Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Plague Redux

Steve Mosher:

...The populations of no fewer than thirteen European countries, including Russia, Poland, and Hungary, have already begun to crash. The total fertility rate for Europe, including the former Soviet republics, currently averages an anemic 1.4 children per woman, and no increase is in sight. As a result, the current population of 728 million will plunge to only 557 million by the year 2050, a drop similar in magnitude to that occurring during the Black Death. At that point, Europe will be losing three to four million people a year. Three out of four Europeans will have disappeared by the end of the twenty-first century, when the population will number only 207 million. By then the population decline will be irreversible, with the surviving Europeans averaging more than sixty years of age.

The plunge has already begun in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Russia’s population is already decreasing by three-quarters of a million people each year; Ukraine’s, by a quarter million. Russia’s population is slated to decrease from 143 million in 2005 to 112 million in 2050.

Not an American problem? Oh, yes it is--unless the US doesn't really care about export sales of goods to Europe (other than coffins, I suppose.) Business will adjust, of course, assuming they can find people to work.

This population implosion, by reducing the amount of human capital available, will have a dramatic impact on every aspect of life. As Peter Drucker has noted, “The dominant factor for business in the next two decades—absent war, pestilence, or collision with a comet—is not going to be economics or technology. It will be demographics.”

Lack of chilluns certainly made a difference to Israel:

One consequence of losing the contest of the cradle is that by 2005 Jews had become a minority in Greater Israel. It is perhaps no coincidence that Israel pulled out of Gaza that same year. Uprooting a few thousand Israeli settlers may have seemed a small price to pay for ridding itself of 1.3 million unassimilated Palestinians. Both sides understand that it is not just modern weapons systems that will determine the ultimate fate of Israel, but differential birth rates as well.

And although they will not give away land-holdings to others, the Japanese will eventually give up their islands--because there will be nobody there to keep them.

With a total fertility rate of only 1.25, Japan is on the brink of a major demographic meltdown. Its population of 127 million has stopped growing and—if the birthrate continues at this low level—will soon begin to shrink at an alarming pace. A population bust, like an explosion, proceeds in geometric progression.

Perhaps "the whimper" will be the end.


Anonymous said...

The numbers don't reflect the reality regarding Poland, since at first glance one might think it is mostly to do with the "contraceptive mentallity"...

Birthrates have been going up there, slowly but surely, for the past 11 years. In fact, Poland is the only country in Europe where the birth-rate climbs with economic growth (the opposite of say Germany or Norway.) Also, unlike most other Europeans, Poles are aware of the "demographic" winter. Gov't officals talk about it, and I recall seeing posters in Catholic Churches warning of the demographic winter in Europe (but also showing Poland as bucking the trend.)

Anecdotaly, most Americans would be amazed to see the number of young couples walking around pushing a stroller in the streets of Warsaw or Krakow (especailly when one considers how few young nuclear families spoted in say Manhattan or Paris.)

The demographic problem though in Poland is a continuation of a negative cycle that was long in comming, consider, World War I, Polish-Soviet War, a very brutal German occupation, then Communism. In addition to the war related deaths, post-war central planning, forced internal resettling, forced industrilization, and also substantial emmigration created a situation where there were massive gender and age imbalances in entire regions, thus one province might have been mostly old men, whilst another was young women, or visa versa. Of course the loss of those who were never born is pretty substantial and is more noted with each generation.

In places like the cities, or in more isolated towns that were (mostly) unaffected by the darker aspects of the 20th century (such as in the Mountian provinces) the birth-rate is probably comfortably above the 2.1 replacment rate. This will apply to more and more regions across the country as time goes on, especailly if the economy gets to a point that young people don't have to go to GB or Ireland for work and are instead meeting people in their communities.

It is worth pointing out that Poles take marriage very seriously and to marry somewhat late in life, after they have established a job, a home, etc, unlike the western Europeans though, the years before marriage are not prefaced by promiscuity or shacking up. Likewise, the divorce rate is tiny compared to what it is in the USA or Canada.

Poland will weather the demographic winter much better than the rest of Europe.

Jen said...

Prof. Bruce Thornton discusses this in his latest book, Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow Motion Suicide. He was on NRO TV last week talking about Europe's "demographic suicide":