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Flash Points and Tipping Points: Security Implications of Global Population Changes

Flash Points and Tipping Points: Security Implications of Global Population Changes

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Published by The Wilson Center
Jack Goldstone examines "four major trends that are likely to pose significant security challenges to Europe, Japan, and most other developed nations in the next two decades: disproportionate growth in large and Muslim countries, shrinking populations in the EU and former USSR, sharply opposing age shrifts between aging developed countries and youthful developing coutnries and increased immigration from developing to developed countries."
Jack Goldstone examines "four major trends that are likely to pose significant security challenges to Europe, Japan, and most other developed nations in the next two decades: disproportionate growth in large and Muslim countries, shrinking populations in the EU and former USSR, sharply opposing age shrifts between aging developed countries and youthful developing coutnries and increased immigration from developing to developed countries."

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Published by: The Wilson Center on Sep 05, 2012
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ECSp rEport
iSSuE 13
2008–2009
2
 nEW dIrECTIonS In
DemOgrAPhiC SeCurity 
Flash Points and Tipping Points:
Secuity Impictis f gbPputi Ches
I
s improving relations between Western andMuslim countries crucial to fxing pensionprograms in Europe and the United States?Can reversing the “brain drain” o medical talentmigrating rom developing countries to devel
-
oped ones improve the budget balance o devel
-
oped nations? Will economic growth in China and India draw investment and innovation away rom the United States, Japan, and Europe?
Thesequestionsaresparkedbypredicted
trends in global population dynamics over thenext hal century. In this article, I examine
fourmajortrendsthatarelikelytoposesigni-
cant security challenges to Europe, Japan, andmost other developed nations in the next twodecades:
1
 (1) Disproportionate population growth inlarge and Muslim countries;(2) Shrinking population in the EuropeanUnion and European ormer Sovietcountries;
(3)Sharplyopposingageshiftsbetween
aging developed countries and youthuldeveloping countries; and(4) Increased immigration rom developing to developed countries.
Thesecurityandconictproblemscausedby
population growth are not mainly due to short
-agesofresources.Rather,population
distor- tions 
—in which populations grow too young, ortoo ast, or too urbanized—make it difcult orprevailing economic and administrative institu
-tionstomaintainstablesocializationandlabor-forceabsorption(Goldstone,2002;Cincottaetal.,2003;Leahyetal.,2007).
Big Emerging Markets and theWorld Economy
Countriesaregrowingtodayfortwomajor
reasons: high population growth rates anddemographic momentum.
2
In some countries,
mainlyinAfricaandtheMiddleEast(aswellasafewinLatinAmericaandSouthAsia),
birth rates remain much higher than mortality 
rates,sogrowthratesaremorethan2.0percent
per year. In these countries—which include
 Afghanistan,theDemocraticRepublicofthe
Congo, Guatemala, Iraq, Jordan, Nepal, Saudi
 Arabia,Pakistan,andYemen—thepopulationis
still doubling every generation, or roughly every 
30-35years(UNPopulationDivision,2007).
In other countries, such as China, India, andIndonesia, population growth rates have recent
-
ly dropped substantially; in percentage terms,they are growing more slowly than they have
inthepast(UNPopulationDivision,2007).
 Jck a. gste
is h Virginia e. and John
t. hazl J. Pofsso a  go masonunvs Scool of Pblc Polc. t ao o co-ao of nn books and wnn of  Dsnsd Scolasp Awad of Acan Socolocal Assocaon, goldsons a ladn ao on onal conflcs, assvd on a u.S. vc-psdnal ask focon sa fal, and s a conslan o u.S. Sa Dpan,  Fdal Baof invsaon, and  u.S. Anc fo innaonal Dvlopn. (Poo b hdFanc, Woodow Wlson Cn)
 JaCK a.goldSTonE
 
