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Entries in demographics (59)


WPR's The New Rules: In Gaming the Future, Don't Bet Against the Millennial Generation

As someone who thinks long and hard about global futures, I participate in a lot of professional forums where experts discuss the growing complexity of this world and question the ability of existing political systems, both democratic and authoritarian, to handle it. Some professionals, like Thomas Homer-Dixon, fret about an “ingenuity gap,” while regular readers of this column can attest to my frequent accusation that today’s political leaders lack “strategic imagination.” In short, we’re all arguing that politics isn’t keeping up with economics, much less technology.

And it scares us.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


WPR's The New Rules: Extended Life Expectancy Globalization's Next Political Battleground

Human life expectancy at birth, which remained stunningly fixed for thousands of years before suddenly doubling over the course of the 20th century, now seems destined to experience a similarly bold leap across the 21st century. When it does, it will shift human thinking about population control from its present focus on the outset of life to the increasingly delayed final curtain. The problem is that the technological advances that will make extending life expectancy possible are likely to come far faster than our political systems -- including the democracies -- can handle. 

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


WPR's The New Rules: 3-D Printing Could Ease Strains of Global Population

According to the United Nations, today marks the birth of the world’s 7 billionth person, an event sure to cause great angst among the many surviving Malthusians who still believe that humanity’s ingenuity and the planet’s resources are both finite. But thanks to globalization’s continued advance and the modernization it enables, roughly four-fifths of humans live in societies with falling birth rates and half live in societies featuring lower than replacement-rate fertility. So we now know that the trajectory of global population growth will proceed somewhat more slowly toward our eighth and ninth billions, and that we may never reach the 10th.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Wikistrat's "The World According to Tom Barnett" 2011 brief, Part 2 (Flow of People)

Part two of the Sept 2011 briefing to international military audience in Washington DC area. This section focused on the flow of people as captured in Wikistrat's GLOMOD (online, wiki-based "global model" of globalization), then moves on to the inevitabilities surrounding demographic aging, then explores how demography drives the Arab Spring, and then offers a regional evolution projection for the Middle East.


How to sell to old people

Economist article on how Japan is learning to do this, and we watch Japan because it's farthest along in this demographic aging process:

Ueshima never explicitly describes itself as a coffee shop for the elderly. But it targets them relentlessly—and stealthily. Stealthily, because the last thing septuagenarians want to hear is that their favourite coffee shop is a nursing home in disguise.

Japan is greying fast: already a fifth of its people are over 65. And the “silver generation” has gold to spare. The incomes of middle-class working folk have declined in the past decade, but seniors are sitting on a vast pile of savings. Almost a third of the nation’s household wealth, some ¥450 trillion ($5.8 trillion), is in the hands of those aged 70 and older (see chart). In the West, the elderly pinch pennies, but Japan’s seniors pay extra . . . 

Many firms tailor their services to silver shoppers without letting on, explains a marketing specialist .  . . But inside there are chairs for weary shoppers. Signs are in large fonts. Many salespeople are in their 50s and 60s, since elderly customers trust such people more than whippersnappers. The food hall promotes good old-fashioned Japanese noodles more than newfangled foreign muck.

The shelves are lower, so older people can reach them. (Because of wartime food shortages, the elderly are much shorter than their juniors in Japan.) Loyalty cards at Keio award points not according to what you buy, but according to how often you visit. “Seniors have a lot of time on their hands,” the marketer explains.

Marketing to the elderly is tricky. The direct approach—say, calling your product “the soap for the over-70s”—does not work. And traditional advertising fails. “You can’t use TV adverts: they forget them,” groans the 30-something executive. “We show it again and again and again—and they still can’t recall it,” he sighs. Word-of-mouth is the only way.

Fascinating stuff.  It'll be interesting to see how this translates to the US environment.


Plopping a $1B bet on China getting old

Altered photo found here.

FT story from last month on Fortress Investment planning to raise $1bn fund to invest in housing for China's growing elder population. Fund is US-based and operates the largest senior independent living facilities in NorthAm.

Piece references the 4-2-1 problem (four grandparents, two parents, and one child to rue them all!).

Today 155m of 1.3b are over 65.  Add 100m by 2020.  

Focus will be on major cities with the funds to support development.



