TTBW 1227: 'Joe Chamie & Peter Way / Fewer People'
Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg   ·   PBS feed date: 23 Sep 2004
  Hello, I'm Ben Wattenberg.

We have all heard about the population explosion. Indeed, global population is still going up much more slowly than expected. But something is going on that is quite unexpected. In the last half century the number of children born per woman fell from 5 to 2.7. Now, it takes just 2.1 children to keep a population stable over time but the United Nations is now projecting that women will only bear 1.85 children per woman. That means fewer people in the future and not only in the modern western nations, but in the poor, less developed countries as well. What’s going on? What does it mean? To find out, Think Tank is joined by the men who head the agencies that gather and tend the data from which we make our judgments; Joseph Chamie, Director of the U.N. Population Division which produces World Population Prospects and the author of Religion and Fertility and Peter Way, Chief of the International Program Center at the U.S. Bureau of the Census in Washington, D.C. which produces the Global Population Profile. And, me; author of a new book entitled Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape our Future
The topic before the house: Fewer People, Part One
This week on Think Tank.
BW: What we just saw were official United Nations projections. Fewer people in the world in this century. That’s the macro trend. Beneath that are some others. In the first fifty years of this century, America is slated to grow by about 125 million people. Why? More births per woman and mostly robust immigration. The other modern well to do nations, particularly Japan and the European countries will lose population rapidly down almost 100 million people in Europe and 17 million in Japan. Fertility rates in the less developed, poor countries have already fallen from about 6 children per woman to about 2.8 and are still declining. Most interestingly for the United States is what is happening in Mexico where fertility has fallen from 6.8 children per woman to 2.5 children today with many important Mexican demographers maintaining that the next set of U.N. figures will show Mexico at or below the 2.1 rate of replacement. Won’t that alter the American immigration picture over time?
Joe Chamie, Peter Way; you guys put these numbers together. Thank you very much for joining us. For 650 years, since the Black Death, population in the world has been going up. Now the U.N. figures and I guess your figures as well show that some time in this century they’re going to start going down. How unexpected were these numbers? And Joe, let's start with you.
JC: Well, in the previous century we were estimating a growth of world population which we’ve seen in the second half of some 6 billion.
BW: The previous century means the 20th century.
JC: Right. The 20th.
BW: Because some of us are still living back in that century. Okay.
JC: So in the 20th century we saw rapid growth occurring in which we actually experienced. In 1950 the world’s population was about 2.5 billion and we ended up around 6 billion at the end of the 20th century.
BW: Very sharp increase very quickly.
JC: And that growth’s not over. We’re going to add another couple billion people. But after that, by mid-century where we hit around 9, our long range projections show us several options. One: we could stabilize around that or if people decide to have fewer children as they’re deciding now, we could see it taper off and actually see some declines. And we’re seeing that in some countries.
BW: Your original report when you changed your projection base from 2.1 children to 1.85 actually states as a sentence in the report - and I based a lot of my book on it - that world population will decline in the latter part of the century. I just want to hold your feet to your own fire.
JC: 'Will' is a bit strong. I would say our projections indicate we anticipate, we expect based on that and as you know, our track record’s pretty good.
BW: Now Peter, have you seen any indication that this trend toward lower fertility or the existing low fertility has turned around, or we’re still on this strange track?
PW: Well, we think that they are - many countries - are continuing to have falling fertility. Some European countries are having - women are having as few as 1.2 births during their lifetime. Some of that effect...
BW: Which is an astonishingly low number.
PW: Which is certainly historically and practically is a very low number.
BW: I mean the phrase I’ve heard used sort of in demography speak is those countries are quotes 'going out of business'. I mean, if you multiply that out, if you’re that much below the replacement level over an extended period of time, you’re out of here. As these numbers came in did they shock you? They sort of shocked me. I’ve been covering this for awhile.
JC: Well, the conventional wisdom with regard to the demographic transition - this is the movement from high rates of births and deaths, to low rates of births and deaths...
BW: But this is a key - the key thing...
