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Course “Geopolitics of European Integration – East and South Dimension” focusing on and debating major issues and challenges the European Union faces and deals with nowadays. The main message of the courses is to discuss how the EU operates after the adopting of the Lisbon Treaty, who actually represents and speaks for Europe, what is the role of the member states, what is the future enlargement prospect, etc. One of central question that raise from the course is following: what kind of policy could provide European Union with economic stability, energetic and international security, leadership position etc.
Some specific event, phenomena, regions, situations (such as demography, power crises, Arab spring, Greece case, perspective of Turkey accession to EU, Russia in front of president election etc.) also were included to class disputes in order to demonstrate the evolution of geopolitical process, and its challenges.
Some topics, such as a history of European integration were omitted, that was quite consequential as it could be a subject for further home reading or previous courses. At the same time it could be also useful to focus more attention on legal framework of the European integration (for example, protection of minorities, media or freedom speech etc.), environmental and security aspects.
After several times, when discussions during the lecture were connected to the problems of cultural dimensions, my thoughts turn to the book “Cultures and Organizations: Software of the mind: intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival” (Hofstede, Geert and Hofstede, Gert Jan). I think that this book could became a part of course literature, as it pay attention to main dimensions between cultures, and as a result it could help in preventing misunderstanding between states, that represents different parts of the world.
To sum up, it is important to mention that the main idea of the course is to invite students for discussion about fundamental issues of geopolitics of European integration and debates that taking place on official EU level, in press and academia, to enable students to identify such an issues and critically evaluated them.
One of the key issues that were discussed during class presentations focused on pros and cons of Turkey joining the EU.
First of all it is important to mention that Turkey is not just an ordinary state that wish to join European Union club. One of its feature is that Turkey is a member of NATO since 1952. Another one connected to the fact that negotiation between EU and Turkey also has its long history, as already in 1959 Turkey firstly applied for associate membership in European Economic Community (Association Agreement signed in 1963, and comes into force in 1964).
One of the argument for Turkey joining EU is the fact that it could provide alternative source for Russian energy (means, Nabucco pipeline) and could be a transit route for energy supplies from Asia and Middle East in future.
But there are much more concerns about Turkey potential membership.
First one is about religion. Around 96 percent of population is Muslim. Some Europeans scared that Muslim values are opposite to European values and culture. However, proponents of Turkey emphasized that Turkey is a secular state.
Second one, is about population. For today, country with largest population in EU is Germany – in 2010 population was more than 82,3 mln. But according data of United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in 2015 population of Germany reduce to 81,4 mln. In contrary population of Turkey will increase – in 2010 it was almost 73 mln, but in 2015 it will reach more than 77 mln. So, membership of Turkey in some sense will be able to shift balance of power in EU. Growing of Turkish population also link to another fear of some EU states – prospective massive immigration to Western.
Geographical location of Turkey also is often mention. Turkey territory lies mostly in Asia (partly in Europe). This fact make this country a kind of symbolical bridge between Western and Islamic worlds. Although, at the same time opponents of Turkey accession stressed that dominant part of country is located in Asia continent that may bring EU closer to unstable regions (Iran, Iraq, Syria). Supporters of Turkey mentions that in contra, it could help with regulation and providing stability in the region.
But opponents of Turkey accession still have hesitation about stability role of Turkey. They emphasize on such a problem issues as non-recognition of Cyprus and expressed their concerns about position of Kurds in Turkey. Turkey also refuses to recognize the Armenian Genocide in 1915. And as result at the beginning of 2012 this theme again became a cause for conflict, when in January French Senate voted to criminalize any public denial of Ottoman Empire’s genocide of Armenians. In response Ankara recalled its ambassador to Paris for consultation, canceled bilateral visits and refused from cooperation with France in joint projects within European Union.
There are also some imbalance between EU countries and Turkey in standard of democracy and human rights.
Nevertheless, I still think that political willingness to change and developments, prudent diplomacy, sooner or later lead Turkey to EU membership.
My comment on Russia class I would like to start from reference to Zbigniew Brzezinski book „Game Plan: A Geostrategic Framework for the Conduct of the U.S. – Soviet Contest“. Even the fact that this research was written in 1986, ideas and statements from it is still actual in 2012. Brzezinski mention that one of the biggest Moscow fear is united Western Europe, that is militarily and politically renewed, in alliance with United States. According to him Russia also beware Europe that make magnetic influence on Eastern Europe. In 1986 Brzezinski mean Poland. Nowadays the border of Eastern Europe was shift and now Moscow try to minimalize USA and Western Europe influence on social and political changes in such countries as Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova etc.
Secondly, I would like to pay attention to the contemporary political situation in Russia, that now is preparing for presidential election, that will take place on 4 of March 2012.
Every two weeks in news we find information on opposition protest in Russia, more and more Russians are coming for this protest. It is also supported by Russian intellectual elite, writers (Boris Akunin), actors (Liya Akhedzakova) etc. These protests are often compared with „orange revolution“. But I am not sure that it is the same level of social disagreement. When we look back, we find that social protest in Ukraine started much earlier (in 1989-1991), before the revolution. And even from action „Ukraine without Kuchma“ till the Orange Revolution passed 4 years.
It is also look like that political situation in Russia influenced on its international policy. Internal instability of Moscow is one of the reason for Russia‘s veto of a UN resolution condemning Syria’s crackdown against anti-government protesters. We also should remember that some of Ministries of foreign Affairs of European state in December 2011 already expressed their concern about inappropriate action of police that were taken against demonstrators in Russia.
George Magnus, The Age of Aging: how Demographics are Changing the Global Economy and Our World, 2009
George Magnus book mainly is about the economic and social characteristics and implications of demographic change. Also there are a lot of reference into the policy, both national and international, including ways in which public policy, the law, and human behavior could or should change.
According Magnus, aging process is the result of two megatrends. The first one is a low or declining fertility rate. The second is rising longevity (the tendency to live much longer thanks to improvements in health, diet, preventive care, and so on). It follows that over the next few decades, many countries are going to be characterized by a rising proportion of old people and by a slower growing, or reduction, proportion of young people. The decline of global fertility has been explained in terms of advances in adult education, female literacy, and cheap and easily methods of birth control.
Magnus provide us with possible solution, that fall into four categories: raising the participation in the workforce; raising productivity growth; sustaining or increasing high levels of immigration; and paying attention in the inadequacy of savings.
But talking about immigration Magnus prevent us, that it is more complicated process, than it could seems. “If ever there was a case for a stronger role for the government and public authorities in a crucial area for a public policy education and implementation, immigrations demands it”. According to the author recommendation, government should pay closer attention to immigration and refugee movements, especially to management of the debilitating effects on large numbers of people and the places they are leaving, and the congestion and social effects on the receiving regions. Magnus states that there are direct connection between demographic change (through immigration) and new forms of conflict. For several states (Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestinian Territories etc.) there are also problem of youth population, because societies with growing number of young people may not be able or willing to provide them with the status, political freedom, employment, and education they expect. Resistance for many, peaceful or otherwise, is often the only form of expression they have left.
Magnus doesn’t forget about the role of woman in labor process. Particular attention book drew to gender discrimination. Making comparison between East European countries and Scandinavia author also dispels statements that “the more women in work, the fewer children they would be inclined to bear”.
It seems that Magnus think that the best solution is to encourage people to have more kids. In some sense it is true. The problem is how to do this? And according to me there are very good perspective for social oriented countries. So called Nordic model (of welfare state) contains all aspect about which Magnus mention at his book (such policy according migrants, raising women participation, working longer to retirement etc.). The result of this action we find in data of changing of population. As an example, taking Sweden. In 2010 the population of Sweden was 9,38 mln. According data of United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in 2015 population of Sweden increase to 9,647, and in 2050 – to 10,916 mln. The same tendency is in Denmark, Norway etc.
