This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Friday, December 27, 2013

Uruguay--Demographic Country of the Year?

Some time ago one of the commentators on this blog asked me: "Can you provide for your readers a handful of countries with positive and hopeful demographic profiles?" Most of the news--by the nature of news--is bad, not good, so the positive stories tend not to rise to the surface. Still, this question has been rattling around in my head, and I was inspired this week by The Economist's decision to name a "country of the year," looking for a country that not only deserved commendation but offered up a model for other countries to emulate. Their winner was Uruguay:
Several countries have implemented it [legalized gay marriage] in 2013—including Uruguay, which also, uniquely, passed a law to legalise and regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. This is a change so obviously sensible, squeezing out the crooks and allowing the authorities to concentrate on graver crimes, that no other country has made it. If others followed suit, and other narcotics were included, the damage such drugs wreak on the world would be drastically reduced.
Better yet, the man at the top, President José Mujica, is admirably self-effacing. With unusual frankness for a politician, he referred to the new law as an experiment. He lives in a humble cottage, drives himself to work in a Volkswagen Beetle and flies economy class. Modest yet bold, liberal and fun-loving, Uruguay is our country of the year. ¡Felicitaciones!
The demographics of Uruguay are also remarkably modern and stable. It is a country comprised largely of descendants of Spanish and Italian immigrants, but has a better current demographic profile than either of those countries. Its total fertility rate is below replacement level, but not much below, and its decline to that level has been very gradual over the years, so there are not huge dents in the age structure. Life expectancy is only three years lower than in the US and although the country is slowly aging, the UN still projects its population to increase from its current 3.4 million to 3.6 million by mid-century. The population is almost entirely urban and well-educated. Like all of its South American neighbors, Uruguay experiences net outmigration (especially to Spain, Italy and the US), but this may change with the new laws passed in 2013. Overall, then, if you want a good demographic profile, take a look at Uruguay.

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