The World in the Demographic Transition: Are You Ready?

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The vertigo of 21st century globalization is responsible for an unprecedented turn in demography. Few people have realized that, as a result of ICTs, the advances in science and the frenzy of modern life, there are more and more migrants, the population is aging and fewer children are born. These three demographic phenomena are irreversible.

So, what is the matter? The demographic dividend will be lost—when the working-age population grows less than the population of children and the elderly—with its socioeconomic impact, if not dealt with properly. This is happening in many countries. Also, in several countries there is no generational renewal and they are forced to attract migrants as a solution.

The book Demografía y migraciones en la globalización of the Acontecer Mundial collection published by Ediciones UCC explains that the growth of the world population began to decline since the end of the last century, that some developed regions have more grandparents than grandchildren, that in some countries the population pyramid is no longer a pyramid but a rhombus because there are more adults than children. In Japan, for instance, most of the population is in the age range of 65 to 69.

These findings suggest that patterns of consumption of goods and services are changing and will become more evident in the coming decades. Economists know very well the impact of consumption on the behavior of economies. If, as stated above, the demographic transition is vertiginous and irreversible, things in the world will change ineluctably and there is something to be done about it.

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Are we worried about the news on the increase of migrants in the world? We should not because migrants are only around 3.3 % of the world’s population. We are many, yes. And predators too. But we are rooted to our homeland, to our affections. However, thanks to ICT, means of transport and the fact that “the world has flattened”, migrants will grow exponentially and be increasingly qualified. Actually, most migrants are from developed regions, as documented in said book.

Refugees are the most dramatic, mediatic and, therefore, shocking category of migrants. They flee from wars, insecurity and extreme poverty. But the main driving force of migrants is the difference in income, a concept that encompasses more than poverty and hunger because it includes qualified migrants who change residence for better working conditions and quality of life.

The growing share of qualified migrants contributes to the win-win situation of the free movement of labor throughout the world. The worker goes where he finds the best offer and the employer can obtain the best skills. It is the mutatis mutandis extrapolation of the dual-sector model of economic development with unlimited supplies of labor by Nobel economist W. Arthur Lewis in the 1950s.

Are immigrants a problem for the host country? Well, no, they are not in the medium and long term. All studies agree that well-inserted migrants in host societies are beneficial for the development and prosperity of the regions that take them in. The cultural and knowledge diversity is enriching in every sense. This is also sufficiently documented.

Regarding increasing qualified migrants, we begin to find mitigating factors for generational renewal issues referred to above. The countries that suffer a generational renewal deficit change their refractory migratory policies to policies that attract preferably qualified migrants. Many of these policies do not exclude the reception of refugees who can be expensive in the short term but productive later and who fill the positions that natives do not want to hold.

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We have said that population growth in the world has started to decline. It grows less, but it is still growing. In some countries, population is decreasing and aging with its effects on consumption. If this phenomenon spreads, will it be the beginning of human extinction?

Technologies, machines, migrants, knowledge and artificial intelligence are available and can be mitigating factors for each country that runs out of their demographic dividend… for the time being.

Gustavo Guzmán Manrique

Internationalist, postgraduate professor at Universidad del Rosario and Universidad CES in Medellín. International policy analyst and business consultant in foreign trade. Author of several publications, including the book Demografía y migraciones en la globalización available in open access for consultation and Las normas de origen del comercio internacional published by Legis Editores. E-mail: gustavoa.guzman@urosario.edu.co

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