JC: Key demographic transition was that we would reach some kind of equilibrium, harmony, in terms of the births and the deaths. It is somewhat surprising to see so many countries at such low levels of fertility. We were anticipating some three, four decades ago, that we’d end up with about two children per woman and that would be leading to a stabilized...
BW: All those charts had a certain elegance to them. They were either above 2.1 or below 2.1 and the high ones came down to 2.1 and leveled off and the low ones came up to 2.1 and leveled off and everybody seemed to be happy with that except that these were decisions not made by demographers but by people in their bedroom or wherever they do what you do to have children.
JC: Well the difficulty is if you stay at a rate of one child per woman or you stay at a rate of three children per woman for a long period, neither are sustainable in the long term.
BW: Right.
JC: You either get extraordinary large populations or you go down to extremely small, older populations. So neither. So demographers have tended to think about the replacement level and it has some kind of balance of harmony where you’ve got to stabilize a population and age structure.
BW: At the time when the population explosion was really a big scare thing, one demographer or physicist testified to a Congressional subcommittee and talked about the rate of the increase of human flesh reaching the speed of light, expanding into the universe. That if you carry - if you punched in the right numbers you can... that’s not going to happen.
JC: Well this growth period is exceptional, as you well know. The second half of the 20th century was one of the most rapidly growing if not the most rapidly growing half century in the world’s history. We’ll never see that again.
BW: When you took the base rate and said that instead of it leveling off so harmoniously at 2.1, what you see now is going to be 1.85, - again, a number - did you face opposition from either some of your colleagues in the U.N. or from some of the people in the various population movement and the environmental movement? Because environmentalism has often been keyed to more population growth.
JC: People had different views about what’s likely to happen in the future and there were some that felt that going down to 1.85 was not an appropriate assumption for the future and they were arguing that we should stay at 2.1. We argued that based on the evidence that we’ve seen through these countries, not only in Europe but also in Asia and elsewhere, that it seemed very reasonable that the developing countries should follow a pattern similar to what’s been experienced by the wealthier countries in the 20th century. And what we’re seeing right now, countries such as of course Republic of Korea, now Iran, Tunisia and other countries, in Latin America, the rates coming down. There’s no reason to feel that they’re going to stop magically at 2.1. So we did assume that it would go below the replacement level and go to 1.85.
BW: I was at one of your meetings, which thank you for inviting me to several of your meetings, and the Iranian demographers said here’s a theocracy, a member of the so-called axis of evil that they are below replacement; the Mexicans said they are below replacement; the Brazilians said they are below replacement. How many less developed poor countries are there now below replacement rate?
JC: Well, we estimate there’s about sixty countries. One out of three countries are at or below replacement.
BW: In the world.
JC: In the world total. And a good number of them now are coming from the developing world. Of course most are in the...
BW: Developing world meaning the poor countries.
JC: Yes. And one of the myths that you’ve witnessed, I mean we had one some years ago, that catholic fertility would be higher than non-catholic fertility in Europe. That’s been dispelled. And I think now we’re going to be dispelling the myth that Muslim fertility will be higher than non-Muslim fertility. I think we’re going to see a convergence of all the groups down to low fertility.
BW: Peter, why don’t you run through for us what are the basic reasons that have been offered by demographers over the past and now for why we are seeing this drop in fertility?
PW: Well I think most of the discussion has centered around the fact that large families are no longer the advantage that they once were in largely agrarian societies, where children could be useful around the house, around the farm doing - doing various work and contributing to production.
BW: Actually work the fields.
PW: That’s right.
BW: The paddy fields or whatever.
PW: Or care for the chickens and ducks. As the world has moved to a more urban and more metropolitan situation, I think the reality of the cost of large families is being reflected...
BW: And the advent of cheaper food, be it the new fertilizers and new machinery making it cheaper and easier with less manpower to stay on the farm so they go to the cities. Is that sort of the way it works?
PW: That’s certainly part of it.
JC: And if I could add one important factor that Peter knows quite well, lower mortality. We had a very drastic decrease in mortality in the developing world after World War II, therefore you don’t have to have as many births in order for a few number to survive.
