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.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

UN Population Commission Meets to Discuss Age Structures

If you've read my book, you know that I refer to the age transition as the "master" transition because it is what societies really have to cope with. The overall demographic transition is not just about changes in population size--it's about the changing numbers and percentages at each age. This week the United Nations Commission on Population and Development is meeting to discuss exactly those issues in the context of achieving the sustainable development goals. They have put together a very nice 10-minute video summarizing the Commission's work and, of course, the work more specifically of the UN Population Division. Indeed, John Wilmoth, the current Direction of the Population Division is featured in the video, as are previous directors. Here is a brief description of the focus of the week's meetings:
The historical reductions in mortality and fertility are driven by, and help to reinforce, other defining aspects of sustainable development, including expanded access to education, improvements in sexual and reproductive health, and greater gender equality. Collectively, these changes promote an increased productivity of workers, a larger workforce especially as women take on new social roles, and a higher standard of living. 
Changing population age structures also present a substantial challenge, especially to countries that are unprepared for them. The failure to account for and adapt to changes in a population’s age structure can exacerbate existing gaps in development, especially when the shift in population over time is toward age groups that lack access to essential services and social protection. Countries with growing populations of young people must find ways to provide education and employment opportunities for youth or risk forfeiting some of their potential contribution toward sustainable development.
This is an important example of the concept that demography underlies almost everything in the world. And, of course, it underscores a point made by Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, who recently argued that: "Demography is ultimately more powerful than economics, yet we hear constantly from economists and hardly ever from demographers. We need to hear more from demographers".

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