To sum up I would like to mention that Magnus book is well-written, easily accessible. I recommend it to everyone who find himself interested in political science and globalization issues.
Talking about Arab spring, I think this is a good moment to solve Arabs and Israel conflict. When countries, which now has political changes because of Arab Spring, were ruled by dictators, was almost impossible to solve that conflict. It was useful for those dictators to sustain the conflict, because of it their could role with a strong hand and say, that such political situation is necessary because of the conflict with Israel. Democracy and election will weak the country (Egypt, for example) and then Israel will defeat it. That’s why power should be consolidated in one or few persons hand, and country should be ruled by strong leader.
Now, on the other hand, when the new people are in power, I think it is good moment to solve this conflict. There are few reasons for this: first one- people, who get power recently, they do not want to have enemy outside the country, because there are enough enemies inside it, second reason, if there will be democracy, to the government should be elected people who do not want to continue a conflict, because the bigger part of the society in those countries are also tired of old conflict with Israel and people wont elect many radicals to the parliament.
This time, I have short comment about gas and oil transition throw Ukraine. Some time ago, we discussed, how important, is gas and oil transition from Russia to others Europe countries throw Ukraine. According discussion and presentation, which we had in class, I think that now Ukraine gas and oil pipes are important, because it is the most cheapest and easiest way to sell source of energy to Europe. However, the meaning of it is decreasing step by step, because Russia has built and building alternative pipes to Europe directly from it’s territory to consumers. North stream and south stream pipes will give Russia a possibility to export is energy resource to consumers in Europe directly, and because of that, Ukraine transport system will be not so necessary.
I would like to discuss other aspect of this problem, because of North and South streams few East Europe countries, like Baltic states will be isolated from source of energy. We all remember the situation, when because of conflict between Russia and Ukraine part of Europe countries did not get gas for some time. In that situation Ukraine had not bad position in a negotiation, because during it’s territory Russia exported a lot of gas. However, if Russia will have a possibility to export gas to Western Europe by North and South stream, that it will be much more strict in negotiation about gas price with East Europe countries. It also brings a question about solidarity among EU countries, because in a such way one countries will get gas much more easier that others. As a matter of fact, some countries, North stream project interpreted a betray of Baltic state by Germany, because it would be much more comfortable for East Europe countries to build these pipes throw it’s territory.
I would like to express my opinion on topic should Turkey be a part of EU or not. In my opinion, it should. However, I must to sum up the most common arguments “for” and “against”, most of them were discussed in our class discussion. I believe it will help to present my own opinion in a more clear way.
In nowadays world, with growing power of China, India, South America countries EU feels more and more economical and political pressure. To sustain and increase its power, EU has to produce and consume more, and the easiest way is to accept new big countries with economical potential, like Turkey, which has young society (in contrast with old EU countries) and is important player it’s region. (because of the gas and oil transit to Europe). So, with Turkey membership, EU would be able partly solved economical problems, because a lot of young immigrants would come to work in other EU countries, which has lack of work power; would increase it influence in Middle East region which is very important because of energy resource.
On the other hand, the most common argument “against” is about cultural and religion differences which makes Turkey very different from the rest of EU countries. However, this argument is quiet weak, because Turkey is a secular country, like others EU members, and religious rules do not have such power like in Iran or others Middle East countries. So, I think that would be no big cultural and religions problems if Turkey would enter EU. For all these reasons I believe Turkey must be accepted to EU.
I would like to say some words about Arab spring. It was really interesting lecture and both presentations was were well prepared. Both opponents and supporters of the Arab spring, gave a very strong arguments for social, political and economic background. After presentation there was a discussion which was not really good for me. Why? Because The audience used the only arguments that were mentioned in the presentations. There were nothing new. Discussion should be more captivating.
In my personal opinion, I agree with disadvantages of Arab spring in Europe. This is a big dangerous for European culture. We should We need more foster culture and European values, so that the Arab culture could also exist in Europe, not having such a strong influence on our own. We should also organize more discussion like that one becasue this may resolve the problem of different cultures.
Review of the book “The Age of Aging”.
To begin with, I would like to say that I liked this book. Person, who don’t know much about demographical process around the world, after reading this book will really improve his knowledge. However, first three chapters were quiet boring for my, because there author was talking about history of demography, research of Thomas Malthus, how did changed the population of humans during last few thousand years. Also the problems of decreasing amount of oil and gas in the world, problems with producing food in a Third World countries. Most of this information I already know, because I had class about demography on similar topic one year ago. However, in general, it is good that author presents such kind of information, because ordinary reader could not know such a facts.
It was strange for me, that the author commented some of nowadays demographic process according Matlhu’s theory. I think this theory is too old to be used to analyse nowadays process. I liked his comparison with a party, when he how many people of different countries would be in a party according proportion of citizens in those countries. I think it helps people better understand changing situation, than statistic, which, of course also is need.
Good idea is to discuss the problem that various disease can dramatically, or not so dramatically change prognoses of demography, because there are a lot of disease in the world which couldn’t be cured.
What I missed in the places where author discuss demography in different countries is explanation why one countries have so much inhabitant’s, and others so little. I mean why in India and China lives about 1\3 of humanity. What is the reason of that? Author do not explain that enough.
A lot attention in this survey the author gives to the USA. He also do not explain why, but I guess it is because of it economical and political power in nowadays world. I could say, that when he analyse the reasons why Americans save money, it is similar to psychology research. It is good that author is able to analyse the problem from different point of view and with the methods of different science. It lift the value of his research.
Few demographical problems could be solved with a help of hi technologies. Author discus this question, because modern technologies helps for less people produce more products and in a such way partly solves problem of less amount of workers in a market.
Other problem, discussed by researcher is how demographical problems change relationship among different generation (because older people often are discriminated) and between sexes. It also change habitants and roles in a traditional family, because man has to make more house shore, and women to have a work or to work more too. Such changes will effect everyone of us, that’s why such material is very useful and practical.
When author talks about habits of American’s, he state, that they do not save nowadays, but do not explain why. Also, he presents quiet interesting material about saving and investment and how it effect economy. But it is interesting for my how economy, with such a huge debt, like USA or Grease, Italy can function at all. I missed this explanation in the text. Also, some statements were a little bit childish, when he says that salary should rise, when there is lack of labor power.
Also, when he talks about globalization, compares it with westernization, the cult of western culture. It is interesting thought, but I think globalization it is just a comfortable environment to spread westernization, and reason of it success are others, like USA movies industry and other. But author do not talk about it.
The author present interesting material, which, I think is not wide-known, such as that there are more obese people in Middle east than in Western Europe, also talks about huge unemployment problem in China and other Asia countries, which was new information for me, I think for others peoples as well. It is so, because when people think about heavily growing economy, it is hard to believe that at the same time there can exist an issue of unemployment. Author a little bit talks about cooperation among China and Africa countries, but do not pay a lot of attention on this topic.
However, what I missed when author was talking about China is that he did not discussed how the balance of power in the world will looks like when china and other countries, which now are developing rapidly, countries start to aging. I mean, now they are gaining power because of growing number of young inhabitants who work a lot. On the other hand western countries are losing their economical power because of declining number of citizens. Such situation is now. So, we can see that number of inhabitants and it’s age are very important to economical power. So it is very interesting how will the balance of power in the world would look like when those now “young” Asia countries will get old (and one child policy in China determine that it is going to happen, but author discuss only how it will effect China) Also, I missed the explanation why India is developing in a different way and has a very developed hi-tec and telecommunication sector. What influenced that?
The author state that demographical problems will cause changes in military sphere and balance of power but he do not pay enough attention on technical aspects of military power, because in nowadays world not size of army, but it’s modern guns brings the victory in the battle fields.
The other thing which a would like to comment is the authors states about religious influence on the demography. He claim, that religious people have more children that other people, and that’s why there are more and more religious people in the society. I must agree with this statement, because two biggest religion in the world Islam and Christianity are against contraception. However, it not means that children of religious parents also always are religious.
To sum up, I must say that, despite few things which could be corrected about this book, it is really good and worth reading. It will bring You the main news about the way world is developing in a next thirty or fifty years.
Review of ‚Age of Ageing’ by George Magnus – age of ageing or age of ‚scientificized’ ideology?
It has long been that some disciplines are regarded as prestigeous and having right to say something about reality; because ‚hard data’, well-known cathegories, long tradition or.. I would say it without hestitation: because of being a servant of mainstream ideology, what is perfectly hidden by specific language of science (or good PR). There is no stand we could take without being part of any ideology, because there is no pure dicourse existing in a social void – and we should be aware of fact, that using discourse automaticly we start to play a game between different big narrations, even (especially?) when we try to keep a scientific distance. We don’t need to worry about it; if there is no other way, we should accept it. But at the same time – to admit to it with humility.
For some reason sciences building their authority on describing reality by ‚facts and figures’ and mathematical equations are regarded as more objective and closer to understanding the ‚essence of things’ (what probably is a far-reaching effect of Enlightement). But as George Magnus’es book ‚Age of Agening’ reveals – economy even if using numbers is not free of ideology. It is much easier to notice when economist writes book focused on his prognoses on future of society (understood as ‚global future history of people in general’). But even if Magnus is a voice ‚of and in’ one discourse (in Foucaultian cathegories), it doesn’t mean that we cannot find in his writing any inspiring thoughts which we can further re-build and use.
Magnus starts in his first chapter with general statement that our world is changing and that this change will be more far-reaching than any other we could remember from our lifes. The main reason is change in demography and in consequence – change of balance between so called develop and developing world. Describing fertility growth and problem of sustainable replacement of working-age population he tries to prognoses social, economic and political processes of global scale, especially tension between developed and developing countries and directions of flows and changes.
Magnus notices many interesting facts, but the main problem is what author does not see. Giving advices and trying to find solutions for potential problems, Magnus is not close enough to social reality to see the reasons and how enrooted are some practices and then – he cannot see why his solutions can be seen as (anti-)utophian. Unfortunately it’s impossible to talk about an impact on social life and society, without knowledge of background and contextualized reality of social life. Magnus uses unified and universalised cathegories in his attempt to find global solutions – but even in interconnected, globalized world with problems in scale of the globe, social reality is enrooted in context like for example female labour, what is important problem of Magnus’es book. Social life and it’s potential for emerging changes is not embedded in visible, quantitative facts – like unpaid labour within the family or neighbourhood, unformal relations of dependence, volunteer activities ect. As a response and remedium on Magnus’es describtion I would mention Tomasz Rakowski’s book ‚Łowcy, zbieracze, praktycy niemocy’ about practices of coping with post-transformation crisis in Poland in regions of former state farms or restructurized coal-mines. Strategies of those people differ from promoted and expected patterns, characteristic for neo-liberal and capitalist aspirations; their actions take the forms which remain unnoticed or downplay, such as gathering herbs and selling them to greater companies. Magnus also sees and promotes this global, neo-liberal pattern closing eyes for other perspectives – maybe then is easier to write about global need of women labour? But unfortunately it’s impossible to define as an only reason for changes financial need..
To sum up – book ‚Age of ageing’ is inspiring to some extent. Personally I have an impression that it show some mechanisms and interconnections of different sectors and regions all over the world, trying to focus as on a main reason of unavoidable changes on demography. And I trully believe that reading this kind of analyses broaden one’s horizons. The main problem is to not to take thesis of author without criticism and putting new question. Then it would be worth to read it – because then we could add to interesting book important questions, not to stop on a level of believing in written answers.
Comment on the BRICS
With two presentations on BRICs delivered, it will be useful to highlight the differences between the two. While the first presentation focused largely on distinct character of these five economies and why they are so significant in a new emerging geopolitical landscape, our concept was to convey a more neutral image of BRICS. Our presentation sought to devote a single section and speaker to criticism of the term coined by Goldman Sachs analyst, from analytical and broader, political and economic perspective.
Both presentations emphasized rapid economic growth and economic condition writ large as a basis of O’Neill’s argument for the BRICs. Our first point is to stress that BRICS remains purely an analytical term, it is very vague given the sheer amount of proponents of new inclusions. We also question the very usefulness of that term based on that fact. In our research we came into conclusion that many other states could be included or forge separate groupings. For instance, the Central European economies, including Poland and Russia, the bloc of China and India often referred to using a catchy phrase Chindia, not to mention other potential contenders for glory like N-11 economies. We posit that distinct character of the BRICS economies pertains to the phenomenon of emerging economies writ large, not exclusively that of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Hence, critics of the BRICS coined another acronym CEMENT standing for Countries in Emerging Markets Excluded by New Terminology arguing that „if you want to build a wall, you need both bricks and cement”.
Our reservations on the political level refer to diplomatic overtures related to creating a political bloc including the BRICS countries. Our sense is that divergent national interests will not allow for these countries to cooperate in the long term. Take China and India, which still have unresolved border dispute and compete both in the region and worldwide – India turns to the west, while China realizes its string of pearls strategy to dominate the trade routes stretching from South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, while those countries form new groupings, a broader symptom of new forms of global governance, it is other venues that will remain useful to translate their economic clout into tangible political influence. The G-20 would be a good example, which is now a principal transmission path for these countries to exercise their global policy. We also pose a question as to how much of BRICS would there be without China which is now the largest market, with largest global political ties (take the dialogue with the US- some refer to as the G-2, and the fastest economic growth.) and a leader of the developing world. In our presentation we also questioned Russia’s inclusion to the group, which O’Neill himself admits has been a disappointment, due to economic, and social issues that have been elaborated upon in the course of the semester.
In light of the above, we sought to take a more neutral approach vis-à-vis the BRICS concept which was the main difference between the two presentations. Regardless of our skepticism, in line with other speakers, we acknowledge that BRICS is a symptom of broader geopolitical changes occurring in today’s global reality.
The lecture which I find particularly important and interesting was the one concerning the Arab Spring and its potential consequences. Arab world is for the time being most frequently associated with danger of terrorism and wars, lack of democracy and the expansion of Muslim religion. Rarely do we realize how big of a chance is it for Europe to bond especially with those of Arab countries, where there is an opportunity to create more European-like systems. At the same time, integration with Arab world may signify a great chance for aging and diminishing societies of old continent, as well as can provide us with an access to the most valuable sources of oil and solar energy. In my way of thinking, both of the groups were well prepared and managed to explain to the others how important is it for us, as well as for the future of Europe, not to judge the book by its cover – especially the one with an Arabic title.
The Age of Aging
Although it is not a secret that the life expectancy is continuously rising
and in the western states, along with some grand Asian powers, families tend to have fewer and fewer children, rarely do we actually take time to consider the consequences of a very natural-like sounding phenomenon that we have been observing during our entire life – aging. However, for the time being it is a high time to analyze this particular trend
that is consistently becoming more and more visible and which may eventually become
Even though it may come as a surprise for many people, aging of the societies affects economic growth, rate of unemployment, tax structures, inflation, real estate prices, education and healthcare expenses, religion and even global security. As the post-war baby boomers begin to consider retirement, the following generation gains yet another problem that needs
to be solved or better to say prepared to be faced. According to George Magnus, the senior economist adviser to Swiss bank UBS and the author of “The Age of Aging –
how demographics are changing the global economy and our world”, view the aging problem, there is an upside to this widely recognized crisis that we are dealing with right now. The economist believes that the Western societies may finally abandon their customs to debts and spending more than they can actually afford, and instead they will become more aware
of their finances and consequently they will start to save more. „For ageing societies, that′s
a good thing because too many people have too few savings and too little preparation
for retirement”. While the global workforces are changing at the moment, Magnus’ book presents us with several scenarios and possible solutions to the phenomenon of aging. Beyond any doubt, the government’s role and intervention are crucial in maintaining social order
and in fighting the decline in working age population. The countries which have already been forced to bare with this situation for more than a decade are Japan and China, where
the governments and societies are facing financial challenges in providing for this non-working groups. Based on the current predictions by 2050 world will have 2 billion people aged over 60 which is three times as many as today. And although, however long we may live, our generation will probably only taste the aging crisis, we can either do nothing
and pretend this problem does not concern us or we can act to now in order to help our children provide for our retirements.
In my personal point of view, the biggest advantages of the book in question
are its solidness and its perspicuity. Not only is it very well-written, readable
and understandable for an average breadwinner even though it concerns a topic and a trend
of major importance in macroeconomics, but also it presents studies of aging in different parts of the world economy, along with the impact and consequences of the process, which
will eventually effect smaller markets, countries’ politics, migrations or even our cultural life. In his book George Magnus helps us realize in which states all around the world
this particular problem has been already visible for more than just a couple of years and which countries are the least threatened ones, or better to say : will have to face this phenomenon later than the others. However there is one aspect of Magnus’ masterpiece that I found a little frustrating, not to say even annoying or depressing. The author continually and consistently remains rather somber as far as any perspective solutions are concerned, e.g. increasing migrations. And although the seriousness and the degree of the obstacles that we find ourselves in front of are very well stated, Magnus’ idea that the best way to overcome
the negative effects of the aging, or as it is usually called ‘graying’ societies
is to encourage people to have bigger families and more kids seems to too simple
and too naive to be true and has little to do with the reality, especially in the times of a global crisis. Nevertheless, George Magnus is one of a very few people who actually are able,
and what is also worth mentioning who is not afraid, to take a look into the future and ‘to call
a spade a spade’, and for that he himself, as well as his work deserve to be praised.
George Magnus a renowned economist embarked on explaining the broader dimension and political, economic consequences of aging – an element one should never omit when thinking about the changing realities of contemporary global politics. Magnus employs his economic savvy to both explain and present solutions for the societies and the target of his analysis is not biased – it covers the whole world.
“ Age of ageing” opens with a brief chapter highlighting demographics as a factor influencing both developed and developing countries. In further chapters he moves on plethora of issues related with consequences of demographic problems: economic slowdown, social tension, stagnant workforce, savings and pension system, globalization and consequences for international security.
What stood out was his analysis on fertility rates, and solutions for demographic problems. Magnus argument is that whereas there are various conditions affecting fertility rates, they can be observed in different culture, even those as opposite as Catholic and Muslim.
In his list of solutions Magnus included raising the retirement age, raising productivity and opening up for immigrants. The countries that applied the latter, like the US, do not have a population problem. What is interesting Magnus posits that allowing more female participation in the labor market is as essential as anything else, an argument usually made with regard to over-populated LDCs, is applied more broadly. Magnus acknowledges that the most pressing problem for developed countries are rising costs of healthcare and entitlements. The author predicts that due to general lack of support for reforms in those fields, developed countries will face tax hikes across the board to ensure proper financing for these programs.
Finally, what caught my attention especially was Magnus’s elaborate analysis on the relationship between religion abd broader international trends and the point he made about the fact that the correlation between religious affiliation and a degree of devotion does not translate to having more children as it is normally understood in observations on developing countries.
The book itself although might seem to be very difficult to grasp is a fine read for everyone interested in gaining more knowledge on megatrends shaping the future of the globe. Those who do not find this topic especially amusing should sweep through any given chapter nonetheless to get a hold of some facts, not all of them are commonly known. To conclude, it is highly recommendable, essential reading.
The greatest achievement of Magnus’ ‚Age of Aging’, published in 2008, is to be the very first raised voice in the discussion about imminent global demographic disaster and its dire consequences. In this study we can also observe a smart way of linking demographic and economic issues.
Although the book has become a significant beacon, it is not written in a catastrophic manner. Magnus made a successful attempt to present what changes occured within the world since rapid population growth in XIX century as far as social structure is concerned. In descriptive, reader-friendly language he outlined the mechanism how Western societies descended into fast aging, consisting in majority of retirees. Thanks to clear schemes, tables and diagrams as well as numeral data and understable definitions, heart of the matter may be obvious even for those unfamiliar with economic vocabulary. What needs to be noticed, however, is the lack of gratifying explanation of social and psychological roots – some readers might feel disappointed.
According to Magnus, global fertility rate is still quite high, but problematic is, in fact, the number of people over 50 among the whole society. Nowadays demographic structure may be depicted as a pyramid standing on its point. Those in productive age are not able to work enough to pay for pensions of those economicly inactive. Changes are irreversible and their main causes are: rising life expectancy and falling fertility rate, due to higher life standards, women making carreers and widespread access to birth control methods. There are 3 solutions suggested: raising the working age, allowing women to reconcile career with childcare, taking advantage of immigrants to liven up the job market. All of them have both benefits and drawbacks.
Even though the author focused mainly on Western Europe and USA, much was said about China and Japan. There are completely different, yet both unique. Chinese Republic constitute a precedent – this is the 1st socialistic country with free market.
Despite frequent abuse of basic human rights, censorship, surveillance and government policy overall does not have much in common with democracy, China stands in one row with Western countries. Firstly, because of its booming economy and expanded export. Moreover, Chinese demography is similar to Western patterns rather than to dynamicly growing societies of ‚Asian Tigers’ owing to the long-lasting one child policy. I also realised that China has already started to tap immigrants. Students and white-collar workers are often tempted by improving educational level of country’s universities and vacancies
at well-paid executive positions. Chinese language courses are becoming more and more popular and staying in China for a few years may be considered even prestigious nowadays.
When it comes to Japan, one may be astonished about the social rank of women in its society. What is becoming significant is that they frequently quit work after getting married and the number of those in the 35 to 45 age group, which had traditionally not worked, is extremely high as for the reality of industrialized world and is still rising. Japan is ranked 69th out of 75 countries in terms of female participation in the economy. Married women make up 57 percent of the female work force and 65 percent of mothers are stay-at-home housewives. Reasons? The central government has a tax system that encourages married women to earn less than $10,000 a year to take a tax deduction of $3,000 from their husband’s earnings. Once a woman earns more than this sum a year the deduction drops to $240. Women who work are also often denied benefits from their husband’s pension plan. Moreover, Japan’s demanding morning-midnight corporate work culture as well as the lack of allowances made for pregnancies and sick children are serious obstacle for well-educated female coverts. It has been estimated that if female employment rate matched the 80 percent rate among men, the country would have 8.2 million more workers to replenish its rapidly aging population and raise its gross domestic product by as much as 15 percent. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the underemployment of well-educated women in Japan is a “considerable waste of valuable human resources”.
To sum up, ‚Age of Aging’ is gripping, full of data book which provokes profound cogitation among all of those interested in affairs of contemporary world.
I would like to give ma comment about the lecture with the presentations about Arab spring and that is it good or bad for Europe. Firstly I want to say that both presentations was well prepared I liked that the group against and group with the positive position to Arab spring divided the subject on political social and economical spheres and showed their own justification that Arab Spring could be good or bad for Europe but the group against had better argument but this is only my opinion. What I didn’t liked during that lecture that there was no time for discussion between the groups and questions from the audience because in my opinion the discussion could give us a lot better image of the whole problem then only presentation .
In the end I think that talking about quite fresh and new situations in the world and analyzing it is very important thing especially for students of European Studies or political studies because it could be useful for us on our future so I’m glad that we talked about that kind of matters.
Nowadays, we are bombed with various information about the dangers that the whole world will have to face in the nearest future. Issues such as global worming, diminishing of natural resources or globalization are very commonly raised by mass media. Taking into account only what I have heard in the media I could not help the feeling that one very crucial subject is usually underestimated. By this subject I mean demography, more specifically, the problem of aging societies. However often skipped, this is the topic that George Magnus deals with in his brilliant publication entiteled “The Age of Aging”.
My approach towards the book was a little sceptical at first – I was almost certain that an economist analizing a topic from demographical field would not give a general and broad outlook on it. I was convinced that the author would rather focus on economical aspects of the problem. Suprisingly, George Magnus proved me wrong. As I went through the pages, I discovered how complex this issue is and how deeply it affects almost all of the fields of our lives. Obviously, the problem did not just appear – we were led to where we are by various factors. For instance, the developpement of medicine resulted in extension of life expectancy. Although, it is rightly considered a blessing, longer life expectancy combined with falling birth rates leads to increasing of percentage of elderly in total population. This phenomenon is particularly intensified by the baby-boomer generation from the 50’s, which is currently entering the retirement age.
The author presents various consequences of such situation. Decrease in the percentage of people of working age in western countries creates an economical challenge for the governments. As maintenance of elderly is extremely expensive and there are not enough professionally active people to provide high GDP, governments will face many obstacles in covering those costs. Moreover, aging of the population brings significant changes in a variety of other aspects, including cultural life and labor market.
Although the problem concerns mainly the western world, George Magnus notices that aging of the population is not indifferent for developing countries. He devotes the whole chapter to present how it affects China, India, Russia or African countries.
Last but not least, “The Age of Aging” is an extremely well-written book. The author’s fluent writing style makes the book very readable and enjoyable for all kinds of readers.
All in all, I would definitely recommend this publication to all those who want to broaden their knowledge about the changing world. The author gives a close insight into the topic of aging societies and puts it in a broad context, making it understandable and informative. Taking all above-mentioned arguments into consideration, in my opinion the book is well worth reading.
Having attended all the classes, I found particularly interesting the one concerning the Turkey’s accession to the European Union. It could be crucial from the geopolitical point of view due to the country’s strategic localization influencing the distribution of power in this region.
Well-prepared and almost equally convincing students’ presentations for and against the accession made the audience realize that this highly controversial topic needs to be analyzed multidimensionally. The European Union needs to take into consideration all economical, social and political aspects before making a step towards further integration. However, problems such as cultural and religious differences or the Kurds’ discrimination lengthen Turkish way to the accession. On the other hand, this country has already been an associate member of the EU and since 1999 an official candidate for the full membership. Therefore, the Turkish accession is still a possible scenario and some of the proponents of this idea such as Sweden or United Kingdom claim that it would provide the Union with the power to stabilize this region.
To sum up, as this part of the world is still an object of the global attention, I personally believe that a detailed European debate concerning Turkish accession is required.
“Age of Aging”- book review
„The world is about to change irreconcilably!”- This is one of the most overused by various media platitudes, which has been bombarding the bemused public for last decades when it comes to climate, economy, politics etc. Therefore, being subconsciously aware of the aggravating problem of aging of the global population, I was sceptical about George Magnus’ ability to present this topic in an innovative and appealing way. However, as I was going through the pages of “Age of Aging” I realised that the approaching to retirement baby boomers (such as my parents) would in reality change economical, political and social image of the world. This is the book that will surely open eyes of those underestimating the phenomenon of demography.
The key to Magnus success was abandoning the over-discussed gerontology and concentrating on consequences of omnipresent problem of societies’ aging. The multi-faceted approach is one of the most striking advantages of this publication. Not only does the author minutely analyze causes of the mentioned above tendency (for example increasing longevity and falling fertility), but he also presents its influence on all aspects of our lives. From an economic point of view, the aging of societies is extremely destructive as it leads to the shortage of labour force and surcharging the public budget with increasing spendings for retirement system and healthcare. Moreover, the author presents social changes describing the “boomerangst generation”. There is a huge gap between the baby boomers and their children. The former generation, thanks to their life’s independence, managed to rebuild the world after II World War and accumulate wealth, which, instead of being transferred, serves to finance longevity and old-age care. The latter is in a less favorable situation. Suffering from insecurity, they have troubles growing up and become KIPPERS (kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings). This could be understandable as they often start their adult life with personal debts due to high coasts of education etc. As far as politics is concerned, Magnus underlines the necessity of governmental actions towards minimizing the effects of aging of populations. Mentioned solutions are rising pensionable age, immigration, or stimulating women’s professional activity which, according to quoted statistics, results also in increasing their fertility. What is more, the multidimensional approach of the author is also manifested by a detailed analyze of not only American, but global population. What may come as a surprise, aging tackles societies of all continents, but according to Magnus, it is appears in a different form. I found particularly interesting the shown contrast between Chinese accelerating economic growth and the inadequate demographic policy. Another significant value of Magnus publication is its balanced and well-planned use of statistics. Cogent and clear phrases such as “Those aged over 80 are expected to account for about 4% of the world’s population, 4 times as big as now” enable not highly specialized readers imagine the scale of the phenomenon without leaving them confused or fatigued. Finally, “Age of Aging” is a piece remarkably fluently written literature. Thanks to the author’s coherent and lively writing style, the book is appealing and stimulating for all kinds of readers.
To sum up, George Magnus surely reached his goal stated in the book’s preface, as his publication managed “to bridge the gap” between academic debate and news coverage concerning transitions in the modern world. I thoroughly recommend “Age of Aging” to all those aspiring to fathom factors influencing our future. Having read the book, nobody would anymore underestimate the importance of demography.
The Western world has found itself approaching a financial crisis of sorts. The post-war generation is about to retire, leaving behind a generation that is ill equipped and unprepared to fill the vacuum. While demographic deficits like this, where the old outnumber the young, are cyclical, this is the first time in history that a generation has become conscious of its position in greater society. The ‚boomers’, heading in to retirement have gone full circle in their life – from rebuilding the world after the war, building it up for their children, then, finally, settling themselves for their reward, i.e. retirement savings and pensions. The problem…the generation they left behind is having too little children to cope with the growing gap between tax payments and tax payments. As the boomers retire, the taxes paid in to the government budget will be spent on ever growing pension payments. There are not enough tax payers to fulfill government pension payments. What’s more, the trend is continuing. Each new generation in the West is having fewer and fewer kids, due largely to the high cost of living that we’ve created for ourselves.
Such is the crux of the argument in The Age of Aging. A demographic crisis created by Generation X that will touch every aspect of Western society in the decades to come, from immigration to family structures, from pensions and retirement to work, education, globalization and the sociology and demographics of religion.
Demographic crises such as the one we’re facing are not new. They are cyclical and in history have tended to follow great wars or social calamities like the plague. We’ve had them before. What’s new is the financial reward a person is expecting to be due to them at the end of their life. Following a life of labour, generations are now expecting old age pensions and retirement funds – a comfort afforded to those who have laboured all their lives, and an incentive to keep people in the work force. This is what’s new, and these payments are at the heart of the matter, for who is going to pay the old age pensions when there is not enough money to go around?
An interesting notion was brought up in the course of our last lecture pertaining the question of Montenegro’s accession to the EU. Adam Balcer, who offered his insight on integration of Muslim minority into the socio-political framework in the country, which from the European perspective remains an important issue,given the rise of Muslim minorities in the Western parts of the continent. Montenegro’s response was to develop a new concept of national identity which is based on citizenship, rather then ethnic or cultural heritage. Mr. Balcer stressed that lessons derived from this example are crucial for countries like France and Germany dealing with the conundrum of immigrant integration into their societies.
My sense is that , albeit these lessons provide a new angle to the debate, the implementation process in the Western Europe would be very difficult, simply because it would require a total reversal of current policies embraced by the governments that now openly declare that the concept of multicultural society did not yield expected results.
Before taking the book I was a little discouraged by the topic, already well high-lighted to the public opinion. However, a number of issues turned out to be quite surprising or even new. My general feeling was that e-society and economy based on e-services do not need that much labour force, so low birth rate didn’t seem for me to be a problem, until having read the book. And honestly, I must say that George Magnus have convinced me not only in this point. Is „Age of aging” worth reading? Definitely, yes.
Although the author is economist, all data is well commented and provides a broad survey for wide audience. The author examines in 10 chapters not only the economic impact of aging, but analyzes its social effects as well- how the process will influence life of families and societies. What’s important, the author gives attention not only to the West, but also separately to Africa, Middle-East and Asia. Despite the reasons in different regions for aging vary from each other, Magnus’s general advice for governments is to assume greater social-economic responsibilities and to increase the power of international institution to manage the global implications of demographic change.
To show the scale of changes Magnus gives precise numbers. For example, at the moment the median age of the world’s population is 28 years, and by 2050, it will have become 38 years. Now in China there is 6.5 workers per pensioner and by 2050 there will be less than 2. That is why younger people living now in relative prosperity and enjoying the general well-being, will have to deal with a generational shift in feelings and cope with the cost of aging societies- which are among others longer paid pensions, higher taxes, higher retirement-age. And also our culture which is now dominated by images of youth, energy, dynamism an sex will inevitably change, as it will not respond to the greatest part of consumers in older societies.
So, the crucial point for labour market is, that aging combined with low fertility, will cause shortages. The most obvious solution for the labour force stagnating or falling, is to encourage people to have more children so that they can grow up to become workers and employees in 20-30 years. Of course, Magnus does not finish with this simple idea and gives a number of interesting examples and solutions. Surprisingly to me, it turned out that women who are active in the labour market, have more children than those staying at home. The solution is to raise the labour force, mainly female participation and people after their 50 – which starts to work in EU thanks to promoting flexible forms of work. In Poland female participation is as low as 27.2 percent, which Magnus assess as not only waste of human capital in an economic sense, but also as a waste of people’s lives.
What’s surprising it is not only the creation of jobs and suitable working conditions for women and older people, it is also about to encourage youth to finish their studies over a smaller number of years. Actually, it is not that good for the economy, even knowledge-based economy, to spend longer years in full-time education, taking extended career brakes or retraining for a new career. It turns out that there is even an acronym for young adults single remaining with their parents- “Kippers”: Kids in Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings. It sounds ironically, but Magnus provides readers with right economic justification for this pejorative name.
Another idea presented by Magnus is raising the productivity- level of output per person per hour worked. It is often cited as a positive factor for aging societies- but this is probably more out of hope and confidence. So it really does not look well, same as other mentioned ideas: the potential to boost labour supply and offset a rising age structure by the participation and immigration routes is in fact limited and temporary.
This all leads Magnus to serious concern about future pension schemes of aging societies. He indicates that many employees do not understand the full implication of changes and do not know that they bear the risk regarding the value of their future pensions, whereas the standard was the company used to bore the risk. Managing this problem require the financial education to be taken much more seriously and the public policies try to achieve a better balance between the desire to consume and the necessity to save.
It seems that not many had so far reasons to worry about labour shortages, diminishing youth or large changes in old-age dependency. But having read “Age of aging” you will join the group which consciously cares. It is the middle class which will have trim its lifestyles and consumption. Financial opportunities may be limited by lower economic growth, reduced retirements benefits, higher taxes and costs connected with retirement provisions. Finally, Magnus will not let you forget that it is money at the hearth of aging debate.
The Age of Aging- book review
Nowadays we can say that the topic of demography plays more and more important role in our life because of the changes in the population structure in about last 60 years. The populations especially the countries of Western Europe but not only. The connection between the economy and demography is obvious because of that the book written by George Magnus called :The Age of Ageing. How Demographics are Changing the Global Economy and Word Power is precious position to read.
Age of aging is deep analyze of advantages and mostly disadvantages for economy connected with changes of demography. Eve that the subject is quite complicated the book is untestable and easy to read for common reader because of language and methodology of writing which author used. Furthermore the book contains a lot of interesting information connected with subject so during reading it you can learn a lot of new things. The only thing that I don’t like in this book is that the author because of his specialization in economy looks on subject by the point of his view he skipped the social causes of changes in demography but on the other hand this is the nature of this book.
The better living condition and far more better technology an advanced medicine lead out societies life expectancy higher and higher. Of course it is good that people live longer but that kind of situation connected with to small birth rate caused by the higher education among woman and fertility control methods leads to that our societies can’t replace itself without immigration. Due to this the bigger and bigger part of our populations are getting older. There is a prediction that In the next 25 years in most countries number of people aged 65 will be doubled. Its becomes serious problem for economies of countries they has to spend more and more part of GDP on retirements and health care and due to low birth rate there is a problem with getting money on retirements. George Magnus is trying in his book to show some solution from this situation.
First of them is the idea of raising the work age. In my opinion this is good and logic idea because the high life expectancy enforce the governments to do it on the other way the big part of society would be financial dependent on smaller and smaller part of society on productive age.
The second solution to help our economies is to encourage to become more active in labor market and encourage the birth rate in the way that would allow to woman go back to work as fast as it could be possible. The good example here is the Sweden where parents have a lot of help in raising their children.
The last thing is the emigration issue all in all the societies of western Europe need immigrants to fills gaps in their work market and it is a fact and from the other hand the societies of this countries doesn’t want the immigrants in their states. In my opinion the immigrants are some solution for problems of economies of western Europe because this is the easiest way to help our economies on the other hand the immigrants should assimilate with the European societies.
This three solutions presented by George Magnus are in my opinion good but all in all I don’t think that it could be enough to solve the problem because of that the author doesn’t mention the political and social aspects of this problem without it there is no way to find a good solution of the problem I think so because all in all the politics and economy rules the world not only one from them.
Furthermore Magnus tries compare the different kind of countries and he come up to thesis that there is no way to fully compare the condition of demography for example the African states event it has a very high birth rate they aren’t in better situation then us from demographical point of view because a big part of them dies form famine, diseases like AIDS. On the other hand state with one of the biggest economy in the world China struggles with issues of demographic structure in their case it is connected with one child policy and favoring the male part of society because of it in their structure they have the lack of woman in population and that could be catastrophic for their society and economy.
To sum up The Age of Aging is the worth reading position, especially for someone who wants to know the predictions about future of Europe and whole Earth. The solutions of aging societies maybe aren’t a good and clear way to manage this problem but all in all that ideas could be some signpost to manage with this problem. I really like that the author showed that the problem of aging society is not only problem of the Europe and due to this we could have hope that this global problem would be discussed and solved as fast as it could be done.
My thoughts after reading „The Age of Aging”.
Global population has been changing throughout the years. During the Industrial revolution Europe experienced a huge rise in population. Nowadays, especially in the Western Europe, one can notice decreasing tendency of birth. What dangers can it bring?
Demography matters have a strong connection with economy. To make long story short in most countries, professionally active people pay for the pensioners. The financial costs to society of caring for the elderly are calculated to be significantly higher than for the young. Older members of society need medications, special care, which must be secured by the government. Children are usually supported by their parents. One can claim that expenditures for education stay on the same level as expenditures for pensioners. However, I believe that spending money on education is more like investment for future generations. Having that in mind, it is obvious that economies based on young works will just do better. European countries are extremely close to the crisis caused by aging society.
To postpone that risk government should initiate several changes. It is necessary to save now to be able to allocate fund for investment for the future. First of all I believe that one of the most reasonable solutions is to increase work age limit. In my opinion countries in Europe cannot afford to spend money on pensions, when the mortality rates are getting lower and lower. On the other hand people on the verge of their retiring age are less productive then young people. Furthermore, experienced workers can block the job market for the graduates, which could cause higher unemployment. It doesn’t give any solution to the matter of aging society. It seems that there is no perfect clue. In my opinion government should encourage women to participate more in a job market. Poland still has e low female participation rates. Women often have to make choice between having a family or working. To avoid such situation there ought to be special childcare system allowing women to work on the same level as men. But again childcare on high level generates expenditures.
