Demographic Dissonance

‘Much has been made of the challenges of ageing societies. But it’s the youth bulge that stands to put greater pressure on the global economy, sow political unrest, spur mass migration and have profound consequences for everything from marriage to Internet access to the growth of cities.’


This month, the New York Times declared: ‘The World Has a Problem: Too many young people.’ Like the compelling Demographic Destinies series produced by the Wall Street Journal, it presents – in broad brush – the staggering imbalance confronting the most ‘demographically lopsided’ world in recorded history: on one hand, the ageing West, shackled by soaring pension bills and a diminishing workforce (whose youth are nevertheless chronically unemployed: 25% across Europe); and on the other, the vast army of young people in the developing world – 1 million more Indians join the workforce every month – coming of age with global aspirations to find there are no jobs (or, at least, none that fit the bill) leading to mass migration, unrest and extremism.


These statistics are seductive; but this ‘youth bulge’ is temporary. Birth rates are dropping across the world in line with the spread of education and health care; European elderly – only 7% of the population today and already 50% of the welfare bill – will have grown by another 58 million by 2050. Increasing productivity – of both the old and the young – and harnessing their talent to create innovative, sustainable, springboard economies, not just jobs, must remain the priority.


  • Click here to read the World Bank’s Global Monitoring Report 2015/16: Development Goals in an Era of Demographic Change.

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