Chart of the Day: Age difference between leaders and led

 The by way of Dan Hare.

Clear advantage here to democracies, although China's gap will shrink dramatically with the generational shift coming up (Hu to Xi).

It's a double-whammy:  Democracies get to choose and they choose leaders not too far off from the median, and autocracies are more likely in underdeveloped societies, which - by definition - tend to be youth-skewed (poverty tends to cause babies, just like income growth tends to act as birth control).


Chart of the day: From population "pyramid" to "kite"

Economist special report on Japan, mostly about aging.

Japan is merely the first to shuffle into this undiscovered country. In 2050 it's median age will be 56.  It's 45 now.  So a jump of almost a dozen years in 4 decades.  Fast, right?  I mean, that's a year increase every three and a half years.

But consider this:  China sits now at 35 and will be at 47-48 come 2050, or a jump of 12-13 years over the same time period. That's a 35% increase in the median age, compared to just under 25% for Japan. And remember the size differential:  China is ten times the size of Japan.

America now?  Thirty-six.  Which means China will pass the U.S. in yet another category soon.  America in 2050?  Just a grey hair under 40.  A modest rise of 3.9 years, meaning we're aging at one-third the pace of either country, or a total increase of only 11%.

Think about a country being like a man.  I don't know what 56 is like, but I know 48 ain't the same as 39-40. China best enjoy its "century" while it can.

You want to keep it young in Asia, try India and SEA Asia:  24 now and 32 then.  Bit of a change there at 33%.  But it suggests that outside of China, Japan and Korea, the rest of Asia won't hit middle age until near the end of the century.


WPR's The New Rules: Globalization's Massive Demographic Bet

By calling the Chinese out explicitly on their currency manipulation in his concluding address to the G-20 summit last week, President Barack Obama may have torpedoed his relationship with Beijing for the remainder of what China's bosses most certainly now hope is his first and only term. Burdened by a Republican-controlled, Tea Party-infused House, and bathed in hypocrisy thanks to the Fed's own, just-announced currency manipulation (aka, QE2), Obama seems not to recognize either the gravity of his nation's long-term economic situation or the degree to which his own political fate now hinges on his administration's increasingly stormy ties with China. 

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Two I've been waiting on: UAVs poised to explode across civilian sector and China's preference for boys eroding

WSJ story up first.  Dovetails very nicely with the "Six Degrees of Integration" entry we had in the sample Wikistrat "CoreGap Bulletin."

The first prediction was an easy one for anybody who's worked for the military as long as I have:  UAVs will become a part of everyday life, just like the Internet and GPS before them.  When you work with the military, you simply come to accept these fantastic advances as routine, especially when you have years to get used to them mentally before they're unleashed upon the public.  I didn't come along early enough to catch arpanet (DARPA's original Internet; DARPA being the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), but I had years of exposure to GPS prior to its release into the wild, and it wasn't hard to imagine that it would change things--always being able to track exactly where you are. 

So with the UAVs getting smaller and smaller, the difference between them and what model plane enthusiasts have long toyed with gets less and less, meaning the latter enter the game. Already, as the piece points out, there's this gray area of regulation known as "recreational use of drones."  As one former CIA counterterror guy who now works for a drone company puts it, "The only thing you're bounded by is your imagination--and the FAA in the United States."

I used to predict that UAVs would be all over by now, because I could see the trajectory unfolding a decade ago, like with GPS, but then 9/11 kind of chilled that feeling, because all of a sudden, everybody was scanning the skies for dangerous objects. But with the Long War providing such a strong and persistent requirement, things got quickly back up to speed. 

And when you think about it, helicopters are actually pretty hard things to fly and so they come with plenty of crashes, so unless carrying bodies is a requirement, why not switch over to drones everything else.  Think of all the traffic and weather copter work. Then there's the paparazzi stalkings of celebrities or using helos to scout disaster zones.  None of that requires a body in the vehicle--just the video feed.

I know, I know.  Politicians looking for photo ops will suffer, but so will celebrities seeking to avoid them.

Great line from the piece from a divorce attorney:  "If the Israelis can use them to find terrorists, certainly a husband is going to be able to track a wife who goes out at 11 o'clock at night and follow her."

