Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Two Foreign Policy Links

The always-interesting magazine Foreign Policy features two articles of note to our readers.

  • Reihan Salam's "The Death of Macho" examines the consequences of how the Great Recession is accelerating a power shift from men away from women in societies around the world, as the old industrial economies which drew on male labour decline while the service industries which depend disproportionately on female workers continue to grow, even while traditional masculine risk-taking strategies are coming under pressure in the middle of a backlash against the practice which helped trigger the global economic crisis.

  • Malcolm Potts and Martha Campbell have come up with an interesting infographic (("Sex Matters") which examines the ways in which contraception has transformed demographics, showing everything from the types of contraceptives and rates of use in different parts of the world, to charts showing how long it took family sizes to fall from six to 3.5 members (58 years in the United States, and yes !, 6 years in
  • Saturday, June 27, 2009

    Climate refugees and West African migration

    Sam Knight's recent article in the Financial Times, "Ghana's environmental refugees," writes about the new phenomenon of the climate refugee, starting by visiting the dessicating Ghanaian city of Nandom.

    The heart of Nandom is a fork in the road. It is here, in one of the northernmost towns in Ghana, that the buses come and go. You would call it a station if it was anything more than a triangle of reddish dust, surrounded by fast-food stalls, general stores and the rural bank. Once a week, a market sets up. The rest of the time, it’s the buses themselves, privately owned mini-vans known as “tro tros”, daubed with prayers for the road – “Lord Have Mercy”, “My Redeemer Liveth” – that provide the action: the logic-defying piling on of people and goods, the waiting, in midday temperatures of 40°C, for enough passengers to fill a van.

    The buses are important to Nandom, the administrative centre for more than 50,000 people – chiefly farmers – in one of the poorest corners of Ghana, because the population is leaving. Migration has long been part of life in the dry reaches of west Africa, but in recent years, with economic development taking place elsewhere and erratic rains making rural life increasingly difficult, more and more people are taking to the road. The figures are inexact, but about 20 per cent of those born in northern Ghana are now thought to live in the richer, more urbanised south. In Nandom, the numbers are much higher: half the population has gone. People from the town offer varying reasons for the exodus – lack of jobs, enticing “greener pastures”, deteriorating climate – but they agree that it cannot go on indefinitely, this whittling, or Nandom will never prosper. “What is happening,” a local priest told me, “is that our society is to a certain extent being disintegrated.”

    [. . .]

    The volatility is here to stay. Climate models predict a one or two degree rise in temperature in Ghana and West Africa by mid-century and a simultaneous 10 per cent decrease in rainfall, but the line is a jagged one. Zinedeme Minia, the deputy director-general of Ghana’s Meteorological Agency, told me it was much easier to map 20- or 30-year trends than know what will happen in the shorter term. “Climate change will bring surprises,” he said. And for poor farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture, that uncertainty is too much to bear. “You are doing a gambling game,” said Minia. “You are never sure when you are likely to get something and when you will lose completely. That is the issue.”

    Farmers in Nandom spoke in alternating tones of fatigue and bloody-mindedness about their capricious rains. One day, around noon, I met Leo Yiryel, the 84-year-old chief of a small village just outside the town. “The rain is punishing us a lot,” he said. “There used to be only a hard dry season, but now there is also a rainy season that can destroy your crops.” Yiryel was sitting on a bench under a mango tree, surrounded by grandchildren who listened raptly. There seemed to be dozens of them so I asked Yiryel where their parents were. He told me he had 12 children – a 13th died young – and that 11 of them had migrated to southern Ghana. “I never expected that,” admitted Yiryel. “I thought when they were in school and in training that all the jobs and opportunities would be here, but they are not. They are all down there.”

    Knight observes, correctly, that environmental degradation has the potential to be a powerful motor for migration.

    The logic is powerful: 10 per cent of the world’s population would be inundated by a 1 metre rise in sea levels – possible by the end of this century – while another 30 per cent, more than 2 billion people, live in drylands, like Nandom, that are vulnerable to endemic drought. All these people, the argument goes, will have to end up somewhere.

    At the some time, he points out that the concept of the climate migration, at least as a distinct category of migrants, is perhaps questionable.

    Richard Black, a professor of human geography at the University of Sussex who has studied the question for the United Nations High Commission for ­Refugees (UNHCR), told me he had several problems with the idea. In the first place, he said, it has been used to raise the spectre of massive international migration, even though ­people displaced by environmental disasters overwhelmingly tend to stay within their national borders, often as close as possible to their former homes. This can still be a great strain, but it is not the same as hordes of people crossing borders. It is also, incidentally, how migration from northern Ghana is playing out. A survey of 204 families in Nandom in 2004, for instance, found not a single relative among them who had migrated outside the country.

    More broadly though, Black disputes the idea that environmental migration is somehow new, or different to other kinds of migration. The decisions of every migrant, he argues, even those made under great stress, are shaped by a mixture of economic, social and cultural factors, and the environment is just one of these. By imagining that climate change has some kind of special influence over migration, Black argues that we run the risk of overlooking similarities between ­people who move for environmental reasons and those who move for political or economic reasons, and those who do not move at all.

    In the case of West Africa, at least, it certainly is. On a local scale, migration from Namdon forms part of a rational adaptation to circumstances, where work in the more prosperous south allows migrants to earn money that is then put towards remittances to their relatives who are then able to sustain their home community. On a larger scale, migration in West Africa from the dry Sahel to the richer coastal regions is a well-established tradition. For example, as noted in the online text IUCN Sahel Studies 1989, migration is established with multiple motivations, whether to richer neighbours, to areas temporarily in need of workers (to harvest a crop, for instance), from one rural region to another in pursuit of exploitable territory, and finally, through urbanization. One example of this sort of dynamic is described in Wikipedia's article on seasonal migration, where the terrible poverty experienced by a Nigerien population composed mainly of agriculturalists and herders triggers a seasonal migration out of Niger during the dry season, whether to a Nigeria that is also populated by Hausa, or to French colonies once federated with Niger and which still share a common currency. Before independence, in fact, the French government observed wide-scale emigration from Niger to the future Ghana, identifying it as a way for these people to escape oppression at home for a richer country.

    In theory, then, despite environmental degradation, the sorts of normal migratory movements long-established in West Africa on the national and regional scales could provide a way for communities caught by climate change to sustain themselves. This could work out for the benefit of all: for rural communities needing to survive environmental changes, for urban communities looking for workers unskilled and otherwise, for national and regional economies which could benefit from a freer supply of labour. In theory.

    In actuality, large-scale migration from the Sahel to the coasts has often had unhappy results. Adama Konseiga observes in his paper "New Patterns in the Human Migration in Africa" that these migrations, initially supplying the labour forces needed for tropical agriculture in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana and for manufacturing in Senegal, have developed into a major force for West African integration. In examining the specific cases of Burkina Faso (a migrant-sending country) and Côte d'Ivoire (a labour-receiving country), he notes that these migrant flows served the labour needs of a very labour-intensive agricultural system based on the farming of cash crops like cocoa and coffee, these migrations surviving despite restrictions eventually placed by both countries on movement, with continuing family and other arrangements anchoring these population movements. Within a generation of independence, more than a quarter of the Ivoirien population was of post-independence migrant stock. Eventually, when Côte d'Ivoire hit hard economic times in the 1980s and migrants to urban areas began to return to their rural areas, they came into conflict with immigrant farmers already established. This, as Jonathan Edelstein noted in 2003, led to catastrophe.

