automation can mitigate for a population decline

September 17, 2017

The cold hand of demographics cannot be denied. Global population will begin to decline soon after 2100. The real question is whether an implosion can be avoided, economic decline can be held at bay and that an irreversible death spiral can be avoided.

For over 100 years it has been the threat of unsustainable population explosion which has exercised the minds of governments and policy makers. There are still many people who have spent their lives confronting this problem and cannot adjust to the new reality. This reality is that fertility rate is declining across the world. There is nowhere in the world where the rate is not declining. There are still many countries where the rate is greater than the 2.1 children per woman needed to just hold the population constant.

(From the World Population Prospects 2017)

Soon after 2100 population will begin to decline everywhere across the world. In many countries population decline is already well established. Population decline is compounded by  increasing longevity and a decline in the ratio of working population to aged population. Declining (and ageing) populations threaten the start of a downward death spiral of economic decline.

John Maynard Keynes in a lecture in 1937  “Some Economic Consequences of a Declining Population.” Keynes eugenrev00278-0023

“In the final summing up, therefore, I do not depart from the old Malthusian conclusion. I only wish to warn you that the chaining up of the one devil may, if we are careless, only serve to loose another still fiercer and more intractable.”

The point is that this decline is inevitable. Demographic trends cannot be denied over a matter of 2 or 3 generations. Hopefully the decline will be slow and allow time for corrective actions – provided however that irreversible economic decline does not set in.

Mitigation by automation

The critical parameter will be whether total GDP can be maintained at a level to allow the per capita GDP to be increased or, at least, maintained in spite of a declining labour force.

For the past 500 years (perhaps more), economic activity has been consumer driven and with a surplus of labour always available. Labour and its ready availability was in itself also the capital to be employed. Growth has been achieved by the increase of production exceeding the growth of population. Agricultural production before the industrial age was primarily a function of the labour available. With the advent of the industrial age, the link between labour force and production remained strong but industrialisation allowed an enormous productivity increase. It is the introduction of industrialisation into agricultural production which has also allowed the rapidly increasing population to be fed. However the last 6 or 7 decades has seen the industrial age morph into the age of automation. Automation is now gathering pace. Growth is no longer as dependent upon the availability of labour as it was.

With population declining it is likely that GDP will – in the long term – also decline. Production cannot happen without consumption. However ii is not necessary that the total GDP decline must exceed the decline of population. In the short term there may well be an increase of per capita consumption (and of per capita production). The question becomes how to maintain production with a decreasing work force available. But this is a question that all commercial enterprises face already. In the last 60 – 70 years, reducing work force and increasing automation has become a standard method of reducing cost and increasing productivity.

Within two decades I expect that driver-less vehicles, pilot-less aircraft, army-less wars will be common place. Robot diagnosticians, AI assisted surgeons and teller-less banks are already here. Idiot-less politicians would be nice. The bottom line is that the paradigm that more employees means more production is broken.

Automation has already progressed to the level where just the availability of a young work force is no longer a guarantee that production will (or can be made to) increase. The unemployment level of the less-educated youth of the world is testimony to that. Clearly if automation eliminates the need for human labour for all routine, repetitive tasks, then it also becomes necessary to occupy these young with years of further education. Together with a population living ever longer, the dependency ratio (ratio of non-working to working population) will obviously increase and increase sharply. For a government this can be a nightmare. Revenue generation is from the working population and large chunks of revenue consumption is for the education of the young and the care of the elderly. But that is also because tax revenues are so strongly dependent upon taxing the labour force. If the dependence of production upon the labour force is weakened (as it must be with increasing automation), and since production must eventually match consumption, then the entire taxation system must also tilt towards taxing consumption and away from taxing human labour for its efforts. (Taxing production is effectively also a tax on consumption because production which is not for consumption is not sustainable). Increasing automation also breaks the taxation paradigm.