Safety issues galore.  Wait until the first murder happens in a civilian context.  Privacy issues too, of course. Bullying will follow, as will scams.  It'll be a new way to sneak into ball games or to virtually attend exclusive events ("Look, there's the President!"). And, of course, terrorists will use them successfully.

And many journalists will write "Pandora box" pieces, but life will go on, becoming that much more interesting/complex/weird and ultimately routine enough on this score.

Second one I've been waiting on and it's apropos of my Chinese daughter's birthday this week:  FT story on how property bubble is latest bit to erode Chinese preference for sons.  

The one-child policy came faster than urbanization could change age-old norms, so we soon got the dearth-of-females issue that a few demographers have beat to death as a cause for future wars ("Horny guys of the Middle Kingdom--unite and let's conquer . . . oh hell, let's just hop a plane to Vietnam and get a bride this weekend  I'm buying the first round!").  But when we were there adopting Vonne Mei, I remember all these young women seeing me hold her:  they'd bring over their boyfriends, point at me, and then punch them in the shoulder, spewing a few sharp lines.  Guy would look stunned and embarrassed, rub his shoulder while staring at me, shake his head a bit, and then meekly follow the young woman away.  You could just imagine what she said. 

But the vibe was really two fold:  "See!  Americans like girl babies!" and "See, that's how a Western man helps his wife by taking care of the child!"

You could see both norms beginning to take hold in the minds of young women who were getting better educations, were no longer trapped in the village, and were looking at urban careers in their future.  All these things combine to delay pregnancy, but they also shift the preference from boys to girls.  You need boys if working the fields is the big thing, but if you're going to age in urban settings, it's the girl who's far more likely to take care of you in your old age in an interpersonal sense (the Chinese adage of "A daughter is a warm jacket for a mother"), and if she's going to have a career now, then the difference between her and the moneymaking son erodes further, especially since the daughter doesn't cost as much as the son when it comes to marrying them off.  Custom in China has it that parents must buy the son a flat before he can marry.  

The FT piece points out that the tide has already turned in major metros like Beijing, going back almost 15 years.  China went majority urban a few years back and will urbanize at a stunning rate going forward.  Hence, the big sex imbalance fear, like most demographic issues, is already finding solution by the time we discover its outlines.  Doesn't mean there won't be a single generation significantly impacted; just means the problem is a lot more temporally bounded than realized.

And when you talk about that one generation being impacted, remember that a lot of these guys, if unable to find wives at home, will either travel for them or emigrate on that basis.  My favorite historical example of such willful flexibility:  Chinese male "coolies" come to America in the 1800s and end up building big chunks of the frontier West as manual laborers--like the RRs. They can't bring their women along and many are never able to return.  So who are one of their prime targets for inter-racial marriages? Irish Catholic widows, showing that where there's a will, there's a way.

In the end, China's "unique" problem goes away like it does everywhere else, because modernization tends to erase such "unique" values (that weren't really unique in the first place but simply represented a people trapped in time). Now, you could say Chinese couples are "time traveling"--a concept I want to explore in the Wikistrat globalization model: when change comes so quickly that it makes people feel like time is being compressed and thus they're rocketing forward in time in some domain. Think about it here:  thousands of years of custom altered in roughly one generation. That, my friends, is real time travel.  And it's social revolution.  China's rise has this impact at home--and abroad.


Stratfor: yelling "Holocaust" in Germany's "multikulti" theater

Stratfor's CEO George Friedman in his Geopolitical Weekly takes note of Angela Merkel's speech to the young members of her Christian Democratic Union.

As the FT reported it, "Ms Merkel said Muslim immigrants and indigneous Germans must do more to encourage integration."  To that end, she said:  "We should not be a country that gives the impression . . . that those who don't speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not welcome here."

But how Friedman spun it was fear-mongering at its best--fairly shoddy for a company that says it will make you more intelligent about the world.

The piece starts out just fine:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared at an Oct. 16 meeting of young members of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, that multiculturalism, or Multikulti, as the Germans put it, “has failed totally' . . .

The statements were striking in their bluntness and their willingness to speak of a dominant German culture, a concept that for obvious reasons Germans have been sensitive about asserting since World War II. The statement should be taken with utmost seriousness and considered for its social and geopolitical implications. It should also be considered in the broader context of Europe’s response to immigration, not to Germany’s response alone. . .