    The economic decline, combined with the end of the Cold War, led to pressure for democratic and fiscal reforms. [Then-president Félix] Houphouët-Boigny still had enough prestige to win the first multiparty elections in 1990, but his days were numbered; the officially-88-year-old president died in office in 1993. His place was taken by the president of the national assembly, Henri Konan Bédié, a man with the full measure of Houphouët-Boigny's autocratic tendencies but none of his redeeming virtues. Unable to hold together Houphouët-Boigny's system through charisma or personal authority, he chose to do so through chauvinism.

    Under Bédié, a new word entered the Ivoirian political vocabulary -
    ivoirité. ivoiritéwas something relatively new on the African scene - not tribalism, but nationalism. The ivoirité movement soon became explicitly nativist, and guest workers from Mali and Burkina Faso - many of whom had the same ethnic heritage as their Ivoirian neighbors and had lived in Côte d'Ivoire for decades - became its targets. Similar hostilities have since developed in other countries - for instance, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea has urged his countrymen to attack migrant workers with machetes - and there had been previous movements against Asian merchants or disliked tribes, but intra-tribal hostility on the basis of nationality was little known at the time.

    Another casualty of
    ivoirité was relations between the Christian south and the Muslim north, many of whom had migrated to Côte d'Ivoire during colonial times. A Bédié-era constitutional provision disqualified anyone whose parents were not Ivoirian-born from running for president, which had the effect of disenfranchising one of the main opposition leaders, Alassane Ouattara. Ouattara's constituency in the north became increasingly restive as the economy grew worse and the government reneged on many of the democratic reforms of the early 1990s.

    As Micah Bump noted in his 2006 survey of Ghana, instead of being a country of immigration it's increasingly becoming a country of out-migration. Looking to the neighbouring example of Côte d'Ivoire, where northern Muslims of long standing were as much victims of ivoirité as post-independence migrants, I can't help but wonder whether a Ghana that remains poor--and perhaps other countries--can avoid Côte d'Ivoire's catastrophe. If it can't, what impact will this have on West African migration systems? Only a very small minority of West African migrants, less than a tenth, are interested in immigrating to the developed world. In the event that the sort of migratory system described above doesn't come about, will this change?

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Germany's Shrinking East

    By Claus Vistesen: Copenhagen

    Here at DM and elsewhere, we are harping a lot about the economic effect of demographic changes. However, demographic changes not only entail economic changes, but also social changes (as I have doubt Randy has reminded you all as of late) and quite often these two go hand in hand. A recent piece by Nicholas Kulish in the NYT provides a timely reminder to that point as it describes the effects of Germany's broken demographics in the context of its Eastern premises.

    In this, the 20th year since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is preparing for a host of celebrations and commemorations leading to the November anniversary. The official story of an eastern revival was reinforced by President Obama’s recent visit to Dresden in all its reconstructed glory. But outside big cities like Dresden, Leipzig or Berlin, in places like this former industrial mining town, the story of decline and departure has changed little in the former East Germany. Not far beyond the few thriving urban centers, traffic is often spare on the freshly paved highways, and at night in parts of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in the northern part of the country, there is hardly a light to be seen to either side of the autobahns.

    In a popular song a few years back, the performer Rainald Grebe described a feeling of solitude by singing, “I feel so empty today, I feel Brandenburg,” referring to the former East German state that surrounds Berlin. Newspapers track the return of wolf packs to Saxony along the Polish border on the one hand, and the continued migration of the young and the educated to the greater opportunities in the west on the other.

    When German government officials last week presented their annual report on the state of unification and the attempts of the former East Germany to catch up to the west, the picture they painted was overwhelmingly positive, but not exactly complete. The government accurately reported that it had spent more than $60 billion supporting businesses and building infrastructure from 2006 to 2008 alone. And economic activity per person has risen to 71 percent of the former western sector’s from 67 percent over the course of this decade.

    “Thanks to positive economic development, the east is on the best track to converge with the west,” said Wolfgang Tiefensee, the minister responsible for the development of the former East German states. “The gap is closing.”

    It is closing partly because the export leaders taking the hardest hits in the economic downturn are in the west, a leveling down rather than up. Unemployment in the former East Germany remains double what it is in the west, and in some regions the number of women between the ages of 20 and 30 has dropped by more than 30 percent. In all, roughly 1.7 million people have left the former East Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall, around 12 percent of the population, a continuing process even in the few years before the economic crisis began to bite.

    And the population decline is about to get much worse, as a result of a demographic time bomb known by the innocuous-sounding name “the kink,” which followed the end of Communism. The birth rate collapsed in the former East Germany in those early, uncertain years so completely that the drop is comparable only to times of war, according to Reiner Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. “For a number of years East Germans just stopped having children,” Dr. Klingholz said.

    Now, the issue of Eastern and Western Germany is of course not a new one and essentially traces right back to the reunification and the fact, as many scholars have pointed out, that Germany basically provided the world with a great social experiment. One of the effects from this experiment, as Dr. Klingholz points out, was that women in East Germany essentially stopped having children all together. In a paper from 1994 detailing the immediate evolution of East German fertility in the context of the reunification process, Nicholas Eberstadt shows how births in East Germany indeed did fall dramatically. From 1988 to 1992 the total number of live births fell from 215700 to 88300 which translates into a drop in the crude birth rate from 12.1 to 5.6.

    While the relative decline in Eastern Germany since the end of Communism can be fitted to historical parallels, albeit not without difficult, the absolute level of fertility now being recorded [1993] in that territory appears to be a completely new phenomenon - at least, for sizable naturally constituted populations. Eastern Germany's adults appear to have as close to a temporary suspension of childbearing as any such population in the human experience.

    According to Eberstadt and given the information available at the time, the drop was especially severe because fertility dropped sharply among women aged 25-34 and thus among those women in their prime age with respect to childbearing. Furthermore, Eberstadt also shows how marriage rates declined sharply during the transition from communism. Marina A. Adler notes that the highly insecure environment following communism made women reluctant to engage in the kind of long term commitments which marriage and child rearing constitutes. In fact, the almost effective halt in childrearing occuring in East Germany is not so unique in the general sense since the fall of communism also marked a decisive structural break in the context of the fertility behavior of an entire generation of women all across the Eastern European edifice. In this sense, Sobotka offers a comprehensive view of the drivers of the fertility transition in the context Eastern Europe.

    The ultimate effect of the shift in an Eastern Germany context was remarkable; Eberstadt estimates that the TFR had fallen to an astonishing 0.98 in East Germany by 1991.

    Of course, in a bigger perspective this extraordinary squeeze on births in East Germany only served to accelerate an already rapid demographic transition which saw fertility rates in Germany collapse to a TFR of 1.28 in 1994 from where they have since recovered ever so tepidly to the current 1.41 (2008 estimate). Together with a steady increase in life expectancy, this has produced a process og ageing in Germany only, at this point, rivaled by that of Japan.