BW: Joe’s shop did long-range projections out to 2,300 which is very long as these things go, but they’re good indicators. And it showed this below replacement fertility rate and then it - on its medium variance it goes back up to 2.1 and then you end up at 2,300 when the world is a perfect place at about nine billion people.
PW: Demographic harmony.
BW: Demographic harmony. But if you take the current official U.N. number, 1.85 children per woman, it’s not a lot of difference. It’s a quarter of a child per woman. You end up not with nine billion people but with a little more than two billion people. Now you get into two billion people in the world instead of the nine billion, you are talking about a new world; about Copernicus, about Christopher Columbus. I mean, it’s really a new world. But with all the modern technology that goes in it...
JC: We’ve been able to decrease the death rates so now we have very low death rates with exception of the AIDS epidemic and now we’re getting in a situation where people, men and women, can choose the number and spacing of their children. This is a great stride forward.
BW: Well, if I can take a scholarly answer on that, yes and no. There was just a conference in Bangkok about AIDS. Can you give us a brief picture of what’s going on with AIDS? What that conference showed and what the future looks like?
JC: AIDS still is destroying many families, killing many people; many people are still HIV positive. There’s no cure in sight and we see many areas - South Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia in particular, now being threatened by the spread of HIV.
BW: But it’s particularly prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa.
JC: The highest levels of prevalence we are seeing are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
PW: AIDS is having a huge impact on the world demography. There are nearly 40 million people currently infected with HIV. We estimate...
BW: Wow. Forty million?
PW: Forty million. We estimate that twenty million have already died from HIV around the world in the last twenty years. We talked earlier about the balance of births and deaths but in many of the Sub-Saharan African countries they’re getting closer to a balance but by changing the wrong part of the equation with the number of deaths increasing.
BW: A balance of population?
PW: That’s right.
BW: Population stability but not due to longer life.
PW: Not due to longer life; not due to reduced fertility, but by increasing the death rate which is a huge impact on the populations, on age distribution, on the future of these countries. We estimate that for some of the Sub-Saharan African countries the life expectancy is down in the 30s. Thirty years’ life expectancy at birth. Compared to Zimbabwe for example, which was 60 years or more just a couple of decades ago.
BW: So life expectancy at birth has gone - say in that country in Zimbabwe - from 60 years per person at birth to 30 years per person at birth.
PW: Something in the 30s. And so we’re going back 50 years or more in terms of demographic and public health and socioeconomic progress in these countries back to early 20th century or before in terms of the level of mortality.
BW: And as you say the forecasts most recent data, no cure, dismal. We’re still in the soup.
JC: Well, you know, at the United Nations there are many things that they disagree and argue about. But there’s one thing that all the countries agree. In order to be developed you have to have low mortality and all the countries are trying to achieve this. This AIDS epidemic has basically stopped and reversed much of the progress we saw in the early 50s and 60s. You have to stop the HIV spreading and you have to bring back a low mortality for these countries to join the 21st century.
BW: Okay. When I went through this world population prospects in your volumes as well, I mean, you look at this as a interested non-demographer and you say there are three big stories around - China, India and America. China and India are the only two countries that have so-called billionaire status - they have more than a billion people. Between the two of them, what, they have about a third of the population of the world? Something like that?
JC: Slightly more than a third. About 2.4 billion out of 6.4.
BW: What’s the general story on China? I mean their policies and...
PW: China has for a number of years had the so-called one-child family policy. The net result of that has been that fertility rates did drop quite sharply when that was instituted and have been below 2 for oh, about a couple of decades now.
BW: Yes, I mean it went down from about five-and-a-half or 6 down to about 2 with the...
PW: In the 1970s, I believe. And it’s been around 1.7, 1.8, 1.6 level since then. If you look at urban data it’s - they are very close to a one-child family with fertility rates much closer to 1.
BW: And you have in China many more boys than girls because there is selected abortion by sex and some people say some infanticide of actually killing off infant girl babies when they’re one day old or something like that.
PW: Latest data we have show that actually that was exaggerated. Sex ratios at birth are in fact returning more toward the normal level. Perhaps Chinese parents are realizing that there may be no little girls for their little boys to marry when they grow up.
