Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Demographics as Destiny

Business Insider (Nov 30, 2015) - What the size of the world's workforce will be like in a decade is well predictable, since the future workers have already been born. Demographics have long been a key determinant of potential growth rates, but the change in the global population over the next few years is unprecedented. Japan's population started to shrink in the mid-1990s and Germany's started shrinking around the year 2000, but the world's most populous country, China, is now seeing its working-age population shrink for the first time. Though the overall global population will continue to grow for some time yet, the growth of the working-age population is slowing down pretty much everywhere. That's relevant for a bundle of reasons. Around the world there will be fewer workers to support a growing number of retirees. But it also has some economists expecting significant pressure on wages.

The sea of red and pink across the advanced world means contraction, no growth,
or slow growth. Only in a belt of the developing world (in Africa particularly)
is there any substantial expansion coming by 2020. Credits: HSBC (Nov 2015)
If employers have to fight for a group of workers that is growing more slowly, or even declining, they will need to encourage people to move, and their labour will be more valuable. Some countries, like Japan, Russia, and parts of Europe, have already entered the stage that the rest of the world is going into — and they've struggled with it. In Japan, slowing economic growth has made the county's ever-expanding pile of public debt more and more difficult to deal with, and the working-age population has already declined by 11.1% in the past 20 years. Smaller populations mean less demand and less potential output. More retirees relative to the number of working-age people means more fiscal pressure: greater expenditure on healthcare and less tax income. Globally, although working-age populations are still growing, HSBC expects global potential growth to be 0.6ppt lower per year over the next decade compared with the past decade given these demographic changes. Not great news for heavily indebted economies (see also HERE).