High developed countries turned to the immigrants to solve their demographic issues. Immigration may provide the route to more labor supply and higher fertility. Of course that solution has also a dark side. Higher immigration into already crowded cities in the West today adds to congestion, fuels demand for jobs and housing. Furthermore it may displace existing employees.
I believe that aging Europe is a problem that just cannot be underestimated. It looks like there are no simple and perfect solutions. However something has to be done in that matter to make Europe able to maintain its global position.
“Age of Aging” – review
The history of the last two hundred years is a time of unprecedented changes in the population reproduction, the time of the first and second demographic transition. Such changes never took place earlier, it will never happen again, because they are relatively irreversible (Okólski, 2000). These changes, however, passed without much public concern, were not part of a worldwide debate and rational analysis, such as the famous war on terrorism, which consequences and significance are incomparably smaller. Precisely because of the lack of intellectual discussion on the problem of demography, have I received with extraordinary hope and appreciation a book by George Magnus, „Age of aging.”
“Age of ageing” is a profound analysis of demographic changes, their causes and consequences. What I met with a great satisfaction is the fact of economic argumentation which can be found in the book. I deeply believe that economic attempt to the issue is the most appropriate, since the problem has not only sociological or psychological, but mainly economic background. The author describes the reasons for rapid population growth in Western countries in XIX and beginning of XX century and microeconomic provenience of TFR decline in recent years (however I truly regret not mentioning Gary Becker theories on fertility, for instance from „On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children” 1973). The aforementioned process leads to the society ageing phenomenon, which effects, especially as far as GDP growth, retirement sector, private savings in the society and productivity of labor is concerned.
The great advantage of the publication is the fact, that the author focus on emerging markets and least developed countries. The problems of society ageing and negative transformation of demographic pyramid are a global phenomenon. Paradoxically the situation in China, which is widely considered to be young and growing society, is not far better from German case, where demographic transition took place much earlier. The demographic profile of so-called “Asian Tigers” (Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore) is similar to Western one, however still much better than situation in Russia, where we will deal with significant depopulation process, which has not been seen ever before. George Magnus predict the scarcity of labour, but also lack of capital, due to diminishing savings of the private sector, on a global scale, what can be consider as a serious threat of global stability.
The integral part of demographic changes is the issue of migration. George Magnus can be rather seen as the supporter of neoclassical theories of migration (Lewis, Harris, Todaro), however he calls for amplification of state education policy. Although neoclassical economic theories is social sciences, due to its universalism and simplicity, can be seen as most appropriate, the lack of concentration on other migration theories must be seen as the biggest disadvantage of the publication. I mainly would like to point to “New Economics of Labour Migration” (Stark, Bloom), which treats migration as more complex problem, where the analysis of social context, individual features and culture is indispensable, and “Migration Network Theory” (Bauer, Epstein).
The issue of society ageing and demographic transition in emerging countries can be seen as a main challenge of XXI century. It will influence the dynamism of economic growth, social profile, consequently the international relation between countries. It is definitely high time to create a solution to deal with this process, to avoid its pejorative consequences. Therefore “Age of Aging” is a ideal incipience of discussion of the issue.
The Age of Aging – Book review
Since the Industrial revolution (starting in the late 18th century) the population of our planet has been rising rapidly. By the end of the 18th century the planet had “just” counted around 1 billion people, but recently (a few weeks ago) the number of people living on the planet has just crossed 7 billion. Within two and a half century we augmented further up to 6 billion people. This rapid grow was due to several factors, such as growing birth rates, better health care or rising life expectancy.
However in the past decades and recently the birth rates are getting lower in most developed countries (which will contribute to a lower population growth in overall), but remain still high in most developing countries. The explanation for these inequalities in birth rates between developed and developing countries is of course the different rate of development. In the developed world for instance women now have a more decisive role in social life: their role is no longer just bearing children, and raising them, but more often they decide to carry out bigger careers which actually restrain them from having more children. The other factor might be the lowering infant mortality rate (due to better healthcare). These factors of course lead to decreasing fertility rates.
On the other hand though, women in the developing world still occupy a lower and subordinate social position, plus due to worse healthcare, infant mortality rates are still relatively high, therefore these regions are still characterized with higher fertility rates. Women give birth to more children, so there will be bigger chance that a few of them will actually reach adult age, therefore they can work and look after their relatives.
In overall the lower fertility rates in the developed world and the still high rates in the developing area are not stalling the population growth, just make the process slower. This global phenomenon – which is causing aging population in developed worlds nowadays, and will cause ageing problems in the developing world in a few decades – is going to affect our planet’s population the most, mainly in a negative way.
The rapidly growing population had gained interests of great economists such as Thomas Malthus, or Ester Boserup. In his theory Malthus argued at the beginning of the industrialization that the global economy won’t be able to sustain the dramatically growing population and at some point global food and resource shortages and famine will occur all over the world.
On the Other hand, in the beginning of the 20th century Boserup claimed in her theory that the rapidly growing population will actually stimulate the economy, therefore according to her point of view the global economy can and will react on the increasing pressure from the growing population and it will be able to sustain our growing demands.
So far Boserup’s theory seems to be right, but what will happen to our population when we are going to face resource shortages on a global scale: our natural gas reserves and oil supplies are running low not to mention the pollution of waters (which makes our natural waters “useless”). The growing population also brings up environmental issues. Due to our growing economical activity and demands we are polluting our environment. The emission of gases such as carbon dioxide will contribute to growing greenhouse effect, which is in fact a very contradictive issue (some say there is such thing as greenhouse effect, some say the opposite) but the facts speak for themselves: The rise of the average global temperatures since the industrial revolution suggests that we might affect our climate throughout our economic activities.
Beside these concerns we also have to look at the demographic aspects. As it was mentioned before the rate of the population growth is slowing down but we are still augmenting and global projections suggest that by the end of the 21st century there will be nearly 10 billion inhabitants. However the biggest problem is not the amount of people that will inhabit the world in the next decades, but the age structure of the population. Due to decreasing fertility rates and rising life expectancy (thanks to improving global health care) there will be more and more older people who are economically inactive. This issue concerns first of all the developed economies nowadays because they have already exhausted the benefits of the demographic dividend, which is a rise in the rate of economic growth due to a rising share of working age people in a population.
The best example to illustrate this problem is Japan. Japan’s workforce population (people aged 15-65) had peaked in the early 2000’s (around 85 million people) but since then the workforce has been shrinking and expected to shrink for the next decades. In 2050 there will be only 52 million people of working age. This means of course that the dependency ratio will grow, and for every economically active person there will be more and more people they have to take care of.
This phenomenon however is not unique for Japan. Most of the European countries are facing or/and will face this ageing problem as well as the United States. In Europe in general the percentage of working-age population is expected to begin to fall from 2011 with an increasing rate. In the USA the situation is slightly better, but they are also facing slower growth in the working age population, which will turn into a decline in a few decades.
The developing world and emerging markets on the other hand are still enjoying the benefits of the demographic dividend due to relatively high birth rates and relatively low life expectancy. For the next few years they can expect expanding labor supply and rising urban working populations to continue to support strong rates of economic growths and social development. (An exception as an emerging market is Russia, because its population has been in decline for a few decades now, which causes serious demographic issues in the country.)
Of course these countries will also face the problem of ageing, as they get more and more developed, but as it was stated before they have a few productive and beneficial years in front of them.
The most beneficial country will be India. India has a rapidly growing population (it will be the most populous country in the world in a few decades) and its demographic structure is very hopeful. The total dependency ratio is falling and the median age of the population is less than 24 years. Of course this value is about to grow in the next decades, so of course India will also have an ageing population, but this process is happening much slower than in other countries. Due to this positive factors India will develop rapidly in the next years, and the country can be mentioned as the Asian America according to Magnus. Of course the majority of the population still lives in slums and bad conditions, but hopefully it can be improved thanks to the growing working population.
