Take a look at the graph, what do you see? It’s real.
OK, that’s a poor attempt to rhyme with Bob Sinclar, but it’s imminent. There seems to be little chance of the low growth scenario looking at our present growth rate. In any case, medium or high, the global population is expected to reach 10 billion in our lifetime despite the slowing growth rate. It was 5.2 billion when I was born, it’s 7.4 billion now.
Economically the rising population is a boon. Higher the population, wider the markets, higher the consumption, higher revenues, higher profits and hence higher growth. One of the reasons Indian and Chinese markets are a hot catch for global corporations is the high demand here because of, well, large number of people. No matter what the media and the government might make you feel about India by citing it as the next superpower of which everyone wants a piece, the core of it is the huge market we provide.
The developing countries with large population might provide a hunky dory picture of their state of existence, but it comes with its challenges as well. Large population means large swathes of people in the working age. The challenge for the government is to provide employment for the said bracket. Failure to do so can prove to be fatal for the government and for the stability of the country itself. If basic economics is to be referred, then large number of people unemployed leads to rising crime levels and dissatisfaction among the masses. If Paul Danahar is to be believed in his book The New Middle East, one of the reason for toppling of many governments in the Arab Spring was that the youth were fed up of not being able to find work. While the older generation had the cushion of government jobs along with accompanying benefits for lifetime, the younger generation, despite having education from the best of the universities in the country, had little scope of employment. Thus giving rise to the dissatisfaction towards the ruling government and the need for change, resulting in the demise of the government in power.
It is said that India has about 65% population in the working age bracket. Globalization has brought in varied opportunities for employment in India, thanks to the opening up of the borders for trade in the early 90’s. However, at the current rate it seems unlikely that India, or the world, would be able to provide jobs to everyone. Moreover there’s a threat of computer programs (read robots) taking up most of the low skilled jobs, but that’s a story for another day. The future looks like a place where there’s going to be a large demand-supply gap between the employment seekers and employment opportunities, resulting in a crazy struggle for resources and survival.
Environmentally however if we’re to believe, we have long surpassed the sustainable population levels for the planet. It’s supposed to be 2 billion (Watch), which may sound radical but that was the population of the planet mere 80 years ago. Ever growing population puts stress on limited resources such as oil, food, water etc. which is evident since many years now in many parts of the planet. And for us as a race, protectionist policies followed by many countries doesn’t ensure there will be transfer of resources from places of abundance to the places of scarcity.
Couple of centuries ago, there was a stress on our survival as the mortality rate was high because of lack of medical advances. Not all children survived to adulthood hence giving rise to the need of a higher fertility rate. But today that’s not the case, humans have ensured that almost every child that is born lives a long life, further with the advancement in the old age care, the mortality rate has also come down leading to an imbalance between the births to death ratio. In the past we needed to procreate for our survival, but today we need to not procreate so rapidly if we are to survive.
I’m not going to the solution part which is of course, birth control measures, providing education to women from the under developed and developing world etc. but I would like to raise a question here. With such a bleak picture of our future, is it wise to bring our future generation on the planet? Apart from population explosion, there is lack of equality, lack of employment opportunities, cut throat competition for everything, fight for resources, depleting oil reserves, increasingly high cost of living, climate change, protectionist trend politically and economically, religious fundamentalism, and right wing coming to power almost everywhere. Isn’t it really appalling to die knowing you left someone your own alone in this shitstorm of a world? At least I’m highly inclined towards not bringing my future generation knowingly into the world that’s going to be a hard place to live. How about you?
PS – Yes, I’m an Inferno fan, the book, not the movie, and I wish a solution like that could exist in the world.