It seems to me therefore, that a population decline is not something to be afraid of. It is imperative that the decline not be allowed to become an implosion. However a slow decline starting soon after 2100 can be managed. It is going to need over the next 100 years

  1. immigration to mitigate fertility declines,
  2. increasing automation across all manufacturing
  3. increasing use of AI across all fields
  4. increasing education (perhaps mandatory to the age of 25)
  5. increasing opportunities for entrepreneurs (including aged entrepreneurs)
  6. shifting away from income or labour related taxes and towards consumption tax

I can see population developing to “hunt” for a stable, sustainable level at perhaps around 9 – 10 billion with increases coming when new world are opened up to colonise. Pure speculation of course, but as valid as anything else.

Population decline is not something to be afraid of. The next 100 years will be fascinating.


 

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Population implosion has started

February 26, 2016

The 1960s and 70s was a period when the alarmists reigned supreme. It was the time of The Limits to Growth, peak-oil, peak-food, peak-resources, peak-water and the coming doom of the earth. Not one of their catastrophe scenarios has come to pass or shows any signs of coming to pass. The fear-mongering by alarmists about the catastrophic effects of the population explosion has been one of the most shameful examples of the prostitution of science by individual academics (like Paul Ehrlich) and cowardly institutions looking for sensational copy.

The fear-mongering of the 1960s and 1970s has continued through the 80s and 90s and beyond, but now about climate and bio-diversity and mass extinction and the ozone-hole and GM crops. These catastrophe scenarios will also gradually die out as it becomes apparent that they are just the ravings of those who make a living out of spreading alarm. The alarms are unjustifiable, but untestable, and each tends to take about 3 decades to burn itself out.

Paul Ehrlich in his The Population Bomb of 1968: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate …”

Within 50 years the world will be dealing with the challenges posed by the consequences of an ongoing population implosion in developed parts of the world (which will then include India and China) and the total world population will be in decline by 2100. The cold, relentless hand of demographics is inexorable and the decline is already visible in many countries.

Fastest shrinking countries WEF

Fastest shrinking countries WEF

The future decline in Japan’s population has been recognised as inevitable for over 20 years and social engineering has not succeeded in reversing the inevitable. Now Japan has entered negative territory for the first time since the 1920s — entirely as expected.

Japan poulation decline - Asahi Shimbun

Japan population decline – Asahi Shimbun

In due course the fear-mongers will moan about the coming death of the species due to the population implosion, but this too shall pass. After about 100 years of a slow population decline I expect we shall see a new equilibrium for population and birth-rate, where longevity, fertility measures, incentives and a bright new world of genetic screening will be part of the mix.

By 2200, a form of non-coercive eugenics will no longer be a dirty word, but will instead seem eminently common-sensical.


 

 

Decline of Indian fertility rates is accelerating but some worrying demographics

December 23, 2014

Just over a year ago the average fertility rate in India was 2.5 (where the replenishment level is 2.1) and over half the country was at levels below 2.1. With corresponding declines in infant mortality the projections were for population to reach a peak between 2040 and 2050 and to decline slowly thereafter. But new data for 2013 from the Registrar General shows that fertility is declining faster than expected. The average is already down to 2.3. By 2020 the country as a whole will have an average fertility rate below the 2.1 needed for maintaining a constant population (the replenishment rate). However, infant mortality rate has declined slower than expected. India’s population will therefore likely peak closer to 2040 than 2050.

The HinduThe 2013 data for the Sample Registration Survey (SRS), conducted by the Registrar General of India, the country’s official source of birth and death data, was released on Monday.

India Fertility 2013 - graphic The Hindu

India Fertility 2013 – graphic The Hindu

The SRS shows that the Total Fertility Rate – the average number of children that will be born to a woman during her lifetime – in eight States has fallen below two children per woman, new official data shows.

Just nine States – all of them in the north and east, except for Gujarat – haven’t yet reached replacements levels of 2.1, below which populations begin to decline. West Bengal now has India’s lowest fertility, with the southern States, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Among backward States, Odisha too has reduced its fertility to 2.1.

“At 2.3, India is now just 0.2 points away from reaching replacement levels. Fertility is declining rapidly, including among the poor and illiterate. At these rates, India will achieve its demographic transition and reach replacement levels as early as 2020 or 2022,” Dr. P. Arokiasamy, a demographer and Professor at the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, explained to The Hindu.