If India is to benefit due to its demographic characteristics then China on the other hand is about to lose on its demography. Today China is the most populous country in the world, but due to the one child policy introduced by the government to restrain rapid population growth, now it has lower fertility rates and of course growing share of older people in the population. It is estimated that by 2050 China will be a home to a quarter of the world’s over 80’s. So as we can see, China (like the developed world) is also going to have serious demographic issues, which of course will be very hard to fight and can easily setback the country’s economy.
To sum up, aging is a global phenomenon what is occurring in most of the countries nowadays, and will occur basically on the entire world in a few decades. Governments may try to ease the negative effects of ageing by setting higher retirement age, but of course people above certain age are not able to contribute to the economic growth as well as in younger age so it can’t be a solution. In general ageing will slow down of course the global economy, since proportionally there will be less economically active people and more dependants basically only from the “older” side, because there will be more older people everywhere, due to the rising life expectancy and declining fertility rates. This of course leads us to the following question connected with the theories of Malthus’ and Boserup’s:
Is humanity going to be able to fight ageing population with proportionally fewer numbers of working-age people, and sustain the growing population with a finite amount of necessary resources?
Review on ‘The Age of aging’
The strict connection between demography and economy is obvious. If you are not convinced of this fact, the first book you should read is ‚The Age of Aging’, the debut publication of a renowned economist George Magnus. This study concerns the problem of fast aging societies, which are going to consist mainly of retirees and not enough working-age people to finance their pensions. Taking account of low fertility rates too, the issue starts to be serious. In his work, Magnus tries to explain the most relevant elements of the problem.
First of all, don’t worry if you are completely unfamiliar with economical matters. This book aims at such a reader. The issue of aging is presented in a way acceptable to everyone. Magnus gives a broad description of this process and shows how it proceeds in developing countries and advanced economies with a lot of emphasis put on the USA and Western Europe. Several reasons of societies’ aging are mentioned, such as growing longevity, low fertility and family structures. But what matters the most is the impact aging has on the economy and the way it affects our future life. We sometimes do not even realise that, as a consequence of aging, some things that come easily to us now can be less accessible in 30-40 years. Magnus discusses different aspects of this situation and offers some thoughtful conclusions. It is really useful for understanding what aging society is and what it means to us. However, some points are repeated so many times that, paradoxically, they can seem vague. It gives the impression that the author just circles around the topic not capturing the essence. Such an extensive description of rather basic phenomena can also disappoint some more demanding readers, who want to deepen their knowledge.
Nevertheless, the book is excellent when it comes to the stylistic matter. It is easily comprehensible – quick and pleasant to read. The author uses quite simple but, at the same time, very descriptive and lively language. All the facts and data are supported with different schemes and maps, which proves to be very helpful in grasping the idea of some dynamic changes in societies. Magnus should be also praised for the clear chapters division. It seems to be logical and the nicely-formulated titles make searching for a particular topic short and . easy. It is also worth mentioning that all potentially unknown terms are explained. The reader is provided with brief, clever definitions and doesn’t have to break through a welter of footnotes. Thus, this book can be certainly called reader-friendly
Another significant point is Magnus’ attempt to answer all the questions about our uncertain future and give some valuable tips. The ideas presented in ‚The Age of Aging’, such as to raise retirement age, enable more women to work or enlarge the immigration are rather uncomplicated, but they are basic matters to understand, if one think about avoiding tremendous effects of societies’ aging. The author explains these common concepts and shows to what extent they can be helpful. Moreover, he explodes some myths like this one that shifting money from youth healthcare to old-age healthcare will sort out the problem of future deficiency in social finances. These bright remarks can clarify the issue of aging and prevent some people from believing wrong theories concerning it. Admittedly, there is no details to be found, which would indicate how to tackle the problem completely, but there are some incisive remarks on our habits and tips to make it as efficient as possible. For instance, a lot is said about our saving methods and the need of saving. This and other simple solutions are really thought-provoking.
To sum up, the topic of aging societies can seem to be boring and overexposed but not in case of this book. Clear, descriptive and very to the point – this characterizes it best. Starting from explaining what the process of aging is and what it means to us, Magnus tries to show connections between demography and economy and present some way of dealing with the problem. This book is recommendable for all people interested in what our world looks and is going to look like.
I was born in 1991, exactly on the same date as the Soviet Union collapsed. A symbolic date in world history, and that was exactly how I felt myself when I figured out what had happened on my very own birthday. Today, some 20 years later, I am once again about to cross a special ‘border’ in history, more specifically towards the Age of Ageing as some would call it. In comparison to the problems the world has to face in this new era, one could look back with a certain nostalgia at those days of Cold War. For this problem it is not only a question of ideological and geopolitical power struggles, but also of serious demographic changes that will have more radical effects on our climate, labour markets, economics, wealth, and even international security. The apocalyptic consequences George Magnus sketched in ‘The Age of Ageing. How Demographics are Changing the Global Economy and Our World’, are terrifying and provoking at the same time: sooner or later anybody will get involved in this matter, regardless of age or origins.
In an attempt to overcome these socio-economic catastrophe, one could assume that cooperation and strong leadership should be the code words. The European migration policy for example should be reformed and adapt some conceptions of the Anglo-Saxon model, by making a more effective selection of young and well educated immigrants, which is directed to the needs of the labour market. But although some steps have already been taken in this direction, the European migration policy still differs from country to country and is getting everywhere more xenophobe, which doesn’t really contribute to the realisation of the desired society we need to sustain our wealth in this age of ageing. Besides, certainly in these days of financial and economic uncertainty, the enthusiasm of the people and national governments for participation in a European model is declining every day, which makes room for a more nationalistic approach of the matter. Considering that this egoistic ostrich mentality might be responsible for a serious decline of our wealth in the future, one cannot do more than hope that the irony of fate will be more merciful for us than it was to all those reckless heroes in Greek mythology who dared to challenge their own fatum. In this point of view the problem of ageing might be a worthwhile mirror to the Western civilization, which will –according to Magnus’ assumptions- get the hardest part to deal with as it comes to this global time bomb. The great lines in history are waving up- and downwards, once in favour of one, sometimes in favour of another. It would be a strange thing if one civilization would be able to dominate the others for eternity. In other words: it’s time to broaden our minds on the discussion how Western civilization tends to maintain its self-evident superiority.
We can’t put aside the question about human freedom in this debate. Magnus suggestions about preparing the world for the age of ageing, are in my opinion most to be seen in a totalitarian way of thinking: a strong leadership, more control for international organisations, fast and effective regulations… In short we could say that this might mean fewer power control into the hands of the people, especially for those who will have to feel the socio-economic effects the most: the elderly and the working people. The conception of ‘the human being as a human being’ might gradually change into ‘the human being as a mean’, And even if this should be regarded as a measure ‘for your own good’, one could ask himself to what kind of extreme purposes this new perception of the human being might lead.
What’s even more alarming is the denial of ageing. The longer we wait to make suitable decisions, the less options we will keep in the end while facing the problem of ageing. And regarding the first detrimental effects of ageing that we can already feel now – such as the generation conflict between the elder and the younger generation who will have to work longer and pay higher taxes than the latter – it seems to be inevitable that those options will not be the most cheerful ones.
On the other hand, one cannot presume that man is totally capable of controlling and predicting the world order, how convincing Magnus’ prophecies may sound. Many other, equally dangerous reasons can still influence our demographic destiny, such as climate changes, military conflicts, maybe –dare I utter this?- even a space attack?
But whatever the future might bring, it’s for sure that many people, not only of my age but certainly as well of our parents’, will have to prove themselves to be able to survive in a much tougher world than this in which we live now. Depending on whether we approach it in a either scared or brave way, we will be either able to fail or to cope with it. The symbolic value of this new turning-point in history is in our hands. And although I have to admit that I’m not glad to be pushed in this role, I can say that I’m proud that my personal capabilities, as to speak as a future tax payer, might be of certain importance in this united struggle for the sustaining of the global order.
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