The Coming Wave Page #54
MA: Agreed. OK, now that the first wave is modulating, what else.
Q: Well, there is now The Second Wave rising out of the developing world. As the developed countries have lower and lower fertility rates, other parts of the world are doing exactly the opposite. I am not sure where the rates are the highest but I would guess Africa.
MA: When you look at just births per woman in her lifetime you come up with Niger at 7.19, Guinea at 7.07 and Afghanistan at 7.07. But why is that still misleading?
Q: Because of infant mortality?
MA: Oh, not just that but life expectancy at birth. While fertility may be very high in Niger the life expectancy at birth is only 40 years old. Africa, as a whole, has a life expectancy of around 54 years, but it obviously varies from area to area.
Q: That sounds like exactly what an r-selected group would try to do. In a challenging environment where life is short you try to produce a lot of offspring. Right?
MA: Yes, and that was an excellent summary. As you point out - due to the sub-replacement fertility of much of the industrialized world - population decline is a real factor. Japan, for instance, has been in a state of population decline for a number of years. We know this by using our handy little r=n-m formula. After the 2005 census we discovered (in Japan) for the first time that r was a negative number (meaning that the number of deaths outnumbered the number of births).
But it was to be expected, Japan has the second lowest birth rate in the developed world after only South Korea. That rate of 1.4 is not enough to sustain a population thus r = less than 0. And when r = less than 0, you may have a problem. What do you think?
Q: Well not necessarily. If you are modulating your growth at an optimum level then an r of 0 or slightly less than 0 might be expected.
Q: The problem, I suppose, is determining whether you are leveling or plunging.
MA: Population decline, or depopulation, can be cyclic or benign but it is sometimes a harbinger of bad times.
Some Japanese towns facing depopulation are offering cash. Yamatsuri offers parents $4,600 for the birth of a child and $460 a year for 10 years. The Republic of Singapore offers $3,000 for the first child, $9,000 in cash and savings for the second; and up to $18,000 each for the third and fourth. Why isn't this option being offered in Europe and other areas with sub-replacement fertility rates?
Q: Because of immigration?
MA: Yes. Were it not for immigration a large number of countries would be facing very serious depopulation issues. In the past decade the UK population level has been rising as fast as it did at the peak of the post-war baby boom in the early 1960s. About 45 per cent of last year’s population rise was brought about by immigration and 55 per cent by a greater number of births than deaths. However the rising birth rate is itself a product of immigration – one in four births last year were to mothers who were born outside Britain.
To summarize, we have the First Wave modulating growth and the Second Wave rushing in to fill the gaps in desirable locations where depopulation is an issue. This immigration results in a rapid expansion of the new group with large, extended families. It would seem a balanced response when viewed in this manor, but it is not.