Friday, October 22, 2010

Grey Dawn

Foreign Policy has a fantastic report (and accompanying photo essay) about global aging, dispelling some common misconceptions about this concerning demographic trend:

"China, for now, continues to enjoy the economic benefits associated with the early phase of birth-rate decline, when a society has fewer children to support and more available female labor for the workforce. But with its stringent one-child policy and exceptionally low birth rate, China is rapidly evolving into what demographers call a "4-2-1" society, in which one child becomes responsible for supporting two parents and four grandparents."

This is not your typical black-and-white public policy issue.  Although rapid demographic aging is bad for individual societies and economies, it is also the natural precursor to population decline, which is a good thing for the world overall.  Malthusians have been raising the alarm about overpopulation for a while now, so it's easy to discount their environmental concerns and focus solely on quality of life and economic growth.  The problem is simply a trade-off: to what degree do we split resources between the people alive right now (who are quickly greying) and the generations to come?

One thing's for sure, we'd better navigate this sensitive issue with care... OR ELSE.

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