Some of the demographics are worrying.

  1. The ratio of women to men is low (average 909 women per 1000 men). Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have women /men ratios of less than 900 per 1000. I suspect that it is these states which have the lowest levels of emancipation of women and tend to have the highest fertility rates as well. It is clearly the level of development in the state – and not least the emancipation of women – which impacts the fertility rate.
  2. The shortage of women in urban areas (Delhi – 887/ 1000), is probably also due to the general shift of young males seeking employment from rural to urban areas. I wonder if this is also one of the contributing causes for the higher incidence of rape and sexual harassment in places like Delhi.
  3. Countrywide, the mortality rates for infants and children upto 5 years old is higher for girls than for boys.
  4. Abortion rates for female foetuses are also higher than for male foetuses.

Without immigration OECD populations will be in decline and in crisis

January 17, 2014

In times of high unemployment the anti-immigration voices are raised very high everywhere and especially in many European countries. Much of the sentiment is rooted in racist views whether against those of Asian or African or East European origin. In Japan it is seen as threatening the homogeneity of the country. But what every politician well knows – but which some will not dare to admit for fear of losing their populist base – is that  without net immigration in, OECD countries will face an increasing crisis of declining populations, declining labour force and an increase in the  proportion of the aged. They are all very well aware that expanding the working population to at least match the increase in the “aged” proportion is critical to maintaining the standard of welfare and health care that they have become accustomed to. Increasing the retirement age – which is already on the table as trial balloons – is unavoidable because even with immigration the proportion of the working population relative to the “aged” is in decline.

In OECD countries fertility rates are already well below the replacement level of 2.1 per woman. It is higher only in Israel, Iceland and New Zealand, and in India, South Africa and Indonesia. China is already down at 1.6 and India is down to 2.63 and declining fast.

The Local

France’s fertility rate has fallen below the symbolic level of two babies per woman and 2013 saw the slowest population growth in the country for well over a decade, new data revealed this week.

The 280,000 births in 2013 marked a 1.3 percent decline from 2012 with France’s fertility rate falling from 2.03 children per woman in 2010 to 1.99 children last year, according to the France’s national statistics agency INSEE. …… 

Despite the drop in the birth rate, France remains second only to Ireland when it comes to Europe’s most fertile nations. Women in Ireland, where the population is 4.6 million, had on average 2.01 children each in 2013.

These figures stand in stark contrast to Germany and Portugal, which had the lowest fertility rates on the continent. Germany recorded a rate of 1.38 per woman, followed by Portugal with 1.28 offspring per woman.

Korea, Hungary, Spain and Japan are the other countries where fertility rates are less than 1.4.

Fertility rates (2010 data) by country is here: OECD Total fertility rates 1970, 2010

Statistics are from the OECD Library:

Total fertility rates in OECD countries have declined dramatically over the past few decades, falling on average from 2.7 in 1970 to 1.7 children per woman of childbearing age in the 2000s. In all OECD countries, fertility rates declined for young women and increased at older ages. A modest recovery in total fertility rates started in the early 2000’s, to an average level of 1.7 in 2010. The total fertility rate is below its replacement level of 2.1 in most OECD countries except Israel, Iceland and New Zealand, and in India, South Africa and Indonesia.

The last few years have seen various trends emerge in fertility rates. A drop in fertility rates has occurred, for example in Australia, New Zealand, Spain and the United States, while rates have continued to rise in Iceland, Israel, Sweden, and Switzerland. The increase in fertility stopped in many other countries. The effect of the economic downturn is as yet unknown, but persistent economic uncertainties can impact downward the number of children women may have over their reproductive life.

OECD Fertility trends

OECD Fertility trends

OECD fertility table

The difference between the decline in fertility rates between India and China is of particular interest. While some of the difference is due to different rates of development, most of the difference can be attributed to the draconian one-child policy in China. But that is now being relaxed as the coming decline in the Chinese population becomes obvious..

The shortages of the proportion of working population – unless immigration is used to mitigate the shortfall – is inevitable and will really begin to bite over the next twenty years or so.

