THE Robert Schuman Foundation is a think tank set up in 1991 by EEC panjandrums which came up with a useful report on demographics in 2017. ‘Europe 2050: Demographic Suicide’ is the title and it complains that demographics are rarely mentioned in EU papers, except in the context of health and welfare spending. No doubt this is because the subject is too alarming. It is easier not to think about frightening things.
The report says that North America should see its population rise by 75million by 2050 while Europe plus the UK may ‘stagnate’ (a loaded term) at approximately 500million, with 49million fewer of working age (20-64). That means 11million potentially active workers fewer in Germany and up to 8million fewer in Spain and Italy. Fewer workers means not only less production but smaller markets. Old people consume much less than the middle aged and young.
By 2050, China, Japan, and Russia may lose 38million, 20million and 15million inhabitants respectively while India should increase by approximately 400million.
Oh! let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about! – Hilaire Belloc
The United States should see the number of potentially active workers rise by almost 20million during the same period, but this assumes that present immigration policies do not change.
The report concludes: ‘European countries look like orchards whose trees were fruitful for 40 years, then reached maturity without any seedlings planted. Yet, if we are to invest and consume, we must have confidence in the future and the need to purchase basic goods. Unfortunately, these two characteristics decrease with age. Deep down, a dynamic society relies upon the same fundamentals as economics and demographics. In other words, the desire to live is expressed through economic initiatives and raising children. Somehow, the entrepreneurial spirit remains closely linked to the family spirit.’
What makes people not have children? Many things but it is a phenomenon not only in the West but in Eastern Europe and most of Asia. Feminism is not the explanation, or not a full one, because Iranian birth rates are one third of what they were when the Shah was on the throne.
A UN report, also in 2017, forecast that by 2050 around 2.2billion would be added to the world’s population, including an additional 1.3billion sub-Saharan Africans. Africans will be a quarter of the world’s population and more than half will be under 25.
To understand better what 1.3billion extra people means, it means more than doubling the present population of Africa, 1.22billion. The present population of Europe is 741million, and the Robert Schuman report forecasts it to fall to around 500million in twenty years, which seems extraordinary. The population of China at present is 1.36billion, expected to peak at 1.4billion in 2029 and thereafter decline.
People who believe climate change is going to be a big problem talk about the prospect of climate change refugees. More certain is that, as African living standards continue to rise, more and more Africans will know about life in Western Europe (in particular via smartphones) and have the means to try to move here. People escaping floods are less likely to move continents, partly because they are less able to do so, than people who have money to travel and want to improve their standard of living.