Friday, May 06, 2011

Musings on the new UN population projections

Just a few notes this morning. The UN has released new global population projections. You will find them here. I quote from the official press release.

The current world population of close to 7 billion is projected to reach 10.1 billion in the next ninety years, reaching 9.3 billion by the middle of this century, according to the medium variant of the 2010 Revision of World Population Prospects, the official United Nations population projections prepared by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which is being launched today (3 May). Much of this increase is projected to come from the high-fertility countries, which comprise 39 countries in Africa, nine in Asia, six in Oceania and four in Latin America.There is some interesting stuff there.

There is some interesting stuff there for those interested in demography. The following table shows some of the UN mid range projections for Australia's immediate region. Comments follow the table. 

Country/region Population 2015 '000 Population 2050 '000 Population 2100 '000
Asia 4 375 482 5 142 220 4 596 224
Australia 23 793 31 385 35 908
Australia/New Zealand 28 394 37 063 42 232
Bangladesh 158 317 194 353 157 134
China 1 369 743 1 295 604 941 042
Fiji 896 1 017 1 005
India 1 308 221 1 692 008 1 550 899
Indonesia 251 880 293 456 254 178
Japan 126 072 108 549 91 330
Malaysia 30 714 43 455 46 946
Oceania 39 355 55 233 65 819
New Zealand 4 601 5 678 6 323
Papua New Guinea 7 645 13 549 18 113
Pakistan 189 648 274 875 261 271
Philippines 101 421 160 604 177 803
Republic of Korea 49 120 47 050 37 221
Singapore 5 375 6 106 5 659
Sri Lanka 21 709 23 193 19 888
Timor-Leste 1 301 3 006 4 742
Vietnam 92 443 103 962 82 604

Like all projections, they are just that, projections. The Australian numbers are arguably too low, less than the equivalent Australian mid-range projections. That said, I just want to point briefly to a few key points:

You can see the total Asian population peak and then decline. This seems to happen faster than I remember from pervious projections. I haven't checked.

The exact country pattern within Asia will be affected by migration. The Japanese, for example, have reservations about new settlers. I wonder whether they will maintain that as aging and population decline continues?

By contrast to Asia, Australia and New Zealand show continued population growth. Their population remains miniscule compared to Asia, but is projected to rise from the equivalent of .65% of the Asian population to .78%!

One of the things I love about Australia and New Zealand is the constantly changing diversity of the two countries because of their open-door non-discriminatory migration policies. As an entrails' watcher, I like working out what might happen next,

Now look here at the population numbers for Oceania, essentially ANZ plus the PNG and the Pacific Islands. They are projected to rise from 39.4 million to 65.8 million, heavily driven by growth in PNG.

One side effect of that is likely to be a major rise in the both the absolute numbers of and proportion of the Pacific island population in both Australia and New Zealand. This really began first in NZ, but then spread to Australia, in part because of the free movement of peoples between the two countries.

   People sometimes talk about the Asianisation of Australia and New Zealand and especially Sydney and Auckland. While this is misleading, Asian is a geographic descriptor that acts to conceal diversity, it is sometimes a somewhat useful descriptive tool. However, while I am sure that the total Asian proportion of the Australian and New Zealand population will continue to rise over the next twenty years, I suspect that the Pacific component will rise faster. Further, I expect that the composition of the Asian population will change.

Australia and New Zealand will never be able to match the growing economic attractiveness of India and China and perhaps other Asian countries as well. You can just make more money in these countries than you can in ANZ.

However, I also suspect that our non-discriminatory immigration policies and relatively open societies are likely to become increasingly powerful economic weapons in the battle across Asia for skilled workers and professionals flowing from an aging population. Why put up with the hassle of gaining entry to a China or Japan when ANZ is easier?

If I'm right, then this is going to be pretty important in the years ahead.       

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