EnvironmEntal ChangE and SECurity program
3
However, these countries already have sucha large cohort o women o childbearing agethat their populations continue to add signif
-
cant numbers each year. In China, or example,although most couples have ewer than twochildren, zero population growth is still severaldecades away. While current growth rates have
sunktoaround0.6percentperyear,Chinawilladdnearly80millionpeopleduringeachofthe
next two decades beore its population peaks.India, though not quite as large as China today, is growing twice as ast, at 1.4 percent
peryear,andwilladdroughly135millionpeo-
ple per decade or the next two decades. Even with a continued decline in their birth rates,these two countries alone are expected to add
roughly400millionpeopleby2025—more
than the entire population o the United States,the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and
Belgiumtoday
combined 
.
Mostofthe20largestcountriesintheworld
have modest growth rates but large demographicmomentum, and thus will make the largest con
-
tributions to total world population growth in the
next20years.Thefastest-growingcountriesare
generally smaller, but are acing the largest bur
-
den o additional growth on a percentage basis
(seeTable1).Forthenextseveraldecades,global
population growth will be concentrated in only a ew regions and countries, mainly Muslim societ
-ies(almosttheentiretophalfofTable1)andhugestateswithpopulationsof75millionormore.MostofthestatesthatdominateTable1arealsoamongtheworld’slowerincomecountries.Bycontrast,
population growth rates in Europe and Japan arealready low and, in some cases, negative.
Therefore,theproportionoftheworld’s
population living in Muslim states, or in thevery largest and very poorest states, will grow,and the proportion o the world’s populationliving in developed countries will shrink. 
The
sole exception is the United States, which is
expectedtoadd50millionpeopleinthenext20years—mostlyduetorecentandprojected
immigration o people born elsewhere.Some countries with extremely rapid popu
-
lation growth are likely to manage it reason
-
ably well due to sound management and strong economic growth (e.g., Kuwait and the United
 ArabEmirates).However,inanumberof“ash
points,” the inability to integrate rapidly expand
-
ing populations into politics and the economy  will lead to radical political mobilization among those angry at not attaining the level o prosper
-
ity reached by some o their neighbors.Some o the extremely large countries willprobably manage their anticipated growth with
-outconicts.Yetthesheersizeofthepopulation
increases they ace in coming years, combined with their eorts to rapidly industrialize, meansthat many will also ace a “tipping point,” whenuneven development leaves tens o millions o disadvantaged people to watch other millions
reapthebenetsofrapidgrowth.Thedispari-
ties o economic ortune among classes, regions,or ethnic groups may become so great as tospark violent protests. Or the migration o ruralmasses to urban and industrial centers couldproduce a social crisis. We cannot predict which countries willace such crises, as they are due to ailed politi
-
cal leadership and administrative managementmore than population changes
 per se 
.Butwe
can say that in many o the largest countries,governments will ace exceptional challenges inmeeting their populations’ demands or bothstrong and equitable economic growth andsound political management. We can say with certainty that these trends
posemajordilemmasfortheeconomicpol-
icy and development o the West, particu
-larlyEurope.In2005,only5ofthe25largest
countries in the world were in Europe, with a 
combinedpopulationofroughly400million,oraboutone-tenththetotalpopulationofthe
remaining countries (UN Population Division,
2007).By2025,justtwodecadesdistant,there
 will be only our European countries in the top
25,withatotalpopulationof338million,oraboutsevenpercentofthe5.5billioninhabit-antsoftheother21countries.By2050,there
 will be only three European countries in the top
25withatotalpopulationof258million,or justfourpercentofthe6.3billionintheother
Poplaon
disorions—in which
poplaonsow oo on,o oo fas, o oo banzd—ak  dffclfo pvaln
conomic and
adnsavnsons o
mainain sablsocializaion
and labo-foc
absorpion.
 
