The Population Challenge
The world is facing two major demographic problems: As the world population swells, fueled by developing countries, developed countries are struggling to cope with shrinking and aging workforces. Fortunately, objective fact-based analysis has enabled economists to identify cost-effective solutions to the global population challenge.
BRISBANE – When people think of the world’s “population problem,” they often focus on rapid demographic growth in parts of the developing world. But, globally, the population-growth rate is actually falling, and population is expected to plateau later this century. Though we cannot afford to ignore the fact that, according to United Nations estimates, there will be 2.4 billion more mouths to feed worldwide by mid-century, another population problem also merits serious attention: large pockets of demographic decline.
In developed countries, not only is the share of elderly people rising; birth rates are too low to maintain the size of the total population. While the life expectancy gains that are driving this shift should be celebrated, their problematic consequences – forcing a declining number of working-age people to support an increasing number of retired people – must be addressed.
Meanwhile, in developing countries, the opposite is happening, with too many young people lacking employment – or, at least, high-quality, full-time employment. To be sure, it will not be very long before these countries begin to confront the problems of aging and shrinking populations, as well. But, for now, they have plenty of working-age citizens – and they need jobs.