The onus on assimilating migrants into the larger society increased as Muslim discontent rocked Europe in the 1980s. The solution Germans finally agreed upon in the mid-to-late 1980s was multiculturalism, a liberal and humane concept that offered migrants a grand bargain: Retain your culture but pledge loyalty to the state.

In this concept, Turkish immigrants, for example, would not be expected to assimilate into German culture. Rather, they would retain their own culture, including language and religion, and that culture would coexist with German culture. Thus, there would be a large number of foreigners, many of whom could not speak German and by definition did not share German and European values.

While respecting diversity, the policy seemed to amount to buying migrant loyalty . . 

Friedman then talks up the different experience of the U.S. and contrasts the German "grand bargain."

The Germans tried to have their workers and a German identity simultaneously. It didn’t work.

Multiculturalism resulted in the permanent alienation of the immigrants . . .

Then he gets truly weird:

What is fascinating is that the German chancellor has chosen to become the most aggressive major European leader to speak out against multiculturalism. Her reasons, political and social, are obvious. But it must also be remembered that this is Germany, which previously addressed the problem of the German nation via the Holocaust. In the 65 years since the end of World War II, the Germans have been extraordinarily careful to avoid discussions of this issue, and German leaders have not wanted to say things such as being committed to a dominant German culture. We therefore need to look at the failure of multiculturalism in Germany in another sense, namely, with regard to what is happening in Germany. [emphasis mine]

So far we've got Merkel saying she still needs foreign workers, but that she wants them to integrate and truly join the German nation rather than be ghettoized, but Friedman's already insinuating the possibility of something far more sinister, as if modern Germany's choices here fall into the binary pairing of multikulti versus the Holocaust!

Seems a bit stark, ja?  As if Germans today are barely self-contained Nazis just waiting for the right moment to break out?  I mean, where does Friedman get the evidence to jump back over the past 65 years of German behavior and simply bring up the Holocaust?  Sure, I can always find you some racist right-wing Bavarian pol who speaks of "alien cultures."  Heck, we've got these retrograde types in the U.S. in good numbers, but jumping from that modest reality to invoking something on the level of genocide is a bit much, is it not?  Can't we get some more sophisticated analysis that explores scenarios between those two extremes? 

Remember, Friedman's book, The Next 100 Years, features a WWIII in the 2050s range, with Turkey subbing for Nazi Germany and Japan playing themselves in the new axis (Coalition), and the U.S. partnering with Poland this time. Germany, naturally, sympathizes with the new axis.  While Japan and the US duke it out on the Moon (our seemingly indestructible Battle Star buys it just like Pearl Harbor!), Germany sees its chance on Poland and launches a 21st-century bliztkrieg in 2051 (page 205)--France in tow.  But, as luck would have it, we pull a new Battle Star out of our toolkit, which stuns everyone (I know, scenario by George Lucas), and we rescue the embattled Poles (Germans to the right of me, Turkish to the south, here I am, stuck in the middle with you) with our cool new batteries fueled directly by the sun.

Anyway, to make this kind of dark-star future happen, Friedman needs a Germany that goes its own way in Europe--the return of 20th-century nationalism.

And he thinks he's found it in Merkel's speech:

Simply put, Germany is returning to history. It has spent the past 65 years desperately trying not to confront the question of national identity, the rights of minorities in Germany and the exercise of German self-interest. The Germans have embedded themselves in multinational groupings like the European Union and NATO to try to avoid a discussion of a simple and profound concept: nationalism. Given what they did last time the matter came up [emphasis mine], they are to be congratulated for their exercise of decent silence. But that silence is now over . . .

So there it is, subscribers, just in case you missed it.  The Nazis are back and all of Europe is at risk!

I have to you, I consider this to be complete nonsense and bad history to boot.  Germans have not spent the last 65 "desperately trying not to confront the question of national identity."  My God, these people have spent the last 65 years agonizing over it ad nauseum--and very publicly.  Friedman would have a better go of it pinning that analysis on the Japanese.

And all this because the Greeks couldn't handle credit cards:

After the Greek and related economic crises, the certainties about a united Europe have frayed. Germany now sees itself as shaping EU institutions so as not to be forced into being the European Union’s ultimate financial guarantor. And this compels Germany to think about Germany beyond its relations with Europe.

