On the other side of the age spectrum, the historic increase in global aging hit developed nations first. By 2026 the elderly will be more numerous than the young in developed countries. The gray tide will eventually reach everywhere as people live longer and numbers of births decrease in the demographic transition. As the percentage of elders increase so does stability.[i] The NIC Global Trends report identified a future megatrend as the rapid aging of the world’s population, especially in Japan, Europe, South Korea and Taiwan. This “pensioner bulge” isn’t good for economies but it is good for the development of peaceful democracy as populations age. As populations age, their nation’s economic growth is threatened, and probably will cause the influence of the developed world to wane, according to the authors of The Graying of the Great Powers. The costs of caring for elders could cause younger people to “feel a growing sense of inter-generational inequality.”[ii] Some refer to a battle of generations as old leaders try to hold on to their dictatorships. Increasing participation of educated women in the workforce can mitigate some of the economic problems as an aging population retires from work. The NIC report predicts that the fastest pace in closing the gender gap will be in East Asia and Latin America.
The aging countries in the Global North will depend on developing nations in the South with large entrepreneurial youth populations: India, Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Columbia, South Africa, the Philippines, and Vietnam.[iii] The exception among developed nations is the US due to immigration and relatively high fertility rates that will enable it to maintain its rank as the third most populated country. France and Scandinavia have avoided the “fertility trap” by providing family support programs including paid parental leave, quality childcare and education, and health care. Countries like Japan and Italy that haven’t provided family supports face population decline as a consequence.
Demographic change challenges Russia with its population decrease and China will have to support an age wave just when it becomes a middle-income country. The ageing process has happened faster in China than other countries and before average income levels rose as much as in other industrialized countries. China’s working age population will peak in 2016 with more elders than children by 2029. One-third of India’s population is under age 15 adding to superpower rivalry with China. Although one-third of children are malnourished which can limit their future intelligence, India has more than 18,000 universities enrolling 11 million students a year.
[i] Richard Cincotta, “Wither the Demographic Arc of Instability? New Security Beat, December 14, 2010.
[ii] Ibid., p. 56.
[iii] Rob Salkowitz. Young World Rising: How Youth, Technology, and Entrepreneurship are Changing the World from the Bottom Up. John Wiley & Sons, 2010, pp. 20-21.
“The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World,” UN Development Programme, 2013. http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/hdr/human-development-report-2013/