    The issue in the context of East Germany is a well known one in the sense that all those ideas about East Germany rapidly catching up the standards of West never really bore out; at least not in a general sense. According to the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, East Germany harbour three out of the ten most rapidly shrinking regions in Europe and in a world where mobility among the young is high, this has initiated a cycle by which the young people leave as fast as they can further aggravating the dearth of young productive people as well as the simple fact that the number of potential mothers are dropping fast. Yet, the fertility picture in Germany is quite complex since for example there are more childless women in the West than in the East;

    As reported by the Federal Statistical Office, in March 2004, 30% of German women aged 37 to 40 years (birth cohorts of 1964 to 1967) in the former territory of the Federal Republic were childless, that means, there were no minor children in the household. Childlessness was markedly lower among German women of the same age in the new Länder and Berlin-East (22%) and among foreign women in Germany (21%).

    In fact, in a paper from 2000, Jennifer Hunt from McGill University asks the simple question of why anyone would want to live in East Germany at all given the income and unemployment divergences which highly favor a life to the west. Moreover, the study also indicates that whereas east-west emigration was substantial in the years following the fall of the Berlin wall it decreased (in the 1990s) and became highly centered on emigration of young and highly skilled labor. In 2004, the German statistical office reported that net income for households in the East had reached 77% of net income of households in the West. In this sense there is some convergence. The same year (2004) also saw net East-West migration dwindle to about 49.000 of which one have to assume that the majority are young income earners or other "mobile" parts of the labour force.

    Who is Actually Converging Here?

    Eastern Germany have, in some sense, come along way in terms of attaining the same standard of living as West Germany. That much is certain and this also shows itself in the context of intra-German migration patterns where the number of people moving from East to West seem to have fallen steadily. However, there is also a composition effect here to think about and thus the fact that one can expect the highly mobile parts of the labour force to move. Also, as the most recent pieces note, especially the small villages and mid sized towns risk effective depopulation. Finally, what is being narrated as a phenomenon exclusively confined to East Germany in the form of a lack of young mothers and young people in general is fast becoming a common German preoccupation.

    Thus, Germany is ageing and fast too. Germany's median age is estimated to hit 45 years by 2010 and the process won't stop here. She will continue ageing and it will pose a great challenge moving forward.

    Consequently, and while the demise of many small villages in the East and the subsequent return of the wolf packs are evidence of this, the fact of the matter is that this represents an issue for the entire Germany society to deal with even if the specific social issues in Eastern Germany are significant in their own right.

    Friday, June 19, 2009

    What are the distant islands of the EU like?

    I'd like to point people towards the French-language PDF, coming from INED's ongoing Population et Sociétes series, "Population et développement de l'Outremer de l Union européene". As I blogged recently about Tonga and the South Pacific, in March of this year on the French Caribbean islands, and in December 2007 about Canada's Prince Edward Island, islands almost by definition are relatively marginal and small areas, this marginality and smallness often triggering population movements--mainly emigration--which can take on great size relative to the islands' populations.

    The European Union is, of course, European, but the past overseas expansion of many of its member-states has created a situation where literally millions of European Union citizens live outside of continental Europe. France has the largest extra-European population, numbering more than two million, but Spain, Portugal, Britain, and the Netherlands also have large numbers of citizens outside of Europe. Almost all of these citizens live on islands--or, in the case of French Guiana, territories that may as well be islands. What, author Jean-Louis Rallu asks, is happening to these islands?

    For starters, all of these islands, save the Portuguese Azores and Madeira, are experiencing at least some notable population growth, whether because of natural increase (the French overseas territories) or immigration. This population growth can take on significant proportions, with Mayotte and French Guyana growing so quickly that their populations will double in a bit more than two decades, and immigration from neighbouring poor countries--Brazil, Surinam, Morocco, Comores--playing a significant role. Aging is proceeding quickly, whether because of natural population aging or the immigration of the retired, while unemployment is frequently high on account of a lack of local industry and--as I wrote in March--subsidies from the metropole that undermine local economies.

    Anyway, go read it (if you read French, at least). You'll find it worth it.

    Who are Roma and travelers? How many are there in Europe?

    Antonio Cappiello (
    ICstat - International Cooperation Center for Statistics "Luigi Bodio" )

    this post originally appeared (in Italian language) on

    The knowledge of ROMA and travelers' culture and the quantification and localization of their presence it is of fundamental importance for planning social policies for the protection of minorities, for overcoming the intolerance and for preventing social exclusion.

    Who are Roma and Travelers?

    During the history, the only written sources on Roma came from no-Roma populations.The collective memory of Roma population should be found in their folklore, their songs and poems and has its roots in the various historical experiences, in their travel itineraries and in their particular language. Nowadays ROMA population is a mosaic composed by various socio cultural groups, coming to Europe from India at the end of the XII century. Roma's language (Romani) becomes to the Indo European group and it originates from some popular idioms close to Sanskrit, and was greatly influenced by the languages spoken by the populations that were in contact with ROMA: Persian, Kurdish, Greek, Serbian, Turkish etc. According to the estimation of the Council of Europe (2007), Roma and Travelers in Europe are about 10 millions distributed in about 40 countries.

    click here to enlarge these figures

    Intolerance and discrimination
    Roma have always been victims of intolerance, prejudice and discrimination, their presence in Europe is characterised by centuries of persecution,extermination and discriminatory policies. Nowadays, the majority of modern societies continue to show anti-gypsy feelings and to perceive, disseminate or tolerate negative images linked to ROMA who are still considered “different” and not "fully citizen" of their respective countries. As reaction, Roma have developed, as self defense, isolation and diffidence against society and institutions. Generally, travelers include, besides Roma and Sinti, other population group with non Roma origins but with a traveler life style (Irish Travelers, Swiss Yenish, Camminanti Siciliani, etc.), and they have to face the same difficulties of Roma as concerns the fundamental human rights and are constantly in need of fighting against discrimination. Since 1990 the Council of Europe has undertaken various initiatives related to Roma issues. Among them European Roma and Travelers Forum (ERFT) aiming at promoting the participation of Roma representative in decision making process. FORUM activities are in cooperation with other activities of important international organizations , namely: European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), International Roma Women’s Network (IRWN); refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); anti-trafficking actions with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); data collection, with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); Forum of European Roma Young People (FERYP).

    References and further readings

    Council of Europe, Roma and travelers (http://www.coe.int/t/dg3/romatravellers/Default_en.asp)

    UNDP BRC, The Roma in central and Eastern Europe: Avoiding the Dependency Trap. A regional human development report, 2002 (http://roma.undp.sk/)

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    A Good/Bad Time To Stop Having Babies

    Guest post by Doug Muir

    This post originally appeared on A Fistful Of Euros In March.

    Here follows a bit of demographic speculation. It’s guesswork right now, but we’ll know in a year or two if I’m right.

    Interesting Fact #1: birthrates tend to drop during recessions, and the drop tends to correlate with both the severity of the recession and the speed of its onset. The current recession is looking to be a bad one, and it happened pretty quickly, so we can reasonably expect a sharp drop in birth rates. I say “expect” because it hasn’t happened yet — human biology being what it is, we won’t see the first effects until nine months after most people became aware of the recession. This summer, more or less.

    – Makes sense, right? Babies are expensive; more to the point, babies limit your options. They make it harder to move to a different city, change careers, stop working for a while. When times are hard and uncertain, babies become a luxury. For individuals and families, a recession is a good time to put childbearing on hold.