Wait for it, here comes the Lebensraum pitch:  "Ve need verkers, ja!"

Consider that Merkel made clear that Germany needed 400,000 trained specialists. Consider also that Germany badly needs workers of all sorts who are not Muslims living in Germany, particularly in view of Germany’s demographic problems. If Germany can’t import workers for social reasons, it can export factories, call centers, medical analysis and IT support desks. Not far to the east is Russia, which has a demographic crisis of its own but nonetheless has spare labor capacity due to its reliance on purely extractive natural resources for its economy. Germany already depends on Russian energy. If it comes to rely on Russian workers, and in turn Russia comes to rely on German investment, then the map of Europe could be redrawn once again and European history restarted at an even greater pace . . .

Once again, Germany looks East--with desire!

Okay, I kid a bit, but seriously, this is how Friedman extrapolates Merkel's fairly sensible speech?

How about this notion:

It is impossible for Germany to reconsider its position on multiculturalism without, at the same time, validating the principle of the German nation. Once the principle of the nation exists, so does the idea of a national interest. Once the national interest exists, Germany exists in the context of the European Union only as what Goethe termed an “elective affinity.” What was a certainty amid the Cold War now becomes an option. And if Europe becomes an option for Germany, then not only has Germany re-entered history, but given that Germany is the leading European power, the history of Europe begins anew again.

This isn’t to say that Germany must follow any particular foreign policy given its new official view on multiculturalism; it can choose many paths. But an attack on multiculturalism is simultaneously an affirmation of German national identity. You can’t have the first without the second. And once that happens, many things become possible.

This isn't analysis of the real issues; this is dredging up old imagery to scare you into thinking that Germany can't move beyond multikulti to anything but the destruction of the EU concept, and frankly, that's a whopper to begin with, given Germany's integral role in creating and sustaining the European community all these decades.  Truth is, you can attack the head-in-the-sand approach of multikulti without simultaneously boosting the notion of the exclusivity of German identity.  Merkel is searching for something bigger, not smaller.

European nationalism had its last gasp in the Balkans.  What Germany now confronts it a post-modern concept called identity. Nationalism is externally focused; identity is internally focused. Friedman, in my opinion, misuses the concepts to make you scared about untold-but-all-too-familiar-for-people-of-a-certain-generation possibilities.  The future is about what the young think, not about what the old fear.

It is an old story in this business: when you constantly bet on conflict/decline/devolution, you spend all your time looking for supporting evidence, rather than simply exploring where the evidence may take us.  The analysis I've always tried to bring to bear involves helping people get to where they want this world to be, versus running from past demons.  Leave that level of fun to Quentin Tarantino.

Friedman needs to elevate his game and stop peddling these reruns of the 20th century.  Stratfor does some nice work, but analysis needs to be more than simply regurgitating old scary stories to keep people up at night. The complexity of issues we confront going forward requires a collaborative solution-oriented mindset.


Chart of the day: More likely to be India's century than China's?

A compelling analysis from The Economist on how India's freer style of doing business, when combined with a huge and still unfolding demographic divided, could well trump China's current star turn in the global economy.

As I have noted for a while, China's demographic "golden hour" ends right now, as from here on out they add old people to their non-working-age population--despite the continued cut-off pressure applied through the single-child policy (Deng's gift to the world, for which we must be eternally grateful).  

Point being:  China's labor gets more expensive from here on out, but the good news should be, that means China's domestic consumption (higher wages) should become a huge driver in globalization.  It's just that China will no longer have a no-brainer--pun intended--advantage.  From here on out, the extensive growth must yield to intensive growth--as in, brain-fed.  For somebody who believe his work has a lot to do with capacity-building (i.e., raising a generation of strategic thinkers), China looks like a huge market to me already:  they're having outsized impact throughout the world but aren't assuming commensurate responsibility, which I believe the Chinese shudder from out of fear that it'll be draining (yes) and complex (yes) and demand all manner of innovative thought on their part (absolutely).  But the Chinese have no choice; the world simply will demand it all from them.  So developing China's human capacity is magnificently important for the future of the world--as in, we depend on it.  So whenever I hear about China cranking all manner of this or that skill set, I say, bring it on, and--by doing so--elevate your game and ours. Our education is stuck in industrial era mode and must be radically reformed, but we won't do it without the push of serious competition.  

