Foretelling numbers: today’s demographic question

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There is no question that societies evolved slowly. However, of 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 religious distribution, the study of demography is the key to understanding future global challenges.

Why demography?

In 1900 the global population was nearly 1.66 billion. By the year 2005 that number sprouted 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 policy-making.

There have been attempts to take demography seriously. Scholars and practitioners within the sustainable development field have substantially enriched the debate and shed light on the main issues about resource scarcity and climate change. However, despite knowing the usefulness of demographic analysis, policy-makers in many countries seem to disdain the importance of demographic factors such as birth rate, longevity, migration, and young bulges.

The outlook: youth bulges and migration

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 out when considering age, income, and ethnic elements. 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 , 19% of Africa’s total population was in the 15-24 age cohort in 2015. Latin America had a similar percentage at 17%. Today, youth bulges are probably 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 in the economic system. In this sense,  international organizations such as IYF  reported that the expansion of higher education programs in multicultural societies has improved social development and decreased crime rates.

Regarding migration, numbers are also clear. Inequality and violent conflicts are forcing people leave their hometowns. The number of international migrants has grown consistently since 2000, and it unlikely to stop. In 2017, Asia received 79.4 million migrants while  Europe received 77.9 million. Ethnic persecution, gender inequality, and lower income rates are making things harder for vulnerable groups and minorities. The securitization of migration will not stop demographic mobility. Overall, the current demographic transition in Africa and Asia could vindicate the failures of previous economic policies that neglected demographic data.

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