    Interesting Fact #2: all across Communist Eastern Europe, birth rates declined slowly through the 1970s and ’80s… and then crashed after 1990, dropping to very low levels and staying there through most of the decade. In some countries they bounced back a bit, in others not, but in almost all cases there’s a big “birth gap” from about 1991 until at least 1997, and often later. This is in contrast to, say, Germany or Italy or Greece, where birthrates declined more smoothly.

    Put these two facts together, and there’s a problem.
    See, a country’s total birthrate depends on two things. One is the fertility of its women — especially its women in peak childbearing years, 18-35. The other is the total number of women in those childbearing years. If your country has very few young women, then the country as a whole can’t have a high birth rate, even if every young woman is having lots of kids.

    Still with me? Well, consider: Eastern Europe saw birthrates crash after 1990. That means that, all across the region, the number of fertile women is starting to decline sharply. In Russia and Ukraine, Bulgaria and Serbia and Hungary, there just aren’t many 18 year olds relative to the total population. And year by year, as the “empty” birth cohorts of the 1990s move into their peak child-bearing years, the number of fertile women will continue to decline.

    Okay, this isn’t news. Demographic projections have taken it into account for years. But now there’s a new factor: the recession.

    What’s likely to happen is that the countries of Eastern Europe will be hit with a double punch: few childbearing women, and those women having few children. Demographically, the recession is coming at the very worst possible time: roughly one generation after birthrates crashed across the region. This suggests that over the next couple of years, countries like Russia and Ukraine are going to see record low birthrates in both absolute and relative terms. This, in turn, suggests that starting next year, long-term demographic projections for those countries are going to start nosing downwards.

    Now, there is one glimmer of hope here. Across most of Eastern Europe, women still tend to start having children sooner than their Western sisters. The average age of birthing mothers in Germany is 29.5; in Sweden, it’s over 30; in Bulgaria, it’s about 25. So there is some slack, demographically speaking. If the recession is short, young women can simply pick up where they would have, only a year or two later. The babies not born in 2010 might just be born in 2012 instead. In this respect, the East is better off than the West; countries where the average birthing mother is already over 30 don’t have this margin.

    But if the hard times drag on… well, some of the demographic projections for Eastern Europe were pretty drastic already. By the 2030s, Romania’s population is supposed to shrink by about 10%, Bulgaria’s by over 15%, Ukraine’s by roughly 20%. The recession is likely to make those numbers even more alarming.

    So: a good time for individual women and families to stop having babies. But for their countries, maybe not so much.

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    The Clock Is Ticking Away Under Latvia

    As the European Commision and the IMF conduct their latest post-Keynesian "social and economic experiment" in Latvia to see whether it is possible to revive an economy which is contracting at an annual rate of 18% under the weight of debt deflation relying almost exclusively on a process of drastic fiscal cuts - a process which today is glorified with the name of "internal devaluation" but which in the 1930s was simply called what it is: wage and price deflation - a new problem looms its head. What, we might like to ask ourselves will be the long run consequence for Latvia's already fragile demographic dynamic if we don't get a most-optimistic-scenario-best-case outcome here? That is, if instead of a devaluation-driven "V" shaped recovery, we get not a "U" shaped one (the optimistic scenario), but rather "L" shaped stagnation (a distinct possibility on my view, if wages and prices simply take too long correcting to competitive rates) what will be the implications for the longer term future of the country?

    The question I want ask here is simply whether or not short term decision taking on the part of the Latvian government (the crisis "exit strategy") may not produce knock-on effects on the short term decision process of potential Latvian parents leading them to postpone decisions on parenthood, such that the impact of the crisis is a further deterioration in long run population dynamics, and hence, ironically, in potential economic performance? What I am asking is whether or not there may be a kind of "vicious circularity", whereby one negative feedback process influences another in a way which produces a very unfortunate outcome. Not for nothing do we say that social systems are complex ones!

    But before we go into the nitty gritty of all this, I would like to just take a quick look at two charts.

    Structurally, they look quite similar don't they? They are both output charts, showing year-on-year changes in production. The second is a chart for industrial products, and the first is a chart for children. Strange they should look so similar, isn't it? Or is it? Below I will go into some recent work by economists and demographers which providing a theoretical background within which we may be better able to understand the sort of complex processes we can see operating in Latvia. At the end of the post we will then breifly take a brief look at some of the conclusions it might be possible to draw from what is happening.

    Theoretical Background

    Basically there are two key line of approach which may help get to grips with the present situation, one of these is the Low Fertility Trap hypothesis advanced by the Austrian demographer Wolfgang Lutz. The other is the cohort-size-driven relative-income-hypothesis advanced by US economist Richard Easterlin. You can find a nice summary of Wolfgang Lutz's low fertility trap hypothesis in this earlier post by Claus Vistesen. Essentially Lutz argues that the negative dynamic associated with long term below replacement fertility may produce self reinforcing processes such that the anticipated "rebound" in fertility levels simply does not take place. Needless to say there is considerable (negative) evidence in support of the idea that societies where fertility falls to "lowest-low" levels (defined as below 1.3) have considerable difficulty in reovering sustainable longer term fertility levels (circa 2.1) even if the reasons for such difficulty are still a matter for debate. Essentially there are three components to the Lutz hypothesis, and these can be seen in the diagram below:

    As Lutz says the key idea is that once fertility falls below a certain level (and even in the event that the hypothesis proved to be well founded this level could only be determined empirically, on the basis of actual experience) a self-reinforcing demographic regime may be established from which it is hard to escape, in the sense of raising fertility back up towards replacement levels. The cut-off point which Lutz et al start from is 1.5 (and in this they take their lead from a proposal by Peter Macdonald in this paper ). This figure does seem to have some coherence in terms of actual experience to date, since with the exception of Denmark - which did briefly fall under 1.5 tfr in the 1990s - no country seems to have gone below this and come, and stayed, back up again.

    Now Lutz identifies three potential self reinforcing processes - population momentum, ideational processes, and economic factors - but in this post I want to focus on one of these, the economic one. The explanatory mechanisms we are offered are full of self-reinforcing feedback processes, as can be seen from the diagram below (incidentally please click over the image for better viewing):

    Based on work which Claus Vistesen and I have been doing applying Modgigliani's Life Cycle Model of consumption and savings in the context of rising population median ages I think it is now possible to flesh out just how some of these processes work (see, for example, this post, or my Taking Solow Seriously - Does Neoclassical Steady State Growth Really Exist? post, or Claus here on Japan's engine failure).

    Essentially, the argument we are developing is that as median ages rise beyond a certain point - 42/43 let's say - the structural characteristics of an economy change. While younger economies - let's say with median ages in the 35 - 39 range - are driven by large scale borrowing (on aggregate), domestic consumption surges, and, of course imports and current account deficits to match the domestic savings weaknesses. More elderly societies exhibit higher relative savings levels (Japan, Germany and Sweden would be the classic cases), can no longer rely on domestic consumption to anything like the same extent, and increasingly come to depend on export growth and lending abroad to achieve economic growth. This situation is highly unstable, as we are witnessing now in the Swedish case, since as the consumer booms in the younger societies fail, exports slump and many of the loans go bad. This is not a very satisfactory state of affairs, but it is in fact what is happening. This is the demographic transition we are all part of.

    Basically, I would argue it is possible to think about four economic mechanisms which "feed" the low fertilility "loop" in the longer run.

