Old People Rule?
The world gets grayer.
12:18 PM, Oct 21, 2010 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
Phillip Longman--who ranks just beneath Batman in my pantheon of heroes--has a great piece at Foreign Policy about the demography of aging societies. Longman's point is that the world is getting a lot older: "[T]he global population of children under 5 is expected to fall by 49 million as of midcentury, while the number of people over 60 will grow by 1.2 billion." And that this global graying is likely to cause lots of problems. Among Longman's interesting take-aways:
* "The very last Japanese baby will be born in the year 2959, assuming the country's low fertility rate of 1.25 children per woman continues unchanged."
* "As recently as the late 1970s, the average Iranian woman had nearly seven children. Today, for reasons not well understood, she has just 1.74, far below the average 2.1 children needed to sustain a population over time. Accordingly, between 2010 and 2050, the share of Iran's population 60 and older is expected to increase from 7.1 to 28.1 percent. This is well above the share of 60-plus people found in Western Europe today and about the same percentage that is expected for most Northern European countries in 2050.
* "Those who predict a coming Asian Century have not come to terms with the region's approaching era of hyper-aging. Japan, whose "lost decade" began just as its labor force started to shrink in the late 1980s, now appears to be not an exception, but a vanguard of Asian demographics."
But the most interesting aspect of Longman's essay is the question of whether or not an older society (like ours) might muddle through by raising the retirement age and having people work longer. (A commonly offered antidote for entitlement scheme problems.)
Longman thinks this is a debatable proposition: