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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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lessons From India For How Europe Might Cope With Demographic Diversity

I think it is likely that the average westerner thinks of India as relatively homogeneous--lots of people, to be sure, but largely Hindu with respect to religion, and largely speaking the Hindi language. Europe, on the other hand, is culturally and demographically diverse, with lots of different languages and backgrounds, albeit predominantly Christian with respect to religion. And that diversity of European cultures has shown its head recently, as Europe has tried to cope with the onslaught of refugees, not to mention economic issues like the Greek bailout. But, wait just a minute says Amit Mukherjee, professor of leadership and strategy at IMD in Switzerland,. He is a colleague of my older son, who linked me to Professor Mukherjee's recent op-ed piece about what Europe could learn from India's history of diversity.
Europe's diverse population will impede the creation of a "US of Europe". India, which has comparable diversity, can teach much. But will Europeans be willing to learn from an emerging economy where corruption is rife? They should. Indians have got a lot wrong, but they got this right. 
There are parallels:
* The EU must unify very diverse peoples. In a few years starting in 1947, India integrated 600 independent and semi-independent kingdoms and the erstwhile British India, and consolidated them into language-based states. There are 29 today.
* Both the EU and India have 24 official languages. Indians who speak these languages live in an area which is three-quarters the size of the EU's. Because half of India can't even recognise the other half's alphabets, educated Indians of different linguistic backgrounds talk to each other in English, an official language.
* India has greater religious diversity than Europe. It has more Christians than all but five EU countries, and more Muslims than all but two countries worldwide.
* Like Europeans, Indians swear by their states' cultures and foods.
Now, you might object to all of this because Europe is not trying to become a unified nation. But is is trying to become a unified something, and learning to live with demographic diversity rather than demonizing it is probably a good place to start. That's the lesson from India.

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