Geopolitical Aspects of Population in the Twenty-First Century



Over the second half of the twentieth century rapid population growth in the less developed countries has redrawn the global demographic map. Many once-poor countries have also experienced strong economic growth, which in combination with the demographic change has yielded marked shifts in the world's economic balance, with far-reaching geopolitical implications. At the same time, low fertility in much of the developed world presages a future of population shrinkage, accompanied by pronounced population aging. In per capita terms, the economic advantages of the developed countries will likely persist for many years, but their actual and potential falls in population may accentuate their loss of relative economic power and eventually lead to marginalization of their international standing and influence. Preventing population shrinkage will be an urgent task for them, requiring either large-scale immigration (likely to be ruled out) or raising the birth rate. Existing pro-family policies have had at best modest effects on fertility levels. Two novel approaches are described that would plausibly have greater impact. One would counteract the disproportionate influence of older voters in the electorate by granting voting rights to all citizens, allowing custodial parents to vote on behalf of their children. The second would reform the public pension system to reestablish the link between the financial security of retired persons and the number of children they have raised to productive adulthood.