    1) In order to compete for exports the elderly export-dependent economies have a permanent pressure on their tradeable sectors, whereby outsourcing is continuous and ongoing, wages are continuously compressed, and structural reform is permanent. Since the very export dependence is only further reinforced by the continuing process of change in the population pyramid (ie domestic demand never "recovers" as such) this is all self-reinforcing. That is to say, the more time passes the more there is downward pressure on the wages of young people, and this pressure evidently influences decision taking about parenthood among young people.

    Indeed the negative re-inforcing mechanism on domestic consumption can be even stronger, as can be seen from this chart for German retail sales. These, it will be noted, have been falling since the start of 2007, despite the fact that 2007 was a "bumper" year for the German economy. This has nothing to do, please note, with any supposed impact of the global economic crisis, since it evidently pre-dates this. And what happened in January 2007 which set this decline in motion? Guess what, a three percent hike in VAT consumption tax. The hike was, ironically, introduced in order to help pay ageing society health costs. So just like the theory predicts, the consumption of young people is squeezed to help pay the cost of high elderly dependency ratios, and it is squeezed with important structural consequences for the economy. There has been a great deal of noise and hot air spoken of late about who did, and who did not, see this crisis coming, but I would direct your attention to this post by Claus Vistesen on A Fistful of Euros in February 2007 - a (then) 22 year old business school student in economics at the Copenhagen Business School giving Master Classes in economics.

    So watch out Latvia, since you just hiked your VAT consumption tax!

    2) Due to the comparatively lacklustre economic growth performance there is a constant shortfall in the tax income necessary to guarantee existing welfare and pension commitments. This shortfall is produced by the low levels of trend growth (think Italy, Germany and Japan) which you can generate exclusively on the basis of export growth. Since the changing pyramid structure (here is another part of the feedback loop) means that an increasing part of the voting population comes to be over 50, the tendency, as we are in fact seeing, is to attempt to maintain welfare commitments by increasing the tax burden, which affects the consumption and earning possibilities of the young directly.

    3) Migration factors. As societies age, the general lack of economy growth, and the tendency towards increased retirement ages and higher participation rates at the older ages, all mean that there is a relative lack of well paying jobs at the entry level, a phenomenon which makes outward migration an increasingly attractive proposition for educated young people (again, as we are seeing in Germany and in Italy). This out-migration once more feeds back into the structural evolution of the population pyramid. If the out migration is in part compensated for by in-migration of lower skilled workers, then this tends to retard the process of moving towards higher value work, a feedback which one more time would seem to find reflection in lower wage levels on average in the younger age groups.

    4) Impediments on pro-natal policies. The pressure on fiscal resources which result from the previous three factors mean that effectively it becomes increasingly difficult to generate the resources to finance really meaningful pro-natal policies which might attempt to "tease" fertility back up towards a higher level. As time goes by this problem only gets worse.

    Easterlin and Macunovich

    Lutz, for his part, bases his economic feedback mechanism on the cohort impact theory of Richard Easterlin and on the relative income hypothesis he uses as the transmission mechanism for this. According to Easterlin changing cohort size produces either a crowding-out (the baby boom) or a crowding-in (declining fertility) phenomenon. The hypothesis posits that, other things being constant, the economic and social fortunes of a cohort (those born in a given year) tend to vary inversely with the relative size of that cohort, which is itself approximated by the crude birth rate in the period surrounding the cohort's birth. The cohort mechanisms operate mainly through three large social institutions – the family, the school and the labour market. Diane Macunovich has a good summary of Easterlin's ideas and their application to fertility changes in Relative Cohort Size, Source of A Unifying Theory of the Global Fertility Transition (Macunovich, 2000, online here).

    The operation of this general 'crowding mechanism' means that large birth cohorts face adverse economic and social conditions, higher unemployment, and lower than expected wages, outcomes which are significantly at odds with their material aspirations. As a result, they postpone family formation and have fewer children. This line of research now represents a long-standing tradition in the United States, where an ongoing body of work (Easterlin 1975, 1978, 1980, 1987, Macunovich 1998a, 1998b, 2000, 2002, Bloom, Freeman, and Korenman, 1987, Korenman and Neumark, 2000) has posited the idea that the relative size of young cohorts entering the labour market has far-reaching implications for wages, inflation, unemployment rates, etc, as well as for a variety of cohort impacting factors like living standards and family behaviour. The core idea behind the crowding thesis is also now being applied in studies of the 'greying' phenomenon in the United States as the large 'boom generation' steadily approaches retirement age. .

    On the other hand, the crowding-in syndrome should mean that the reduced cohorts which follow the fertility decline should find employment opportunities easier to obtain, and salaries relatively higher. The result of this is rising income expectations and aspirations for a better life all round. Insofar as these are realised there is an associated "birth spurt" as young people's confidence in starting families (or adding to them) grows and grows. This is the phenomenon we saw at work in Latvia - complete with the very high rates of wage inflation - in the years of boom - even if the heightened aspirations was more the product of a "pinching" of young labour supply through out migration than it was of lower fertility at that point, that impact is still to come basically. Now, however, we see the other side of the coin, as the sharp contraction produced by the rapid deflating of the earlier boom throws everything into reverse gear.

    The argument here is not that demographic movements produce the boom bust, but that such processes serve to amplify the distortions, and this is what we can quite clearly see happening in Latvia I feel.

    So far Maconovich and Easterlin, but Lutz and his colleagues offer a further, and most suggestive) direction for analysis: low fertiliy (via the population momentum impact) accelerates the process of societal ageing, and boosts the importance of the elderly dependency ratio. This in turn cuts growing pressure on health, welfare and pension benefits, generates a general pessimism about the future and lowers expectations about future income growth. Thus the earlier rising income expectations which were previously associated with those "narrow" cohorts, now become more difficult to sustain as the fiscal burden weighs down on younger generations, and this has the consequence that they continually postpone starting families.

    The general pessimism that ensues, coupled with ongoing pension reforms which effectively reduce guaranteed benefits at a time when life expectancy is increasing, only serves to produce an increase in saving for the future, which, of course immediately represents a drag on current consumption. The drag on consumption leads to a far more lethargic level of economic growth, and this only adds to the negative cycle since it effectively induces young people to delay further having children in order to attempt to maintain current income. This type of economic chain reaction, especially plausible in the light of what we have actually seen happening in Germany and Japan (the two countries who have advanced furthest in this particular demographic transition), does seem to be one of the possible mechanisms through which Lutz's trap - should it in fact exist - might operate.

    In fact Macunovich takes the Easterlin theory even further, and tries to use it to develop a general theory of the whole demographic transition as a process operating almost in its entirety via cohort effects. At this level I find her argument not entirely convincing. The cohort dimension is however very evident in the US baby-boom phenomenon, and the subsequent fertility reaction, and indeed this has had the consequence that population ageing is being seen very much as a cohort phenomenon in the United States, but this US experience is perhaps hard to generalise. What is evident though, is that the cohort phenomenon, and the changes in economic dynamic that it produces, does generate very real and important short run effects, and this is just where Lutz's idea becomes important, since if the population process is not a homeostatic (self regulating) one (which it isn't at this point) but rather a path-dependent one, where long run outcomes are highly sensitive to short run changes, then the short run impacts we are seeing operating now in a country like Latvia (and Hungary, and Ukraine) become potentially very important indeed, since - via another of Lutz's pathways (the population momentum one) they can in fact make the difference between long run sustainablility and unsustainability for a country, and I do wish that the EU Commission and the IMF would open up their ears, and listen to this argument, at least just a little bit. The evidence is mounting, the only thing which is not clear is for how long people are effectively able to ignore it. Not until it is too late to react, I hope.

