Jack A. Goldstone
Forty-two years ago, the biologist
The United Nations Population Division now projects that global population growth will nearly halt by 2050. And barring a cataclysmic climate crisis or a complete failure to recover from the current economic malaise, global economic output is expected to increase by two to three percent per year, meaning that global income will likely increase far more than population over the next four decades.
But twenty-first-century international security will depend less on how many people inhabit the world than on how the global population is composed and distributed.
In 2003, the combined populations of
Part of the reason that developed countries will be less economically dynamic in the coming decades is that their populations will become substantially older. The European countries,
Even as the industrialized countries of
Exacerbating twenty-first-century risks will be the fact that the developing world is urbanizing to an unprecedented degree.
Countries with younger populations are especially prone to civil unrest and are less able to create or sustain democratic institutions. And the more heavily urbanized, the more such countries are likely to experience Dickensian poverty and anarchic violence.
Averting this century's potential dangers will require sweeping measures. Policymakers must adapt today's global governance institutions to the new realities of the aging of the industrialized world, the concentration of the world's economic and population growth in developing countries, and the increase in international immigration.
The G-8, for example, will likely become obsolete as a body for making global economic policy. The G-20 is already becoming increasingly important, and this is less a short-term consequence of the ongoing global financial crisis than the beginning of the necessary recognition that
The aging industrialized countries can also take various steps at home to promote stability in light of the coming demographic trends. First, they should encourage families to have more children. But, more important is immigration. Correctly managed, population movement can benefit developed and developing countries alike. Given the dangers of young, underemployed, and unstable populations in developing countries, immigration to developed countries can provide economic opportunities for the ambitious and serve as a safety valve for all. Countries that embrace immigrants, such as
Never since 1800 has a majority of the world's economic growth occurred outside of
(C) 2009 Council On Foreign Relations, Publisher Of Foreign Affairs