Aging World is More Dangerous

By | September 8, 2016

NEW YORK, September 9 (C-Fam) China’s dangerous brinksmanship in the South Pacific is driven in part by its plummeting fertility and rapid aging. Germany’s gamble that a massive influx of refugees would turn around its population freefall is coming to naught. In just fifteen years, the number of countries with more old people than young will double from 30 to 60. So say experts who explain that the global aging crisis is defying all predictions.

“We’re seeing China…trying to lock in the territorial and maritime gains that it can now, before a period of much more difficult choices arises sometime in the 2020s,” former New York Times bureau chief Howard French remarked. China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors over islands in the South China Sea has often been attributed to President Xi Jinping’s nationalism, but Forbes’ Gordon Chang has documented the way the decline of service-aged men, beginning in 2011, is alarming Beijing and fostering their military provocations.

French and Chang see a “closing window of opportunity” for Beijing to solve foreign policy disputes that are manpower-intensive. That will make the U.S. role keeping the sea lanes open in Asia more dangerous in the years ahead. Ninety percent of American trade is seaborne.

In Europe, optimists had been predicting that the influx of over a million refugees from the wars in Syria and environs would help solve Germany’s demographic ills. This week Olga Poetzsch, a spokesperson for the Federal Statistics Office, said that not even a million migrants will reverse Germany’s long-term population decline.

Poetzsch said the reason is that baby boomers born between 1955 and 1965 will begin to die and the number of women of child bearing age will decrease.  “Even if the birth rate jumped from 1.4 to 1.6 children per woman, overall births would still decline in the long term,” Reuters reported.

Former UN Population Division head Joseph Chamie sees the problem snowballing in every region of the world except Africa, where raising families is still highly valued.

Chamie calls it the “Historic Reversal”: whereas throughout history there have been more young people than old, now the world will witness more old people than young.

Chamie said, “While world population is projected to increase by 40 percent by 2065, the number of elderly aged 65 years or older is expected to more than triple.” By then the elderly will make up a third or more of the populations in China, Germany, Greece, Japan, Italy, Poland, Singapore, South Korea and Spain.

The developing world is aging even more rapidly than the developed world did, Chamie said. “France took more than a century and the United States close to three-quarters of a century for their elderly populations aged 65 and over to increase from 7 to 14 percent. In contrast, developing countries, such as Brazil, China, Indonesia, Iran and Thailand, are making that aging transformation in a quarter century or less.”

Most worrisome to Chamie is that while the aging crisis and its ill effects are a certainty, government responses are not. He sees lethargy among elites in recognizing the problem and putting solutions in place. The stakes are high, he says, since aging societies affect virtually every sphere of public life including military and security policy.