BW: Right. But this existed for awhile and now they’re kind of pulling ...
PW: Yes. It’s ratios is still above what would be considered the normal.
JC: I think it’s important Ben, to point out that both the Chinese government and the Indian government, it’s illegal to have sex-selective abortions. Despite that, the public, many of them choose to - after they find out the sex of the fetus - to abort it if it’s a female fetus. The government’s trying to discourage that and they’re trying to set up programs to encourage daughters. Some setting up funds for college for daughters and also programs to educate the public.
BW: In other words, pronatalism again and we’ll see if it works.
JC: Well, to try to balance out the sex ratio which has a very important consequence.
BW: Now, what do you make of what’s going on in India? Here’s a country that suddenly in the last 10/15 years economically has sort of exploded. Fertility rates have come way down - not down as far as the Chinese - and all of a sudden a country that was at one point regarded as almost a basket case is suddenly a model. I mean, high-tech and all - you read all these stories.
JC: India’s more than just one country. It’s a billion people and a very, very diverse, many languages; very diverse ethnically and you have a divide between the north and the south.
BW: With the fertility rates being higher in the rural north and in the more developed south?
JC: Right. The difficulty comes in as this difference between the northern higher fertility rates and the southern that are modernizing and it’s how you distribute the parliament. And what they’ve done is try to freeze representation in order not to reward or give additional balance to these largely, rapidly growing states such as Uttar Pradesh and Behar, at the expense of some of the southern states that have achieved relatively stable, low fertility.
BW: And in India as elsewhere around the world, there is this movement toward the cities. Huge cities.
JC: Well, as our projections at the Population Division of the U.N. has shown, is that we’re moving from a rural world to an urban world. In about three years we’ll hit the magic 50% mark where half of the world’s population will be residing in urban areas and that’ll be the first time in history of the world where the majority will be residing in urban places. And that has enormous socioeconomic and political consequences.
PW: One difference in India or in other places that you will note from compared to 500 years ago in the very rural villages, there often will be a community generator and a television set that provides I think an important linkage to the modernizing world.
BW: In other words, people say if I can get all these good things if instead of having five children I have two children, that’s this diffusion theory. Is that right?
JC: Yes.
BW: Now, let me ask another question. I go through Joe’s book and your book and the United States is different, period. They are different, obviously, from the poor countries and they’re very different from all of the well-to-do countries with the exception of the so-called settler nations, the immigrant-taking nations like Australia and Canada, I guess. Why is this? Why is, as in so many other areas of human affairs, America different? Do you all have some theories?
PW: I think the fact that we have a lot of immigrants helps to keep our fertility somewhat above what many European countries have.
JC: And many people feel that child-friendly. And I think that may be one of the major reasons why its fertility is higher than some of the European and East Asian countries.
BW: You say child-friendly, yet all the experiments in so-called pronatalism, which is to make a society child-friendly - the big experiments have happened in Europe. America now has tax credits for children but it’s a much lower rate of making it child-friendly. Now there seems to be a contradiction there.
JC: The child-friendly is not necessarily having a cash bonus, a monthly allowance for having a child or having other types of financial rewards. It’s much more friendly in terms of the atmosphere, the welcoming, the products for children, the amusements for children. Where did Disney World start? It started in the United States. Entertainment. It’s very, very focused and also it’s very optimistic. If you go to Europe there’s a bit of a dismal outlook there on the future but in the United States a rather optimistic outlook.
BW: I mean I think this whole idea of optimism is right on the money. I mean having a child, just psychologically speaking, is the ultimate act of optimism, isn’t it? I mean it really says there is a tomorrow; it’s going to be better than today; I want to bring a child into this world. What role does immigration play in the world and in America specifically in terms of the population growth and population decline? Do you know?
JC: We have an estimate of around a little more than two million immigrants flowing from the developing world to the developed world and half of that two million is coming to the U.S.; about 1.1 million is the estimate.
So the U.S. overwhelmingly is the leader in terms of...
BW: Is the target for - target for immigrants.
