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In its semiannual report World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund presents its analysis of major economic policy issues and assessment of economic prospects, along with more detailed treatment of a selected current topic. The special topic in the 300-page report published in September 2004 is “The Global Demographic Transition,” treated in Chapter III of the document. An excerpt from the section of that chapter titled “Policies to Meet the Challenges of Global Demographic Change” is reproduced below with the permission of the IMF. Footnotes and the figure included in the excerpt have been renumbered.

The title of Chapter III is “How Will Demographic Change Affect the Global Economy?” The tone of the discussion is set by the opening epigraph, a quotation from the UK's 1949 Report of the Royal Commission on Population: “It seems possible that a society in which the proportion of young people is diminishing will become dangerously unprogressive, falling behind other communities not only in technical efficiency and economic welfare, but in intellectual and artistic achievement as well.” Accordingly, the focus of the analysis, like that of the commentary by US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan reprinted in the preceding Document item in this issue, is on the consequences of population aging and on the desirable policy responses to that process. The discussion broadly parallels Greenspan's but with a wider compass, including some consideration of the effects of aging in developing countries. It emphasizes the need for counteracting adverse effects of demographic change through a combination of policy measures, since “the size of the reforms” (such as increasing labor force participation, inducing later retirement, and attracting more immigrants) “that would be needed in any single area [is] sufficiently large that they would be politically and economically difficult to achieve.”