India’s plummeting birth rates illustrate the coming population decline

May 9, 2013

Fertility rates are dropping sharply across the world and simple arithmetic tells us that by 2100 world population will be steady or declining slightly. In fact, rather than facing a population explosion and food shortages we will be facing the demographic challenges of a stable or declining population together with an increase in longevity. A new flexibility in the patterns of working will be needed as the populations in work reduce in proportion to those beyond retirement age. Retirement age itself will have to increase.

Yet it seems to me that the utterly alarmist, Malthusian, catastrophe scenarios for world population put forward in the 1970’s and 80’s by the Club of Rome, Ehrlich and other doom-mongers still prevail as “conventional wisdom” – even though it has long been established that their basic assumptions were plain wrong. For some reason environmentalists are the most ardent deniers of what the arithmetic says. They are the first to proclaim the dangers of population explosions yet are extremely loth to abandon catastrophe scenarios they have espoused when they are shown to be exaggerated or false.

I was therefore glad to see the subject getting attention in GeoCurrents where Martin W Lewis addresses and presents the sharply falling fertility rates around the world and in the various States in India. His maps are particularly well put together. The average fertlity rate in India is now down to 2.5 but many of the States fall well below the “replacement rate” of 2.2. The variation of fertility rates is impacted by the “usual suspects”; GDP, female literacy, proportion of urban dwellers, life expectancy, the Human Development Index (HDI) and the availability of electricity. But as Lewis shows there is also a striking correlation between fertility and TV ownership (seems plausible) and between fertility rates and the exposure of women to the media (also very plausible).

India’s Plummeting Birthrate: A Television-Induced Transformation?

…. It can be deceptive, however, to view India as an undivided whole. As shown on the map posted here, fertility figures for half of India are actually below replacement level. Were it not for the Hindi-speaking heartland, India would already be looking at population stabilization and even decline. All the states of southern India post TFR figures below 1.9. A number of states in the far north and the northeast boast similarly low fertility levels, including West Bengal, noted for its swarming metropolis of Calcutta (Kolkata).

(from GeoCurrents)

India’s geographical birthrate disparities, coupled with the country’s admirable ability to collect socio-economic data, allow us to carefully examine ideas about fertility decline. The remainder of this post will do so through cartography, comparing the Indian fertility-rate map with maps of other social and economic indicators. ……. 

……

Some scholars have argued that recent fertility decreases in India and elsewhere in the Third World are more specifically linked to one technological innovation: television. The TV hypothesis is well-known in the field, discussed, for example, in the LiveScience article on the African population explosion mentioned above. In regard to India, Robert Jensen and Emily Oster argue persuasively that television works this magic mostly by enhancing the social position of women. As they state in their abstract:

This paper explores the effect of the introduction of cable television on women’s status in rural India. Using a three-year, individual-level panel dataset, we find that the introduction of cable television is associated with significant decreases in the reported acceptability of domestic violence towards women and son preference, as well as increases in women’s autonomy and decreases in fertility. We also find suggestive evidence that exposure to cable increases school enrollment for younger children, perhaps through increased participation of women in household decision-making. We argue that the results are not driven by pre-existing differential trends.

As it turns out, the map of television ownership in India does bear a particularly close resemblance to the fertility map. Two anomalously low-fertility states with low levels of female education, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, score relatively high on TV penetration, as does West Bengal, which lags on several other important socio-economic indicators. The correlation is far from perfect: Mizoram ranks higher on the TV chart than its fertility figures would indicate, whereas Odisha and Assam rank lower. Odisha and Assam turn out to be a bit less exceptional in a related but broader and more gender-focused metric, that of “female exposure to media.” These figures, which include a television component, seem to provide the best overall correlation with the spatial patterns of Indian fertility.

(from GeoCurrents)

Population decline is looming

April 6, 2013

I have posted earlier regarding the population decline that is inevitable if the fertility rates around the world continue to decline as they are doing. The declining fertility combined with the increase in longevity and the problems of aging pose new challenges of maintaining the growth and maintenance of the infrastructure that we would have become used to. In a hundred years from now the challenge could be a real shortage of labour.