    The Relative Income Low Fertility Trap Mechanism At Work In Latvia?

    Well, as I said ealier both the argument and the evidence on how a restricted cohort might lead to strong rising income expectations are clear enough, and now there is little doubt that Latvia is facing a very sharp economic contraction. This is leading to falling living standards, deteriorating employment stability expectations, growing pessimism, and of course (as we will see below) falling births.

    Indeed only this weekend the Latvian Cabinet met in emergency session, in order to reach to agreement a the package of measures to be put before parliament. These measures - I think it is hard this part really is the unkindest "cut" of all - are actually being demanded by the leaders of the European Union (via their representatives on the European Commission) in order to agree the release of the next tranche of the Latvian "bail out" loan, and among measures being discussed are a reduction of 10% in both state pensions and maternity and child care benefit. The former may be hard, but unavoidable the latter, as we will see, more or less amounts to voluntarily agreeing to slit your own thoat.

    Monthly Births The New "Lagged" Indicator For Latvia?

    Let's take a look at the problem. Births have long been falling in Latvia. In the mid 1980s they hit a peak, at a little over 40,000 annually. Then, in harmony with what most economists and demographers would expect, fertility dropped sharply, and hit a historic low in the mid 1990s (under the impact of the transition shock) - with a peak to trough fall of something over 50%. As we can then see in the chart below, fertility rebounded in the late 1990s under the impact of rising living standards, and due to the fact that more or less record numbers of people entered the childbearing age group.

    Unsurprisingly then, the Latvian period fertility measure (the total fertility rate) started to tick upwards again from the record low of 1.12 hit in 1998.

    But what has been happening to births since the crisis broke out? Well, fortunately the Latvian statistics office do publish monthly live birth stats, so this is one indicator we can track fairly easily. Here's the chart from the start of 2007, but there is so much volatility (seasonal variation?) that it is hard to see exactly what is going on.

    However, if we apply an old economist's trick, and look at the year on year variation, the pattern gets a bit easier to see.

    And then if we apply another seasoned economist's "quick and dirty" procedure to iron out a bit of the seasonal variation by smoothing with a three month moving average chart, the picture seems very clear indeed. As output drops, and living standards fall, so to does Latvian society's "production of children".

    And of course, the negative population dynamic goes even further than this, since we have out-migration to think about. We have official monthly figures from the stats office, and even if these undoubtedly underestimate the size of the movement, the data quite possibly does give reasonable evidence of the trend, and what we can see in the chart below is not good news, since the rate of emigration is obviously rising.

    Now these two factors, migration and births have a direct impact on a third indicator - population median age, and as we can see this is rising in Latvia, and very rapidly, with pronounced and important implications for both elderly dependence and economic performance. And of course, the median age assumptions for future fertility between now and 2020 where made on the more postivive outlook of improving fertility which prevailed before the crisis.

    Now, from our more general studies of the economic impacts of ageing population, it is apparent to Claus Vistesen and I that the medain age of forty is something of a watershed for any population. The entire structural characteristics of an economy begin to change from this point in the ageing process, and the economy becomes increasingly export dependent as we can see in the case of high median age societies like Japan, Germany and Sweden.

    But something is different in the Baltics, since male life expectancy is much lower than in the above mentioned countries, on average nearly 10 years lower, as can be seen from the comparison between Germany and Latvia to be seen in the chart below.

    Now, from a strictly pragmatic point of view someone might be tempted to say, well "where's the problem there, less pensions to pay" (leaving aside the obvious humane issues), but this isn't the point, since the dependency ratios are set to rise sharply even assuming this mortality rate. The problem is that most of the remedies for offsetting the ageing population dependency issues assume the viability of raising labour force participation levels in the 55 to 65 age groups, and in the Latvian case many of the men involved - the ones whose infusion into the labour force is set to "dynamise" the economy - either simply aren't there, or are in very poor health.

    So no, this is not simply one more plea for leaders of Latvia to get to work and devalue the currency. It is a plea to those leaders to stop and think a little about the implications of what they are doing. Surely no one can be happy to see their country flushed down the tubes in quite this way?

    And for purposes of comparison, here is the chart for Hungary. Actually this one really is fascinating for those of you who know anything about what has been happening in Hungary. In June 2006 there was a major financial crisis in Hungary. And guess what? You can see this in the births nine months later. Then births recover again, and then, of course, they start to deteriorate. Now the crisis hit Hungary sharply in October 2008, so if this theory is at all right, we should see another sharp deterioration in Hungarian births around August/September 2009.


    Bloom, D., R. Freeman and S. Korenman. 1987. “The Labor Market Consequences of Generational Crowding”, European Journal of Population, 1987, 131–176.

    Easterlin RA (1975). “An Economic Framework for Fertility Analysis” Studies in Family Planning, 6(3):54-63.

    Easterlin RA (1978). "What Will 1984 be Like? Socioeconomic Implications of Recent Twists in Age Structure," Demography, 15(4):397-432 (November).

    Easterlin RA (1980). Birth and Fortune: The Impact of Numbers on Personal Welfare, Basic Books: New York.

    Easterlin RA (1987). “Easterlin Hypothesis”, pp.1-4 in J Eatwell, M Milgate, P Newman (eds) The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics 2, Stockton Press: New York.

    Korenman S and Neumark D (1997). Cohort Crowding and Youth Labor Markets: a cross-national analysis”, NBER #6031,
    Cambridge, MA.

    Lutz, Wolfgang, Maria Rita Testa, Vegard Skirbekk, 2006. The "Low Fertility Trap" Hypothesis, Paper presented at the Population Association of America (PAA) 2006 Annual Meeting, March 30 - April 1, Los Angeles, California

    Lutz, Wolfgang, Maria Rita Testa, Vegard Skirbekk, 2005. The "Low Fertility Trap" Hypothesis power point presentation at the Postponement of Childbearing in Europe conference held at the Vienna Institute of Demography, 1-3 December 2005, Vienna, Austria

    Macunovich, D.J. 2002, Birth Quake: The Baby Boom and Its Aftershocks. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

    Macunovich, D.J. 2000, Relative Cohort Size: Source of a Unifying Theory of Global Fertility Transition? Population and Development Review, Volume 26 Issue 2, June 2000

    Macunovich, D.J. 1998a, Relative Cohort Size and Inequality in the U.S. American Economic Review (Papers and Proceedings) May 1998 88(2):259-264

    Macunovich, D. J. (1998) “Fertility and the Easterlin hypothesis: An assessment of the literature.” Journal of Population Economics 11:53-111.