Okay. We will continue this discussion. So thank you very much for - Joe Chamie and Peter Way - for joining us on part one. Please join us in an upcoming program when we discuss the effects of low population trends and remember to send us your comments via email. It helps us make our program better. For Think Tank, I’m Ben Wattenberg.
'Fewer People'   part II   TTBW1228   ·   PBS air date: 30 Sep 2004      
BW: Hello, I'm Ben Wattenberg. In the past three decades birth and fertility rates have been dropping like a stone, worldwide. Europe is losing population. America sustains growth but principally through immigration. Now, what happens to a nation’s economy when it fills more coffins than cradles? How is consumer spending affected and how will changing demographics affect the global politics and power chessboard. To find out, Think Tank is joined by the men who head the agencies that gather and tend the data from which we make our judgments. Joseph Chamie, Director of the U.N. Population Division which produces world population prospects and the author of Religion and Fertility and Peter Way; Chief of the International Program Center at the U.S. Bureau of the Census in Washington, D.C. which produces the Global Population Profile. And me; author of a new book entitled Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape our Future
The topic before the house:   Fewer People, Part Two this week on Think Tank.
BW: Peter Way, Joe Chamie. Welcome back to part two of our discussion on Fewer People. Let me start out with a word that is getting a lot of play around the world and that is 'older'. I wrote a book called Fewer, but the population is getting older. Can you explain what’s happening, give us some numbers both of you and what does it mean.
PW: By that we mean that both that the average age is getting higher and that there are relatively more people in the older ages. Those born in the late ’40s and ’50s up to 1964 in the U.S., when that population begins to enter age 65, the proportion of the older population 65 and over in the U.S., is going to start increasing quite rapidly.
BW: The baby boom in America started in 1946, which if I'm not wrong were the birth year of both President Bush and President Clinton. They will be 65 when?
PW: In 2011. At the same time, there have been fewer births relatively, after 1964; fertility rates have come down in the U.S. and so there are fewer workers to support basically this population. And that’s what’s causing a lot of concern about Medicare, Social Security and various government programs like that in the United States as this population moves into the older ages.
BW: Is that phenomenon true in Europe and Japan as well?
JC: Absolutely and the same rules of demography apply.
BW: Even more so because the fertility has fallen lower.
JC: The more rapidly the rate of fertility comes down to the lower levels, the more rapid the aging process is going to be.
BW: I mean, I have always - as I read about this topic - it’s always brought up in the popular press as an aging problem, and in fact it’s a low fertility problem because if fertility had remained where it was you wouldn’t have these disproportionately aged people; you wouldn’t have the shortage of people putting money into the system and so on and so forth.
JC: I would cast it differently. I don’t see it as an aging problem. I think it’s a success story. People are living longer and as a consequence of lower fertility we’re having a change in the age structure. Both things are very good, and as Peter said, two things very distinct. People are living longer than ever before; the fastest age group is 100 plus; there’ll be more in that group - a sixteen-fold increase by mid-century and the 2nd thing is the average age is moving up at the same time and all that is very good news. I mean, a situation the reverse, if you had a very young population and people dying off at 50/55...
BW: As you’re having with AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.
JC: So it’s very undesirable. So we should see this as a success story; it’s very good news. What we have to do is adjust to it.
JC: As you know Ben, when they started these programs for pensions they chose 65 because most people didn’t make it to 65. When Bismarck started in the end of 19th century and when Roosevelt started it in the 20th century, they were not imagining that people would live much beyond 65 so adjustments will have to be made as people live longer.
BW: Right. And the basic adjustments are raise taxes or cut benefits. I mean that’s where you start.
JC: There are several options. You can raise the age of retirement, which is happening in the United States.
BW: Yes, but that’s a benefit cut. I mean, when you say 'Hey, hello Joe; you can’t retire at 65. You can retire at 70. I’ve just cut your benefit.' Now, I’ve read stories from Europe, I guess particularly, that as these countries have tried to either cut benefits or raise taxes there’s been demonstrations, there have been general strikes. Europeans don’t like this. They want to retire - they get a lot of vacation time and they want to retire early.