Conversely, China's own internal reforms, I believe, will be increasingly driven by a sense of India coming up on its heels--all good stuff with all the same attendant dangers.  The question always to be asked when great powers compete intensely on the economic landscape is, "What is the state of the military-to-military relationship?"

When I look at China-US, I spot a moribund relationship.  When I spot India-US, it looks promising but still too embryonic.  And when I spot India-China, I spot another extremely weak bond.  

These are the three dominant economies that will have both the will and wallet, over the long haul, to shape the global security landscape.  Europe is taking a pass, primarily for demographic reasons.  Russia is similarly cursed.  China has a solid window, with India's even bigger.  America, a demographic freak of nature, retains it own.

So, from a security standpoint, the most important hearts-and-minds to win are all found within that trio of powers.  Keep the relations open and cooperative, and the economic competition will never spill over into anything truly bad, but keep them weak, and all sorts of bad choices linger out there.

I stick with my tighter logic that says:  go for China and you get India in the bargain, while going for India as a China hedge, if done too vigorously, gets you neither, for China will withdraw from the logic of security cooperation and India, as we all know, hates being played as pawn more than anything.

So the goal must be:  do whatever it takes to work the security cooperation with China, encouraging India to join at every possible junction.  The tiny bit of naval cooperation on Somali pirates is a start, but so much more can be done.  In a world of frontier integration, America needs two friends with million-man armies (with Turkey the next logical spoke in that wheel).  No one but America will retain the warfighting power-projection capacity, but it's clear there are strong limits to what we can do with that and that alone.  My concept of the SysAdmin was always about reorienting our major alliance relationships, and demographics was always the underlying driver.  Why?  The rise of the middle class triggers the resource relationships, and those relationships must be protected.  Same thing that happened with the US in the late 1800s; same thing happening with China, India, Turkey, Brazil, etc. now.  We are in the midst of a huge swapping out of allies, from North/West to East/South, and America is the connection that binds the two eras, because America's system of states-uniting, economies-integrating, networks-expanding, collective security and so on is the underlying template of this era's hugely successful globalization.


Charts of the Day: a nation on entitlements

WSJ story on "obstacles to deficit cutting."

Tempting to look at administrations and spot oddities (Ike and Nixon and GW Bush--all up! but JFK and LBJ barely rise!), but you know it can't be all that simple (time lags for new policies to take effect, other more important factors like demographic changes).  

Still, an undeniable trend.  Automatically bad?  I always like to point out that states that send more tax dollars to DC and receive less tend to shade Blue while states that eat more tax dollars than they provide tend to tint Red, so I'm always reticent to assume political identification--and thus corresponding judgment--on this basis.

I suspect that, in order of magnitude, it's the aging factor first, then the healthcare burden and then breakdown of the family.  

So are we as "socialist" as we imagine ourselves to be?

Check out this second chart:

Oh well, I suppose we can always try harder.

As the "virus" of socialism goes, it appears we have the swine flu variety:  spread widely but thinly.


Chart of the Day: the growing problem of Saudi joblessness

FT story on growing domestic backlash to the guest worker economy there:

When a survey by HSBC bank revealed that expatriates working in Saudi Arabia were among the world's wealthiest, with disposable incomes allowing them to buy luxuries such as yachts, many citizens of the kingdom were furious.

Newspaper columnists, readers and social media users lamented the money that they believed foreigners were skimming off Saudis, portraying expatriates as wallowing in luxury while the country struggles with unemployment.

"We are not surprised,  Foreigners control all retail business, grocery stores . . . They are given facilities and priority, killing all job prospects for Saudis," wrote Rashid al-Fawazan in Riyadh, a newspaper.  "Nine million foreigners are bleeding the country dry.  We don't even have real industry which forces investors to train our young people."

Lot of hype here, as most guest workers early about $150--a month! (must be toy yachts), but here's a $375b economy, the biggest in the Arab world, and it still has official unemployment of 10-11 percent (I would bet the underemployment is far larger).