The challenge in 2100 will be to maintain the balance between those “producing” to those “supported” in a declining and aging population. Perhaps immigration or population migrations or  productivity increases by the use of robots and an increase in the age one joins the “supported” population will be parts of the solution. I have no doubt that solutions will be found, but the “overpopulation problem” would have left the stage. ….

The majority of children being born today in the developed world will live to be over 100 years old.

Now as Science 2.0 reports another model simulation shows that  The Looming Population Implosion is inevitable and just a mathematical consequence of falling fertility rates.

Total fertility by major regions, 1950-2100 (children per woman) (UN)

A model based on global population data spanning the years from 1900 to 2010 has caused a research team to predict the opposite of what Doomsday Prophets of the 1960s and beyond insisted would happen –  the number of people on Earth will stabilize around the middle of the century and perhaps even start to decline. 

The results coincide with the United Nation’s downward estimates, which claim that by 2100 Earth’s population will be 6.2 billion, if low fertility and birth rate continues on its current path, below the 7 billion we are at now. 

The numerical model developed by a team from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and the CEU-San Pablo University seems to confirm the lower estimate, in addition to a standstill and even a slight drop in the number of people on Earth by the mid-21st century. The population prospects between 1950 and 2100 provided by the UN were used to conduct the analysis published in the journal Simulation. 

“This is a model that describes the evolution of a two-level system in which there is a probability of passing from one level to another,” as explained to SINC by Félix F. Muñoz, UAM researcher and co-author of the project. …… 

……. The team considered the Earth as a closed and finite system where the migration of people within the system has no impact and where the fundamental principle of the conservation of mass –biomass in this case– and energy is fulfilled.

“Within this general principle, the variables that limit the upper and lower zone of the system’s two levels are the birth and mortality rates,” Muñoz pointed out and recalled the change that occurred in the ratio between the two variables throughout the last century.

“We started with a general situation where both the birth rate and mortality rate were high, with slow growth favouring the former,” he added, “but the mortality rate fell sharply in the second half of the 20th century as a result of advances in healthcare and increased life expectancy and it seemed that the population would grow a lot.

However, the past three decades have also seen a steep drop-off in the number of children being born worldwide.”

By 2100 a world population decline and a shortage of a “productive population” will be the problem

November 3, 2012

There are still alarmists and Malthusians who believe that the world will face catastrophe due to overpopulation. They believe that the carrying capacity of the earth has been exceeded, that there will be food shortages, energy shortages and resource shortages in every field; that – in short – the population will not be able to sustain itself let alone to maintain growth.

But like so many alarmist theories (be it global warming or peak oil or peak gas or GM crops) the overpopulation meme builds on beliefs and ignores evidence. The environmentalists are increasingly taking faith-based and anti-science positions. Alarmism invokes political correctness and “consensus beliefs” rather than evidence to silence criticism . Even hard-core environmentalists are beginning to question this myopic adhesion to ideology (Environment360).

Just taking the overpopulation myth as an example, the data and projections in the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2011): World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision. New York (Updated: 15 April 2011) are pretty unambiguous and revealing. Within 100 years world population will be declining. The majority of children being born today in the developed world will live to be over 100 years old. There will begin to be a shortage of  the required “productive population” relative to the “supported populations of the young and the retired” – a problem already evident in Japan and other developed countries. In Sweden (and some other European countries) for example, this proportion is being maintained only by means of immigration and the slight consequent increase in average fertility rates. The “productive population” in Germany would be below the required level were it not for the “guest workers”. The 11 million or so “illegal immigrants” who are nearly all part of the “productive population” in the US  are a vital part of maintaining this balance.

The challenge in 2100 will be to maintain the balance between those “producing” to those “supported” in a declining and aging population. Perhaps immigration or population migrations or  productivity increases by the use of robots and an increase in the age one joins the “supported” population will be parts of the solution. I have no doubt that solutions will be found, but the “overpopulation problem” would have left the stage.

(more…)


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