PW: Yes, I think we’ve grown up under a situation where we had - have had liberal benefits, especially some of the European countries, and those are not sustainable.
BW: What does all this do to - in these countries where you’re going to have a population decline and an evermore elderly society - what does that do to business conditions and I’m specifically thinking of real estate, which is probably with all it’s ancillary affects, I mean you’ve got to buy chairs and rugs and lights and television sets and DVD players and everything else. The real estate market is going to collapse.
JC: There are many examples in localities in the United States, countries of Europe, where people have left and there isn’t a market for those houses that are on the market - fewer buyers. The prices decline and eventually you start having very, very big drops in the prices of those homes. And if that continues over a long period of time, you end up with what we have are ghost towns where people simply left.
BW: But in the United States you have that in certain localized areas in the mid-continent area and the rural areas. But we’re talking about it happening nationally in those European countries. That the population as a whole which has scared those governments, hasn’t it now, finally?
PW: Well I think you’ve got populations that for a long time have been experiencing positive growth. Increase in population, continuing building, you know, new housing projects going up and things like that across the whole economy. There’s not going to be those same driving forces in coming years. It’s already the case in a number of European countries and the economic situation is going to be different. There’s going to be a transition.
BW: Right. Now, speaking of transitions. There is something called - and Joe you explained to me when I was writing this book - called the second demographic transition and that’s going on according to some European demographers that’s the hot ticket right now. Can you explain that?
JC: We have had in our research in the past, different theories and ideas about the changes of population brought about by dropping - declining fertility and mortality. There are some scholars now talking about the second demographic transition where we go much lower than sort of the replacement level and we start having very low fertility; we have people - smaller families or living alone, individual autonomy...
BW: Cohabiting, more divorce.
JC: Yes, and we’re seeing more of that - more cohabitation, increasing levels of divorce, postponed childbearing, increases in some countries such as Germany of childless couples.
BW: I mean this is sort of...
JC: And this means all sorts of adjustments in the society. Social, economic and political. And these are being observed now throughout Europe and East Asia, Japan, Korea...
BW: And to some extent in the United States as well.
JC: Some extent. Yes. And that shift is very evident and it has not only socioeconomic but also has political and psychological consequences.
BW: Well, the people who are saying this, not that they’re wrong, but their theory does not extend to it coming back up. If you were to follow those theories you would just say as we said in the earlier show, 'well, we’re going to run out of people. Goodbye world, you know. Been nice knowing you.' Or I guess there would still be Mormons, Orthodox Jews and Hutterites left, you know, per pound, high fertility. But that the nations as a whole will - it’s serious business to go out of business.
JC: There are about 40 countries that are trying to raise the fertility and these are governments that say they want higher fertility and they’re taking steps to do that. Now, will they be successful? They may raise it slightly but will they raise it back to replacement? It seems unlikely in the near term.
BW: I saw - I think the Swedes had a big story which you probably sent to me, Joe, and they were sort of celebrating this reinvigoration of the fertility rates and it went up by 1/10th of a child, from 1.7 to 1.8 or something like that. I mean, it’s - there really has been no rebound yet.
PW: Even less developed countries are also facing aging issues. China is going to be a huge example in the future.
BW: The case with China is they - as I understand the shorthand for it - is that they’re going to get old before they get rich. Whereas at least in the European countries they got rich before they got old.
PW: The timescale of aging in the less developed countries is much faster than it has been historically in Europe.
BW: China’s fertility dropped very rapidly with this coercive fertility policy, but you take just across the Yellow Sea, South Korea had an even more dramatic drop without going into coercion.
PW: Yes. And Japan had an equally fast drop in the 1950s. And Japan is currently undergoing a huge transformation in their society with population aging. And because the decline in fertility was so dramatic in several of those countries, the change in the proportion over 65 increases tremendously quickly. And so China, once it starts to age, is going to age very quickly and they’re going to have a huge problem. Relatively few Chinese are covered by pension programs and so there are going to be a need to rely on family resources.