Two-thirds of Saudis are under 30, indicative of the larger demographic wave working its way into its working years all across the Middle East and North Africa, where the standard prediction is the need for job creation on the scale of 100m jobs over the next two decades.

Meaning . . . this is just the tip of the social unrest iceberg--unless the job creation follows.

The youth bulge of the Middle East inevitably becomes the middle-age bulge of the Middle East, meaning a lot of certain types of behaviors (crime, terror, restlessness) should naturally go down IF the job creation absorbs those numbers.  Saudi Arabia shoots itself in the foot by having two labor rule sets:  one for Saudis (hard to fire, for example) and one for foreigners.  Then there's the issue of unrealistic expectations among new Saudi college graduates, who feel they deserve a management slot from the get-go.  The entitlement mindset going back to the original oil booms persists, say observers.  And let's not forget the ban on women and men working together--a huge obstacle.

As one local banker/economist put it:  "How can you create jobs for Saudis if they do not want to join the private sector, and the private sector does not want them?"

The gov keeps telling the private sector to hire more Saudis, but it seems to be unrealistic in its expectations, given the lack of social change and accompanying rule-sets.  Abdullah needs to pick up the pace.


Chart of the day: Who adds labor and who doesn't

From WSJ column by David Wessel--always good.

This is the most interesting demo slide I've seen in a long while. Already put it into the brief.

What I note:

  1. the decline of Europe and Japan (almost off the chart--pun intended)
  2. how closely China's trajectory mirrors Old Core Europe
  3. America as Old Core outlier without peer
  4. India's fantastically long "golden hour" of declining ratio of dependents to workers--much longer than China's was.

But it's the numbers that jump out at you. Between now and 2050 we add 35m workers, China loses 100m and India gains 300m.


The supercentenarians!

A pair of WSJ chairs on the rising number of 100-years-plus Americans (climbing steadily from 50k to 65k over the decade) and the number of 110-plus people in 13 Old Core countries (78 hardy souls!).

Accompanying story on how scientists study “the supercentenarians,” which sounds like “a Quinn Martin production”!

“Supercentenarians—away!” Our hero exclaims, before falling out of his wheelchair.

One super-psyched scientist called them “the crème de la crème”—a bit too graphic for me.  I don’t want to know what things may be oozing out at that age.


Chinese in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Larger than They Are

FT story on how the West’s diet industry “drools over China’s desire to lose weight.”

Fat Chinese?  Yup.  A stunningly fast outcome of the one-child policy is the supersizing of the “little emperors,” who are supposed to fight over insufficient number of Chinese women WRT marriage AND take care of their parents and grandparents in their old age AND (according to whack-job Western demographers) somehow be willing to join the military and fight overseas wars because of their “surplus” status AND (according to this story) will have to do all these things while fighting their own personal battles of the bulge.

These poor fellows.

Better read Paul French’s book, already out:  “Fat China:  How Expanding Waistlines are Changing a Nation.”

Remember such trends when you scan all these “China will rule the world” tomes and fend off the litany of expert predictions of why we must go to war with China over developing region resources.  China isn’t merely moving up the production scale with speed, it’s likewise moving up the Western scale of social problems with equal speed.

I mean, how many “literate peasants” do you expect will be willing to lay down their lives in overseas adventures for these chubby little emperors back home?  Given China’s loooong history of military adventurism distant from its shores (hmm, where did I put that volume?)?

Many-fat destiny beckons . . . 


Chart of the day: the aging of Europe

Economist piece that notes:

Between 2005 and 2030 the working-age population of the European Union will shrink by 20m, and the number of those over 65 will increase by 40m. Thanks to the focus on crumbling public finances, that demographic time-bomb is now a common part of European public debate. Governments in places like Britain or the Netherlands have been able to propose paying pensions at 67 or even 70, without angry protests.

Far bigger changes will inevitably ensue.  Europe will invariably be forced to backfill even more than it is today, which leads many thinkers to propose the EU pre-emptively embraces the entirety of the Mediterranean in the manner of the old Roman Empire.

Can't beat 'em demographically, so might as well join them.


A new breed of young female workers in China

NYT story, which presents not-your-average, just-off-the-farm-and-willing-to-work-at-any-price female laborer:

If Wang Jinyan, an unemployed factory worker with a middle school education, had a résumé, it might start out like this: “Objective: seeking well-paid, slow-paced assembly-line work in air-conditioned plant with Sundays off, free wireless Internet and washing machines in dormitory. Friendly boss a plus.”