    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Demographic warfare and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Guest Post by Aslak Berg

    With the Obama administration making a renewed effort to bring about peace in the Middle East, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the conflict on this blog since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, more than any other conflict today, revolves around demography. Demography has been at the core of the conflict ever since Zionist immigration to Palestine began around a hundred years ago since the core of the Zionist vision is a democratic, Jewish state. Now, for Israel to be both Jewish and democratic, it must necessarily have a Jewish majority, which makes the large and growing Palestinian population rather inconvenient from a Zionist perspective. From a Palestinian perspective, a Palestinian majority would signify some sort of victory either in the form of an end to the Jewish state or forcing Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. Thus, in this conflict, demography really is destiny and has been used so consciously by both sides (on the Israeli side by promoting immigration of Jews and emigration of Arabs, on the Palestinian side simply by relying on high fertility rates. Arafat declared once that the Palestinian womb was his most powerful weapon, and birth rates actually ticked up a bit during the first Intifada in the late 80’s) . This article will focus on the demographic situation “between the river and the sea” as they say in the region, i.e. in Israel proper and the occupied territories. You should note that by focusing on this area, I exclude the Palestinian diaspora living as refugees in surrounding countries. Including them would obviously give us a large Palestinian majority. In the end, I hope to use the demographic data to give indications of what underpins Israeli policy and in particular religious Zionist plans for the area.


    After the 1948 war (Israeli War of Independence/the Nakba, depending on your preference) and the Palestinian exodus, there was a large Jewish majority with about a million Jews and about 160 000 non-Jews which at the time meant mostly Arabs. However, the Palestinians had an extraordinarily high fertility rate, in particular, Muslim Palestinians had a fertility rate approaching 10 in the 60’s. Thus, despite millions of Jewish immigrants since 1948 the Arabs increased their percentage of the population from 15% to 20%. There are currently 1.5 million Arabs in Israel, 5,6 million Jews (including West Bank settlers) and about 300,000 “others”, who are mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union that are affiliated with Jews but not Jewish according to religious law (e.g. Jewish father, but not Jewish mother, spouses etc.). With the reservoirs for potential Jewish immigration now largely dried out, one might think that the Arab percentage would increase.

    However, Israeli Jewish fertility is exceptional in the Western world in that fertility has stabilized at a very high level and now actually increased, mostly due to the ultra-Orthodox and other religious Jews. Meanwhile, Palestinian fertility and Muslim fertility in particular has plummeted. If current trends continue (always a big if), Jewish fertility rates will actually surpass Palestinian fertility rates in five years or so.

    Since the Palestinian population in Israel is still young and there are therefore more and more Palestinian women in fertile ages, the effect of declining fertility rate on births has been that the number of Arab births in Israel peaked at 41 400 in Israel and has since stabilized around the 39 000 mark since. In the same period, the number of Jewish births increased from 91 200 in 2001 to 112 800 in 2008 (this number increases to 117 800 if you include the other category, which perhaps one should). Thus, the percentage of Jewish births bottomed out in 2001 at around 66% and has now increased to 72%, not including others, and the percentage of Arab births peaked the same year at 30% and has now declined to around 25%.

    Thus the Arab population within Israel is likely to peak below 25% and the Jewish majority inside Israel seems secure. Now let’s see what happens if one includes the occupied territories.

    West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Because of the division between Hamas and Fatah, the 2007 Palestinian census was only conducted in the West Bank. It found that the population of the West Bank was about 2.3 million, not including Israeli settlers. Now, add the 1.5 million Arabs within Israel at the time and subtract the about 200 000 Arab inhabitants of East Jerusalem that are included in both counts you end up with 3.6 million Arabs in Israel and the West Bank or about 39% of the total population. Unfortunately, for Gaza there is only an estimate of around 1.5 million that is based on a projection of the 1997 census made by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The same projection proved wildly optimistic for the West Bank, projecting 2.6 million inhabitants in 2007 instead of 2.3. Since there is no reliable estimate, we can set the estimate at 1.4, which is more likely than not to be on the high end. The total Palestinian population in the occupied territories for 2007 is thus 3.7 or 5 million Palestinians including Israel, i.e. 46% of the total population of around 11 million.

    Like inside Israel, Palestinians in the occupied territories have in the past had extraordinarily high fertility rates, although population growth has been to some extent reduced by very high rates of emigration to Jordan, the Gulf Countries and the West. Total fertility rates were estimated to be 7 and 5.6 in Gaza and the West Bank respectively. There is fairly conclusive evidence that fertility rates have declined since then. A 2006 survey estimated rates of 5.4 in the Gaza strip and 4.2 in the West Bank. Also like in Israel, the reduction in fertility rates have been compensated by increasing numbers of fertile women, leading to a stabilization in the number of births. The 2007 census indicates that the number of births have stabilized at in the low 60,000’s while school records from the Palestinian ministry of education seems to indicate a stabilization in the low 40’000’s in the Gaza strip. Add in the 39,000 or so Arab births in Israel and you get about 140,000 Palestinian births annually between the river and the sea compared to 117,000 “Jewish and other” births, with the former number stabilizing and the latter number rising.

    Population growth ultimately depends not only on births and fertility, but also on deaths and the Jewish death rate is much higher than the Palestinian one because the Jewish population is much older. But I’ve focused on births because in the very long run it is more important, coupled with migration numbers.

    Implications for the peace process

    So what does all of this mean for the peace process? Well, for one thing, it means that a (slim) Palestinian majority seems almost inevitable, perhaps as early as in the next decade. It also means that this majority may not last forever if Palestinian emigration continues, the Jewish fertility rate continues to hold up and the Palestinian fertility rate continues to decline, although for the Israelis to count on all of these assumptions to hold would be dicey at best. I’ve not mention Jewish immigration here because it seems that Jewish net migration is now more or less zero, but that could obviously also change. However, if I were a religious Zionist (I’m definitely not), focused on grabbing as much of Eretz Israel as possible while maintaining a Jewish majority., I would do more or less precisely what Israel has been doing

    • Withdraw from Gaza as much as possible since without the Gaza strip, the Jewish majority in Israel and the West Bank seems secure (again if emigration and fertility decline continues)
    • Continue supporting the settlements to secure as much land as possible and help encourage Palestinians to emigrate.
    • Delay a solution as much as possible in order to see if the demographic winds continue to turn in Israel’s favour.
    • Encourage Palestinian division and the gap between Gaza and the West Bank
    • If demographic trends do not continue, and there is an uptick in Palestinian births, only then give up most of the West Bank to secure a Jewish majority

    Now, most Israelis aren’t religious Zionists, but in the end, these are the only ones in Israel who know exactly what they want and how to get it so they end up setting the agenda for all of Israel.

    If the gap between Gaza and the West Bank is cemented and demographic trends continue, one could imagine a city-state of Gaza and an Israeli absorption of the West Bank. This is not what the Palestinian people want and is probably not what most Israelis would prefer, but the Palestinian leadership have never missed an opportunity to let their people down and the religious Zionists always seem able to set the agenda in Israel. In the end, if no peace agreement is made soon, Israel might be able to perpetuate and normalize their hold of the West Bank, leaving only a poor and overcrowded Gaza strip as the Palestinian state.

    If not specified, all numbers are from the Israeli and the Palestinian Central Bureaus of Statistics.

    Monday, June 08, 2009

    Go read "The World's New Numbers"

    I'd like to point people to the latest article of The Wilson Quarterly, which includes Martin Walker's article "The World's New Numbers,", as sober an analysis as any of global population trends and their implications.

    Walker's article is quite busy. After debunking the Eurabia thesis--"European" fertility rates are higher than Eurabianists say and Muslim fertility rates tend to converge to national levels after two generations--Walker goes on to discuss the implications of Iran's sub-replacement fertility, the ongoing shift upwards of fertility across western and northern Europe, the relatively moderate population declines in central Europe, the frightening collapses of populations the former Soviet Union. In regards to Russia in particular, Walker concludes that Russia's membership in the BRIC group, at least insofar as it's a powerful emergent economy, is tenuous thanks to its hypermortality.

