Updated: 5/16/2006; 12:15:07 PM.

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daily link  Friday, December 31, 2004

Power and Population in Asia: Interesting review of trends and issues.  Here are some excerpts.  "Although all of Asia/Eurasia is set to age markedly over the 2000-2025 period, most of the region will nonetheless remain relatively youthful. In South and Central Asia, .. even the most “elderly” country (Sri Lanka in 2025) is projected to have a somewhat younger profile than did Europe in the year 2000, and in 2025 South and Central Asia together will have a population younger than the Europe of 1950. .. The part of Asia/Eurasia that stands to age most rapidly, and most profoundly, is Eastern Asia — and here we enter uncharted territory. Between 2000 and 2025, East Asia’s median age is projected to jump by nine years, to just under 40. By that metric, East Asia in 2025 will be “grayer” than Europe today, where median age in 2000 was under 38. Throughout East Asia, many populations will be more elderly than any yet known, and some will be aging at velocities not yet recorded in national populations...

the most extreme and extraordinary instance of population aging will be witnessed in Japan. By 2025, in unpd medium variant calculations, Japan will have a median age of just over 50 .. almost every ninth Japanese will be 80 or older.. [Despite problems with government finances, and] while the population stagnation and decline that will almost surely attend Japan’s particular aging process stand to reduce the overall pace of aggregate economic growth, aging need not thwart the continuing improvement of per capita income — and augmentation of economic capacities — for Japan ..

Between 2000 and 2025 China’s median age is set to rise very substantially: from about 30 to around 39. According to unpd projections for 2025, in fact, China’s median age will be higher than America’s. .. [There is a problem:] To put the matter bluntly, Japan became rich before it became old; China will do things the other way around. When Japan had the same proportion of population 65 and older as does China today (2000), its level of per capita output was three times higher than China’s is now. .. [Consider the] national pension system: Japan’s may be financially vulnerable, but China’s is nonexistent. Government or enterprise-based retirement programs cover only about one-sixth of the contemporary Chinese work force — and nearly all of the pieces in this haphazard patchwork are amazingly unsound in actuarial terms...

By 2025, there will be nearly 300 million members of China’s 60-plus population, but, at the same time, the cohorts rising into that pool will be the same people who accounted for China’s sub-replacement fertility patterns in the early 1990s and thereafter. Absent a functioning nationwide pension program, unforgiving arithmetic suggests there may be something approaching a one-to-one ratio emerging between elderly parents and the children obliged to support them. Even worse, from the perspective of a Confucian culture, a sizable fraction — perhaps nearly one-fourth — of these older Chinese will have no living son on whom to rely for sustenance. ..

Second, and no less important, there is no particular reason to expect that older people in China will be able to make the same sort of contributions to economic life as their counterparts in Japan. In low-income economies, the daily demands of ordinary work are more arduous than in rich countries.. According to official Chinese statistics, nearly half of the country’s current labor force toils in the fields, and another fifth is employed in mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction, or transport — occupations generally not favoring the frail. Even with continuing structural transformations, regular work in 2025 is sure to be much more strenuous in China than in Japan. Moreover, China’s older population may not be as hardy as peers from affluent societies — people likely to have been better fed, housed, and doctored than China’s elderly throughout the course of their lives...

[The result] will be a set of economic, social, and political constraints on Chinese development — and power augmentation — that have not as yet been fully appreciated in Beijing, much less overseas."

Other topics discussed include declines in health in Russia, AIDS in Russia and elsewhere, "son preference" in China and India, and comparisons to the US:  "By the unpd’s medium variant projections, the United States is envisioned to grow from 285 million in 2000 to 358 million in 2025. In absolute terms, this would be by far the greatest increase projected for any industrialized society; in relative terms, this projected 26 percent increment would almost exactly match the proportional growth of the Asia/Eurasia region as a whole. Under these trajectories, the United States would remain the world’s third most populous country in 2025 [with a higher growth rate than] or virtually any country in East Asia.. [The causes are immigration and] about 2.0 births per woman, as against about 1.5 in Western Europe, roughly 1.4 in Eastern Europe, and about 1.3 in Japan...

Between 2000 and 2025, in these unpd projections, median age in the United States would rise by just two years (from 35.6 to 37.6). By 2025, the U.S. population would be more youthful, and aging more slowly, than that of China or any of today’s “tigers.” .. For the time being, however, it would appear that demographic trends may, in some limited but tangible measure, contribute to the calculus of American strategic preeminence in the Asia Pacific region, and indeed around the world."

  12:01:03 PM  permalink  


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Last update: 5/16/2006; 12:15:07 PM.