As she eased her way along a gantlet of recruiters in this manufacturing megalopolis one recent afternoon, Ms. Wang, 25, was in no particular rush to find a job. An underwear company was offering subsidized meals and factory worker fashion shows. The maker of electric heaters promised seven-and-a-half-hour days. “If you’re good, you can work in quality control and won’t have to stand all day,” bragged a woman hawking jobs for a shoe manufacturer.

Ms. Wang flashed an unmistakable look of ennui and popped open an umbrella to shield her fair complexion from the South China sun. “They always make these jobs sound better than they really are,” she said, turning away. “Besides, I don’t do shoes. Can’t stand the smell of glue.”

Assertive, self-possessed workers like Ms. Wang have become a challenge for the industrial titans of the Pearl River Delta that once filled their mammoth workshops with an endless stream of pliant labor from China’s rural belly.

In recent months, as the country’s export-driven juggernaut has been revived and many migrants have found jobs closer to home, the balance of power in places like Zhongshan has shifted, forcing employers to compete for new workers — and to prevent seasoned ones from defecting to sweeter prospects.

Long predicted by demographers, China starts a long uphill climb on labor costs and demands.  The supply of young workers has peaked and will drop by a third over the next decade or so.

As usual now, we are told that this generation ain't interested in the "eat bitterness" sacrifices of their parents, nor are they interested in returning to the land:

Guo Yuhua, a sociologist at Tsinghua University, said the new cohort of itinerant workers was better educated, Internet-savvy and covetous of the urban niceties they discovered after leaving the farm. “They want a life just like city folk, and they have no interest in going back to being farmers,” said Ms. Guo, who studies China’s 230 million-strong migrant population.

Listen to this 28-year-old male laborer:

“Money is important, but it’s also important to have less pressure in your life.”


The generational divide should strike any developing/developed economy as familiar:  parents see lazy kids who expect entitlements and kids see parents afraid to buck the system and make their legitimate demands known.

I would say the ideological infection is complete.


The Chinese dream by way of a generation of rising "little emperors"

Pu Yi--not the last little emperor capable of wreaking havoc in China.

FT op-ed by Geoff Dyer on the Me Generation of single children in China, "who want more from their lives than their parents could dream of."

Dyer contextualizes the recent labor unrest as part of a generational shift.  Past generations may have been willing to "eat bitterness," but the upcoming crop is not.  Long gone are the 18-year-old females just off the farm who will take any abuse the system heaps on them--just to hold onto that factory job.

According to Chinese economist, Andy Xie:

Today's young adults and their parents may as well be from different centuries.  They want to settle down in big cities and have interesting, well-paying jobs--just like their counterparts in other countries.

Remember that when you're sold the Chinese threat of--as Robert Kaplan so eloquently put it--a "literate peasantry" hell-bent on conquering the world for its resource needs.  The generational shift described here doesn't sound like a cohort willing to sacrifice all that much.  Instead it sounds like one ready for its due entitlements up front.

For the tens of millions of young Chinese graduates, buying a flat is a central part of their plan to live a modern, middle-class life. Young Chinese men feel the social pressure the most. The first time someone told me his chances of getting married would be ruined if he could not buy an apartment, I thought he was joking, yet it is a refrain one hears constantly. Chinese mothers-in-law to-be, it seems, can be an unforgiving bunch.

Yes, when poked, these angry young men will sound off in the most nationalistic ways, but don't assume that translates into a willingness to march on Beijing's call.

... it is not a contradiction for young people to be more patriotic, but also more demanding and individualistic.  Modernisation has unleashed powerful forces--pride and confidence in China's achievements but also high expectations about the life that can be lived. The signs of restlessness among young Chinese make for a less predictable political future.

Whenever I've had the chance to lecture before Chinese college students, I've always come away impressed by the fierceness of their Kantian mindset: they fervently believe that China can have a good life and never be forced to fight any ways to defend it. I think that's naive, but I also think it shows how little stomach exists within this Me Generation for fighting their way to the top.

In short, the 5GW struggle has already been won.