    Walker's more sanguine about the prospects for European welfare states; given certain adjustments, like raising the retirement age of 60 to much higher levels and increasing the work force participation rates, they could even survive. It's not, Walker argues, as if Europe hasn't gone through this before.

    [T]he total depen­d­ency ratios of the 21st century are going to look remarkably similar to those of the 1960s. In the United States, the most onerous year for dependency was 1965, when there were 95 dependents for every 100 adults between the ages of 20 and 64. That occurred be­cause “dependents” includes people both younger and older than working age. By 2002, there were only 49 dependents for every 100 ­working-­age Americans. By 2025 there are projected to be 80, still well below the peak of 1965. The difference is that while most dependents in the 1960s were young, with their working and saving and contributing lives ahead of them, most of the dependents of 2009 are older, with more dependency still to come. But the point is clear: There is nothing outlandish about having almost as many dependents as working ­adults.

    Walker also makes the interesting observation that exceptionally rapid population growth in sub-Saharan Africa will shift the demographic centers of Islam and Christianity towards that region of the world.

    One striking implication of this growth is that there will be a great religious revolution, as Africa becomes the home of monotheism. By ­midcen­tury, sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be the demographic center of Islam, home to as many Muslims as Asia and to far more than inhabit the Middle East. The ­non-­Arab Muslim countries of ­Africa—­Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Senegal—constitute the one region of the Islamic world where birthrates remain high. In several of these countries, the average woman will have upward of five children in her lifetime.

    Christianity will also feel the effects of Africa’s growth. By 2025, there will be as many Christians in ­sub-­Saharan ­Africa—­some 640 ­million—­as in South America. By 2050, it is almost certain that most of the world’s Christians will live in Africa. As Kenyan scholar John Mbiti writes, “The centers of the church’s universality [are] no longer in Geneva, Rome, Athens, Paris, London, New York, but Kinshasa, Buenos Aires, Addis Ababa, and Manila.”

    (Buenos Aires has little much in common with the other four cities, the demographics of the city and wider Argentina not to mention the culture being rather more like those of the North Atlantic than not, but let's let that pass.)

    This article is really quite a good one, the sort of article that should be required reading for anyone interested in population trends. I encourage our readers to head over to the Wilson Centre website and take a look.

    Friday, June 05, 2009

    On Tonga and the Pacific islanders

    Hello again!

    Recently, I came across the Radio Australia report "Reassigned Tonga guest workers upset local balance". The article describes how Tonga guest-workers, while economically productive and satisfied with their own earnings, are unpopular among native-born residents of the region where they're working.

    ADAMS: With harvest over, they begin pruning the almond trees. Wielding the chainsaws are Tonga men who are in Boundary Bend in Victoria on a 7-month temporary work visa.

    FANGALOKA: Basically there is no work in Tonga. They don't starve. They are all big healthy boys but there is no... there's a lot of bartering. Most of the guys that have come over are subsistence farmers.

    ADAMS: Alf Fangaloka's family migrated in the 1980's, looking for work. They run Tree Minders, employing the Tongans and Australians to manage the region's millions of almond trees. Mr Fangaloka says this pilot program is as much about alleviating labour shortages as it is about helping our Pacific neighbours.

    FANGALOKA: Basically the average wage in Tonga would be about $AUD1.50 an hour. The GDP per capita is less than $1000 a year, so it is huge to what they earn here. During the harvest the boys were grossing $1200 to $1300 a week, so its a huge difference to them.

    ADAMS: Piliu Kailahi - one of the oldest of the Tongans - smiles broadly as he reveals most of his wage is sent home.

    PILIEU: The pay here is more than 8 or ten times the pay in Tonga, so we are so grateful.

    ADAMS: All the men have families in Tonga - that's part of the requirement. Some have already put new rooves and extensions on their modest homes.

    Emigration from the Pacific islands, especially from the islands of the Polynesia culture region in the South Pacific, is one of the major unsung movements of our time. Yes, the absolute numbers of migrants are relatively small, numberings in the tens of thousands, but relative to the population of these islands the number is huge. Low living standards and a connection to Anglophone countries, especially to New Zealand, has produced a huge diaspora. Smaller countries like Niue and Tokelau have several times as many co-ethnics living in New Zealand as in their homeland, while even in the larger nations like Tonga and Samoa emigration is a major phenomenon. Even now, New Zealand sets aside places in its immigration program for Pacific island migrants.

    As I blogged back in 2004, Tongan emigration is a durable phenomenon, motivated by low standards of living, the ability to send vital remittances back to the homeland, cultural traditions of mobility, and a stagnant social and political environment. As Small and Dixon show in their 2004 Migration Information article, migration has radically changed this island nation.

    The results of three decades of migration were apparent in the last Tongan census. Of Tonga's population of 97,784, almost seven of 10 Tongans now reside on the main island of Tongatapu, and practically one-quarter of the entire population lives in the capital, Nuku'alofa. Outer island areas are depopulating rapidly, leading to new government policies aimed at stemming the tide of internal population movement. Although recent population estimates suggest that migration overseas may be slowing, today half of the estimated 216,000 Tongans in the world are abroad, and almost every household has a relative resident in another country. About two in 10 of Tonga's expatriates are residents of Australia, while four out of every 10 overseas Tongans live in the US, and another four out of 10 live in New Zealand. The connections between migrants and their homeland have created a new global village of Tongans, with profound implications for their homeland.

    [. . .]

    Like many other Pacific island nations, Tonga has become a so-called MIRAB economy, that is, an economy dependent on migration, remittances, foreign aid, and government bureaucracy as its major sources of revenue. Despite efforts to diversify, Tonga has a limited export sector, consisting of agricultural exports including squash, fish, root crops, vanilla, and kava, and a fledging tourist industry. Since the 1960s, imports have exceeded exports, resulting in a consistent pattern of negative trade balances. In 2002, total imports to Tonga were more than six times its exports. Building materials, agricultural chemicals, fuel, and imported food (despite the fact that 65 percent of the work force is in agriculture) make up the bulk of imported items.

    It is migration, along with the remittances of cash and goods from migrants who live and work overseas, that keeps the Tongan economy afloat. At the national level, remittances are the major source of foreign exchange and accounted in FY2002 for about 50 percent of GDP. At the village and household levels, remittances are an integral part of income and consumption. In addition to receiving shipping containers filled with appliances, clothing, toys, and building materials, villagers are regularly sent cash remittances from their relatives overseas. Seventy-five percent of all Tongan households report receiving remittances from overseas, making remittances the single most widespread source of income in Tonga. Remittances also comprise a sizable proportion of total household income, second only nationally to "wages and salaries" as the largest income source. At a national level, reported remittances—and there is ample evidence that much more is received than formally reported—comprise 22 percent of income derived from all cash sources, including wages, salaries, and sales of produce. In some villages, remittances account for as much as 50 percent of all household income.

    As they go on to note, as doors for Tonga emigrants close and their remittances dry up, challenges to the Tonga monarchy and its monopoly on political power have grown. Where it will end up, nobody can say for certain. What can be said is that globalization in the form of migration has certain hit this supposedly idyllic South Pacific monarchy.