Economist and political experts often focus on aspects like suitability of monetary policy, necessity of fiscal stimulus, impact of unemployment, and need for financial regulations during recessions and troubled economic times. In the future, experts may be required to focus on a hitherto ignored and neglected topic of population economics. In the future, this is expected to have a significant impact on the overall increase of wealth of the nations.
The potential impact of this field can be determined from the fact that an article authored by a UN researcher and published in the journal Science opines that global population is yet to peak and that future global population may exceed even the most liberal estimates made in the past.
The article states that slower than anticipated decline in Africa’s fertility rate may result in the world’s population crossing 12 billion by 2100. The author states that there is an 80% probability of the world’s population rising by around 70% in the next 85 years.
The article further predicts that developing and under developed nations in Africa and South Asia may witness rapid growth in population while developed nations in the West and East Asia may struggle to remain developed and prosperous due to lack of young citizens.
An obvious yet controversial solution may be the migration of young citizens of Africa and South Asia to the developed countries. Such a solution, at least in theory, will benefit all the countries of the world. However, the potential cultural and racial issues involved may hinder the implementation of such a radical plan. Further, the proposal ignores practical issues like adaptation to a new environment and balancing poor quality education with a market with high demand for workers with strong skills.
However, population management can help developed countries attract young migrants at a relatively low cost. Such an approach can help rebalance the population of the country and assists the global economy as a whole. Nations sticking to conventional notions related to national and cultural identity may lose influence and wealth due to shrinking of population.
Japan is a good example of a country’s fortunes being affected by the decline in its productive population. The working-age population of Japan has been shrinking since 1997 and the country’s population has been growing older. With fewer workers and a large number of retired citizens, savings may come down and resources may get diverted. Japan is witnessing a slow but steady decline in its economic prowess.
In his ebook titled “The A B E of Economics”, Edward Hugh opines that Japan faces a stark choice—either encourage its citizens to bear more children or attract more migrants.
Like Japan, China, primarily due to its one-child policy, South Korea, and other countries in Mediterranean Europe are facing the problem of a shirking population. Countries like Italy will struggle to handle its debt with a reduced pool of workers while Chinese citizens may struggle to care of their children and their aged parents at the same time.
While a smaller population may help the country tackle environment problems, a growing country can rely on its bigger worker pool to implement innovative ideas to solve such vital problems and issues.
Unlike other countries, the USA continues to enjoy moderate growth in population. However, this country too is at risk considering that its high fertility rate may not be sustainable. A hectic life combined with a corporate world that discourages child-bearing and child-rearing may affect future fertility rates.
In such a scenario, immigration reform may be essential to ensure the country’s population continues to grow. However, the Republic party, which is currently the leading party in the Congress, has adopted a tepid and lukewarm approach towards immigration. If the USA wants to maintain its numerical position vis-à-vis China, then the nation may have no choice but to focus on speeding population growth from its currently moderate and steady growth rate.
Countries like France, Israel, and Singapore, which have a far more open approach towards migration, have combined such an approach with policies that encourage a higher birth rate. More countries are expected to follow this route. Nations may encourage citizens to procreate more often just as cities compete with other cities for events, stadia, and factories.
A liberal policy towards migration may have a correlation with a rise in birthrate although there is no clear evidence yet. However, there is partial evidence of such policies resulting in higher fertility rates in the migrant as well as native population.
Population management is a controversial issue due to its cultural aspects and issues. Discussing management of population is often viewed as a politically incorrect thing to do. However, this issue may well be the primary concern of policy makers in the future.
Of course, management of population through migration may well be one of the many potential remedies for nations struggling with a dwindling productive population. Yet, it remains one of the few solutions that offer a win-win situation for all the countries.