JC: Not immediately. You’re going to have a period where you can reap the demographic dividend, the bonus where you have reduction in a number of children who are dependent and a relatively small group at the upper end. China’s going through that now and India will go through it soon where relatively the dependent population, the retired population and the children are relatively small compared to that enormous working-age population.
BW: That’s a key phrase in macro economics now for the less-developed world. The demographic dividend. Can you explain what that...
JC: The demographic dividend comes about when you have declining fertility and then you have a shift in the age structure so you have a proportionately larger proportion of the population in the productive working ages. And a reduction, relatively speaking, of children and elderly.
BW: You have a window there where the less-developed countries can get - because they will have more producers proportionate to their population than will the more developed countries, they can catch up with them. And in fact, the World Bank projects what they call economic convergence, that the rich nations - that the poor nations will get richer faster than the rich nations and consequently the gap between the rich and poor will diminish. As the changes come about of lower fertility and some countries starting from - low bases starting from high bases and so on, the projections that both of you have done, what happens to the geopolitics of the world? Whose got more power; whose got less power? Is power related to population? We can start with those. Those are simple questions. Somebody have some answers?
PW: Does India have a lot of geopolitical power?
BW: Well, let’s put it this way. India does not have a lot of geopolitical power but it may get it. Switzerland doesn’t have a lot of geopolitical power, but it’s never going to get it because it’s small. I mean, it’s a necessary but not sufficient criteria that for a nation to be powerful it’s got to be big. Now if it’s big it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s powerful.
JC: I think that numbers do count in terms of power. All the superpowers and all the other countries that want to be powers, want more people. They want larger armies; they want a more dynamic economy; they want more numbers. Certainly having more people - and this has been the case from biblical times - the bigger your group, the bigger your nation, the more powerful it is. Everything else being the same.
BW: So the argument that population growth diminishes economic growth, you don’t buy that?
JC: You have many examples where you’ve had rapid growth. The U.S. population grew rapidly. If we look back, in approximately 1914 there was about a hundred million people, if I remember right. Now we’re approaching next year, 300 million and we’ve been growing very rapidly and we’ve had relatively rapid economic growth.
JC: And some countries have had very little demographic growth and their economies haven’t been growing. But there is a relationship and it tends to vary depending on the level of development.
BW: Let me ask you this. My colleague - my demographic colleague here at the American Enterprise, Nick Eberstadt, has written quite interestingly about the change in the makeup of family. I guess he started writing about it in terms of China and a one-child family, but that a child growing up in a society with only one child per family has no siblings, no cousins, no uncles, no aunts. The only relatives they have are direct and linear. They have parents, grandparents; maybe because of better health they have great-grandparents. Does that auger a change in the psychology of humanity?
JC: Well an only-child is very different than a child being brought up with two or three siblings, certainly.
PW: The opportunities for social interaction are quite different. Are they going to be engaging in more solitary activities like internet surfing and perhaps less active or less... How are their social skills?
BW: And you have to have an appointment for everything. You have a ballet class and you have a soccer team and every - it’s not a disorganized growing up. Hey, go out in the street Peter, and play ball or whatever.
JC: I think you need to - I think address the issue how it has a differential impact on men and women ’cause it’s a very different impact on women than it is on men because of course women are the ones giving birth and they are now much more free to decide not to have children and this is very different than it has been historically.
Getting voting rights, equal educational opportunities, employment opportunities. All sorts of other participation in society politically. The change for women compared to their grandmother is much greater than a man in comparison to his grandfather.
BW: Their lives have changed dramatically.
Now the mother and the father are both working outside the home?
JC: Exactly. They’re both in the workplace increasing the number of women in workplace, increasing the number in the political system, active in society which was not the case 100 years ago, 50 years ago.
BW: With all this problem of potential depopulation it not only means the possibility of economic turbulence on the downside, but is it possible that it can yield labor shortages which might increase wages? Have some of your experts talked about that in those wonderful seminars you put together?
PW: I think there certainly has been discussion about - I mean in some ways the young people will have employment opportunities that they might not have had or be more in demand in terms of labor. Older people will be more in demand and be encouraged to stay in the labor force. But...
BW: We’re beginning to see that in the United States now of people staying in the labor force a little bit longer.
