3/10/07 – Global Aging Patterns Threaten the Economic Well-Being and Political Stability of Countries Throughout the World

Economist Adele Hayutin of Stanford’s Center on Longevity says startling demographic trends will impact not only the traditional issues of aging such as financial security and health, but also national security, trade policy, and economic prospects for all countries.

STANFORD, CA — Dramatic, unprecedented changes in global aging patterns will impact the economic well-being of millions of people and are fueling political instability and even armed conflicts around the world, according to an in-depth comparative analysis of worldwide demographic data called How Population Aging Differs Across Countries: A Briefing on Global Demographics.

According to the briefing’s author, Adele Hayutin, Ph.D., of the Stanford Center on Longevity, policymakers must understand the different aging profiles of nations if they are to develop effective plans across a broad array of concerns from social security, to immigration, trade and manufacturing, finance and defense. “Global aging is not a monolithic phenomenon,” notes Dr. Hayutin. “Our analysis shows that developed countries forced to fund the increasing costs of older populations with smaller workforces will be challenged to sustain their standard of living, while the youngest, least developed countries with rapidly growing populations but limited jobs may face political instability and emigration.” For the U.S., these worldwide trends raise questions about the strength of our traditional defense alliances, the future of our immigration policy, and forecasts for manufacturing and trade as an increasing number of countries—including China and Mexico—face shrinking workforces.

“Global aging is among the most pivotal changes of our time,” notes former Secretary of State George Shultz, who has written a preface to the report. “Stark demographic differences among nations will significantly shape almost every aspect of national and international life…The stakes are high.”

Specific trends identified in the report include:

•Japan and Germany, the second and third largest economies in the world, already have shrinking workforces; four more large economies will soon follow. The U.S. is an exception: due to immigration the U.S. has the competitive advantage of a growing supply of labor.

•Several Asian countries —China, South Korea, and Thailand, already have a declining number of children. Soon this will be the case in countries as diverse as Mexico, Iran, Algeria, and Vietnam.

•Many young, low-income countries with extremely high fertility rates, such as, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, DRC, Afghanistan, and Uganda, will see doubling and tripling of their populations by mid-century.

•High prevalence of youth, combined with rapid urban growth as people migrate in search of jobs, increases the risk of civil conflict and political instability. Most high-risk countries are located in Africa and the Middle East.
The tk-page briefing includes compelling graphics that show how specific trends diverge across countries.

By 2030, over half of all countries will have below-replacement fertility rates. Consequently, workforce growth will slow almost everywhere. The report includes powerful graphic representations of changing age structures— from pyramid to funnel for European countries; from pyramid to cube for the United States and Mexico.

““Quite suddenly, there are more people, across the world, living longer than ever before. This report shows the critical need for issues of longevity to be addressed across national boundaries,” says Laura Carstensen, Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. “Successful economic engagement between wealthy and poor countries is not a matter of philanthropy, but of national security.”

The Stanford Center on Longevity brings together more than 80 affiliated faculty researchers, with policymakers, business leaders, and the media to address the challenge of Global Aging in new and innovative ways.