Saturday 22 February 2020

'Europe 2050: Demographic Suicide'

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 75 million inhabitants by 2050 while Europe plus the UK may 'stagnate' (a loaded term) at approximately 500 million people, with 49 million fewer people of working age (20-64). That number means 11 million potentially active workers fewer in Germany and 7 to 8 million fewer in Spain and Italy. Fewer workers means not only less production but smaller markets. Old people consume much less than middle aged and young people.

By 2050, China, Japan, and Russia may lose 38, 20 and 15 million inhabitants respectively while India should increase by approximately 400 million people thus surpassing China by at least 300 million people. 

"Oh let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about."

The United States should see the number of potentially active workers rise by almost 20 million during the same period, but this assumes that present immigration policies in these country do not change, which they will.
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 (but not all) of Asia. Feminism is not the explanation, or not a full one, because Iranian birthrates are one third of what they were when the Shah was in the throne.

A UN Report also in 2017 forecast that by 2050 around 2.2 billion people would be added to the world's population, including an additional 1.3 billion sub-Saharan Africans. Africans will be a quarter of the world's population and more than half will be under 25.

To better understand what 1.3 billion extra people means, it means more than doubling the present population of Africa, 1.22 billion. The present population of Europe is 741 million, and the Robert Schuman Report forecasts it to fall to around 500 million in twenty years, which seems extraordinary. The population of China at present is 1.36 billion, expected to peak at 1.4 billion people 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. A more certain thing is that, as African living standards continue to rise, more and more Africans will know about life in the Western Europe (in particular via smartphones) and have the means to try to move there. 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.


  1. Shrine to Migrants in St. Peter’s Square

  2. A more certain thing is that, as African living standards continue to rise, more and more Africans will know about life in the Western Europe

    As African living standards continue to rise their birth rates will collapse, as has happened everywhere else.

    Our modern global society has a built-in self-destruct mechanism. As GDPs rise, as prosperity increases, as consumption grows, birth rates plummet. Capitalism plus urbanisation plus consumerism plus liberalism equals catastrophically low birth rates.

    Our economic model is not sustainable. Not because of depletion of resources or environmental factors but simply because our economic model leads inevitably to a world without children. But capitalism will fight tooth and nail to avoid admitting that it is leading to its own destruction and the complete destruction of society.

  3. 'As African living standards continue to rise their birth rates will collapse, as has happened everywhere else.' Yes certainly (in Botswana it is 2.7) but before this happens the proportion of the world population that is African will hugely increase.
    With AI many jobs that were done by unskilled and skilled workers and professionals (think of auditors) can be mechanised. We are a long way off a world without children.

    1. We are a long way off a world without children.

      Of course I was exaggerating. But we're close to having a world with very few children. To an extent that would have been unthinkable in the mid-20th century.

      I suspect that fertility rates will go up and down but that the overall trend will continue downwards. It's quite possible they'll stabilise at about half the replacement rate. Singapore is already below that. We're not just looking at declining populations but rapidly declining populations, to an extent unprecedented in history.

      Give it another century and we could have a largely depopulated world.

    2. Selling contraceptives was illegal in the French Republic, which was strictly secular and godless, until the 1960s to preserve the French race. It is amazing that it is taking so long for governments to get round to encouraging women to have lots of children - congratulations to Hungary, Poland and yes Putin - no doubt Boris will copy them. Eventually.