PW: Sure and lots more flexibility in terms of retirement options, working part-time or very flexible schedules and that sort of thing are being called in for their expertise. There are issues that we’re adjusting to the same way we adjusted to events in the past and as we were saying earlier, for the developing countries they’re just happening much faster. France may have taken 100 years to sort of become an elderly population, but for countries like Tunisia or China it may take only 25 years. They’re having to adjust much more rapidly and in the United States, Europe, Japan, the developed countries, we have the resources to adjust to these changes. The challenge for the developing countries is many of them are short on the resources to adjust to the demographic changes.
BW: Yes, but they have an advantage that the now developed countries didn’t have which is they have access to the technology that has already been created and that - I mean, you see that in India - that not only are they producing high-tech engineers and now into biogenetics and everything on their own, but they’re also picking up or picked up the base of all this research from the U.S. and Europe which gives them an advantage in terms of speed of development.
PW: Sure. How long did it take for them to pick up these technologies? Getting back to that, those lucky workers...
BW: So that they can answer the telephone in Bangalore when you pick up and ask how to fix the computer.
PW: We’ve all had that experience. I think we’re having it more and more. The - getting back to those lucky workers who are being paid well, they’re also probably paying higher taxes to support their retirement programs of their parents and parents of other...
BW: And the other thing on the pension side which we didn’t get to which we should have is the possibility of this partial privatization of Social Security or any form of self-financing rather than pay as you go, which according to its advocates - I believe in it as well, which is most important - is these can provide much greater benefits at much lower cost because they’re invested in markets rather than in just pay as you go payers-in.
JC: The difficulty in the U.S. is this transition.
You have pay-as-you-go... to go to the vested, then you’re going to have a period where you have to make up for that difference, so the length of time that you have this transition is very critical. And as we’ve said, the earlier you start, the less painful it’s going to be on these transitions. And that’s why recognizing demographic trends is so important, both in terms of growth and a decline for populations.
BW: Okay. That’s a very good note to get out on - is demography is partially destiny or destiny is partially demography. Let me just ask you as a closeout question - a brief answer - you Peter, first; Joe you second. Look ahead a hundred years for me. We’re now talking it’s the year 2104 - the year 2100. What’s the world going to look like in terms of differences from now from a demographic perspective?
PW: In looking ahead we tend to think about these changes and because we do these 50-year projections we tend to think of these changes as either inevitable or happening at a very rapid rate. And demography doesn’t necessarily happen at a rapid rate and there is a hundred years for societies - a hundred years of time for societies to adjust to changing population structure. More older people, fewer younger people and maybe there’ll be pressure to increase fertility. That’s certainly plausible in even in the next 50 years and even more so in 100 years.
BW: You got the last word here.
JC: Well there are a number of things that I think are going to be true. The short answer would be I’m optimistic about the demographic future for the world. Certainly it would be larger in my view than it is today. Second, it’ll be more urbanized.
BW: Larger but shrinking.
JC: The rate may be coming down or it could be going up and down in sort of a cycle, but more of the people will be living in urban areas. More people above the age of 100 than we have today. People living much longer than we are estimating today. Maybe people reaching 100, 110, 115. Also increased movement of people between countries. And we’ve seen a faster exchange of information through the internet and other sources and we’ll see more control over fertility. Maybe people having children at older ages and this may account for an increase in fertility if people can have children later in life. Women now are restricted to a very small window in order to have their children. It’s usually between 25 and 35 and if that technology comes along where they can extend it, people may be having children at later ages. And there may be...
BW: And live long enough to still take care of the children.
JC: Absolutely. And I think that given what’s happened and the progress we’ve had with the exception of AIDS, we’ve had rather impressive improvements in health, mortality and ability to control fertility.
PW: Time after time over the last 50 years we have continually underestimated the progress in mortality in terms of the reduction of mortality rates. We have always been more pessimistic than turned out to be the case.
BW: Okay, on that optimistic note, which is a note I always like to end on, Peter Way, thank you; Joseph Chamie, of the U.N., thank you very much. And thank you.
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