October 24, 2005

Balanced population a boon to economies

Whereas excess populations bedeviled such Asiatic nations as China, Japan and Korea over the years, their focus on upward economic mobility, accompanied by birth control, has prompted a host of negative factors imperiling their future viability.

The difference between China and India presents the most glaring example. While China has imposed a mandatory one-child-per-family restriction on its population, India's more prolific reproduction rate is projected to overcome China's global population leadership by 2050.

What gets lost in these comparisons is that an expanding population of young workers is necessary to maintain dynamic economic expansion. A balanced ratio between a youthful work corps and a growing cache of retirees is also necessary to keep the old-age sector from becoming an insurmountable drain on economic progress.

With Western and even some Eastern European nations facing population decline, such economic reversals have already begun to set in. Western Europe is also suffering from unsustainable retirement and welfare packages, which the labor unions are loath to give up.

China, possessing the world's fastest growing economy, may be forced to give up its one-child policy if it wants to maintain its unprecedented momentum. This must happen before it's saddled with tens of millions of overage retirees, who will no longer be able to contribute actively to the nation's accelerating growth.

The United States is benefiting by the continuation of a balanced birth rate and an open immigration policy. Although America's reproductive rate sagged to a 1.7 low in the mid-1970s, the nation's post-war baby boomers recharged the growth rate as the century came to an end. With the higher birth rate of most of America's immigrants, the United States' demographic outlook is brighter than most of the world's leading economies. Even with an economy heavily geared toward a post-industrial service technology sector, America is expected to continue a balancing growth well into the latter part of this century.

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