ECSp rEport
iSSuE 13
2008–2009
4
22countries.Europe’sweightinthetop25
countries is shrinking dramatically.
TheexpectedchangesinEuropesglobal
demographic weight are even more striking.
In2005,allofEuropecomprised731mil-lionpeople,whichisprojectedtoshrinkto just664millionby2050,whiletherestofthe worldgrowsfrom5.8billionto8.5billion(UN
Population Division,
 
2008).Thatis,inasingle
generation (the next 42 years), global popula 
-tionoutsideofEuropewillincreaseby2.7bil-
lion while Europe’s population will
decrease 
by 
about67million.Theshrinkingdemographicweightof
European countries puts them on the horns o 
adilemma.Iftheeconomiesoffast-growing
developing countries do not catch up to thoseo the richer countries, then the standard o 
lifeenjoyedbytheWestwillseemmoreelite
and unair than ever, ueling resentment o 
developingcountriesagainsttheG-8.Onthe
other hand, i economic growth in those coun
-
tries does exceed that o the West, so that liv 
-
ing standards in poor countries or regions startsto approach those o rich countries or regions,then the combination o shrinking popula 
-
tion and lagging economies will render the
G-8countriesmoreandmoreirrelevanttothe
 world economy. Greater resentment or greaterirrelevance: certainly a difcult choice.
Europe’scombinedGDPin2007wasUS$14trilliondollars(CIA,2008).AssumingGDPgrowthpercapitaof2.5percentperyear
and no net population growth, Europe’s econo
-
my would increase by US$9 trillion (excluding 
ination)by2025.ForAsia(excludingJapan),2007GDPwasslightlylarger,atUS$18tril-liondollars(CIA,2008).Butduetomodest
growth in GDP per capita plus large populationincreases in most countries, total GDP is grow 
-
ing ar more rapidly in this region. Iran andPakistan achieved recent growth rates o 4 and6 percent per year, respectively, while India and
Chinaweregrowingby8-10percentperyear—
and despite the global economic downturn,both countries are expected to continue grow 
-ingby6-7percentin2009(CIA,2008;EIU,2008).IfAsia(excludingJapan)cansustainanoverallgrowthrateoftotalGDPof5percentperyearoverthenext20years,theincreasein AsiasGDPwouldbeUS$30trillion
¸
or morethan three times the total economic growth o Europe.
IfAsianGDPdoesnotgrowat5percentperyear,livingstandardsinAsiawillnotcatchuptothoseinEurope(andJapan).YetifAsian
GDP does grow at that pace, then given the size
ofAsia,thepreponderanceofeconomicgrowth
on the Eurasian continent will be occurring outside o Europe. Greater degrees o invest
-
ment and innovation are likely to move to areasoutside o Europe, urther weakening its eco
-
nomic strength and leadership. In other words, we are on the cusp o a global tipping point,
inwhichEastandSouthAsiacometoeclipseEuropeandJapanasmajorsourcesofglobal
economic growth—a point made all the moresharper as Europe and Japan slip into recession
attheendof2008.Thesedemographicandeconomicchanges
also indicate that the military capacities o large developing countries will increase, whilethe ability o rich nations to put “boots onthe ground” in conict zones will diminish.Managing conicts involving developing coun
-
tries will become more difcult, and will putmore o a strain on developed countries’ econo
-
mies, than beore.
 Astheportionoftheglobaleconomycon-tributedbytheG-8countriesshrinks,coun-triessuchasChina,India,Turkey,Brazil,
Indonesia, and Mexico will become global eco
-nomicpowers.Admittingmajorregionalpow-
ers into international governance bodies is vitali those organizations are to retain legitimacy.
TheNovember2008SummitonFinancial
Markets and the World Economy expanded the
“G-group”toincludethesebigemergingdemo-
cratic economies—a trend that must continuei such eorts are truly going to grapple withthe global economy.Naturally, these measures will provoke greatopposition and controversy. However, i Europechooses to isolate itsel rom the global popula 
-
th proporionof h world’s
poplaonlvn n mslsas, o n v las andv poossas, wllow, and 
proporion of h world’s
poplaonlvn ndvlopdcons wllsnk.

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