Why demography?

There is no questioning that societies evolved slowly. However, from all the processes human societies have been part of there is one that jumps off the page because of its rapidity, and that is demography. Making predictions about the social world is almost impossible, yet demography offers solid data about the future composition of the global population. From gender to religion distribution, the study of demography is the key to understand future global challenges.

In 1900 the global population was nearly 1.66 billion. By the year 2005, that number sprout to 6.64 billion people. In 100 years the worlds’ population tripled. Were we prepared to confront such change? Are there any precedents about how to allocate people, resources and opportunities for all? There are no straight answers to these questions. Even so, demography as a science deserves a far-reaching position in policymaking.

There have been attempts to take demography seriously. Scholars within the sustainable development field have substantially enriched the debate providing solutions concerning climate change. Despite knowing the usefulness of demographic analysis, policymakers in many countries seem to disdain the importance of demographic factors such as longevity, migration, and young bulges.

The outlook

In order to grasp the importance of looking at demographic trends concerning current social protests and the rise of xenophobia towards migration, it is necessary to take a look at the composition of populations around the world and how sub-groups are unevenly spread. There is no way to artificially control demography; even China failed to do so. Thus, demography challenges policy-makers to respond to change and adapt to demographic necessities.

According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in 2015 19% of Africa’s total population was in the 15-24 age cohort. Latin America had a similar percentage with 17%.  Today youth bulges probably are the biggest concern in places such as Afghanistan, Uganda, Chad, Colombia, and Mexico. High unemployment rates and the rise of violent groups are not great news for the young. However, there is still a chance to revert things by adopting better policies regarding the inclusion of the youth by building proper labor markets and robust educational systems.

Numbers are also clear when it comes to migration. Inequality and violent conflicts are making people leave their hometowns. The number of international migrants has been growing consistently since 2000 and it is unlikely to fall. 2017 received an estimated 79.4 million and 77.9 million in Asia and Europe, respectively.

The securitization of migration will not stop demographic mobility. However, it might be feasible to vindicate Europe’s aging population and young bulges migrating from Africa and Asia. Summing up, the foretelling numbers of demography are there to remind us that preventive policies are possible.

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