Developed world’s working-age population to start declining next year, threatening global growth in decades ahead.
Previous generations fretted about the world having too many people. Today’s problem is too few. This reflects two long-established trends: lengthening lifespans and declining fertility. Yet many of the economic consequences are only now apparent. Simply put, companies are running out of workers, customers or both. In either case, economic growth suffers. As a population ages, what people buy also changes, shifting more demand toward services such as health care and away from durable goods such as cars.
The article quotes bankers and hedge fund managers fretting about the future. The future they would like, of course, is unsustainable and we can only hope that it won't happen. When it is in the people's interest to have a small family, and when it is in the planet's long-term interest for the population to stop growing (as folks at the climate summit are realizing), the profits of bankers and others in the financial industry are not the most important things in the world.
The story does circle around the fact that a rise in the age at retirement is, in fact, a good thing and that immigration is not necessarily a horrible thing, no matter what the Japanese (and some US politicians) may think. But the underlying theme is that the future is going to be very difficult to manage because of our low birth rates, and this is not a good thing. I have argued that the best route to successful aging for both people and nations is to work long and save. This article suggests that what we should be doing if we really cared about our economy is having babies and spending money.
The author of the story, Greg Ip, recently moved from the Economist to the Wall Street Journal. I'm guessing that he may have been behind the frequent references to demographic destiny that appeared in the Economist during the time he was there.