Friday, December 31, 2010

What the Roman Empire's demographics were like and what they mean

Vaclav Smil is a writer and researcher who occupies an enviable niche with his studies the interactions between human beings, the societies they create, and the natural environments that they inhabit, aiming to determine things like the factors influencing the sustainability of human civilization. One of his more recent books, this year's Why America Is Not A New Rome, was written with the aim of taking apart the myth that the United States is a new Roman Empire, complete with decadence and empire and ultimate collapse. This analogy works, I grant you, except for the many, many ways in which 21st century America and the 2nd century Roman Empire are fundamentally different. The United States is much more technologically and socially innovative than Rome ever was; by all accounts, Americans behave more realistically with regards to the wider world, and are certainly less prone to inhumanity; and at every level, most unlike Rome, the United States is part of a highly complex and globally integrated economy.

One chapter of particular interest to Demography Matters readers is his fourth, the simply-titled "Life, Death, Wealth." For students of demographics, the biggest problem with studying the populations of the classical era lies in the lack of data. What we know about the populations of the Roman Empire (and there were numerous distinctive regional populations, thanks to deep-seated environmental, cultural, and technological differences between Rome's provinces, as opposed to a single Roman Empire population) is a combination of careful analysis of surviving documents, archeological studies, and analogies with modern societies. Rome, Smil points out, was a society trapped in the first stage of the demographic transition, with very high fertility rates largely counterbalanced by very high death rates. Walter Scheidel's papers on classical demography go into detail on specific areas of the classical world; Wikipedia's article on classical demography provides a useful overview; Wikipedia user G.W.'s detailed primer goes into much greater, and gorier, detail.

Inhabitants of the Roman Empire had a life expectancy at birth of about twenty-five years. Although the figure relies more on conjecture than ancient evidence, which is sparse and of dubious quality, it is a point of general consensus among historians of the period. It originates in cross-country comparison: given the known social and economic conditions of the Roman Empire, we should expect a life expectancy near the lower bound of known pre-modern populations. Roman demography bears comparison to available data for early twentieth-century India and rural China, where life expectancies at birth were also in the low twenties.

About 300 census returns filed in Egypt in the first three centuries CE survive. R. Bagnall and B. Frier have used them to build female and male age distributions, which show life expectancies at birth of between twenty-two and twenty-five years, results broadly consistent with model life tables. Other sources used for population reconstructions include cemetery skeletons, Roman tombstones in North Africa, and an annuities table known as "Ulpian's life table". The basis and interpretation of these sources is disputed: the skeletons cannot be firmly dated, the tombstones show non-representative sample populations, and the sources of "Ulpian's life table" are unknown. Nonetheless, because they converge with low Roman elite survival rates shown in the literary sources, and because their evidence is consistent with data from populations with comparably high mortality rates, like eighteenth-century France, and early twentieth-century China, India, and Egypt, they reinforce the basic assumption of Roman demography: that life expectancies at birth were in the low twenties.

As no population for which accurate observations survive has such a low life expectancy, model life tables must be used to understand this population's age demography. These models, based on historical data, describe 'typical' populations at different levels of mortality. For his demographic synopsis of the Roman Empire, Bruce Frier used the Model West framework, as it is "the most generalized and widely applicable". Because it is based on only one empirical input, the model life table can provide only a very approximate picture of Roman demography. On two important points, the table may seriously misrepresent the Roman situation: the structural relationship between juvenile and adult mortality, and the relative mortality rates across the sexes. In any case, Roman mortality should be expected to have varied greatly across times, places, and perhaps classes. A variation of ten years would not have been unusual. A life expectancy range of between twenty and thirty years is therefore plausible, though it may have been exceeded in either direction in marginal regions (e.g., malarious urban districts on one end; high-altitude, low-density settlements on the other).

The specifics of any ancient age distribution, moreover, would have seen heavy variation under the impact of local conditions. In pre-modern societies, the major cause of death was not the chronic, end-of-life conditions that characterize mortality in industrialized societies, nor primary malnutrition, but acute infectious disease, which has varied effects on age distributions in populations. Pulmonary tuberculosis, for example, characterized much of the Roman region in antiquity; its deaths tend to be concentrated in the early twenties, where model life tables show a mortality trough. Similarly, in pre-modern societies for which evidence is available, such as early modern England and early eighteenth-century China, infant mortality varies independently of adult mortality, to the extent that equal life expectancies at age twenty can be obtained in societies with infant mortality rates of 15% to 35% (life table models omit this; they depend on the assumption that age-specific mortality ratios co-vary in uniform, predictable ratios). No ancient evidence can gauge this effect (there is a strong tendency to overlook infant death in the sources), and the model life tables may overstate it, but comparative evidence suggests that it is very high: mortality was strongly concentrated in the first years of life.

Smil notes, quite rightly, that the classical demographic pattern has no parallels in our contemporary world.

Today an analogue of these Roman values exists only in terms of continuing high birth rates and total fertility rates in Western, Eastern, and Central Africa; in 2007 these regions had average birth rates of, respectively, 42, 41, and 46/1,000, and average total fertilities of their countries ranged between 5.5 and 6.4. But even in these sub-Saharan countries, where the demographic transition has yet to run its full course, death rates have been already reduced quite significantly, to between 5 and 17/1,000, still nearly twice the current global mean of 9/1,000 but only about 35%-40% of the high Roman value (123).

[. . .] There is no modern population--even among the worst-off countries of sub-Saharan Africa--whose growth, longevity, and age structure would even remotely resemble the ancient Roman pattern. Perhaps the best contemporary analogy would be to imagine a population that is even more destitute and desperate than those of Sierra Leone or [Burkina] Faso and then to contrast it with the long-lived, formerly fast growing and now rapidly aging U.S. population, whose mean life expectancy at
birth is more than three times as high as the Roman Empire's (126).

Taking a look at a list of the world's countries by life expectancies, the only countries that come close to the likely life expectancy of the average Roman are a long list of terribly poor countries, all but Afghanistan located in sub-Saharan Africa, most with very high levels of HIV infection in addition to any number of other illnesses. But even the worst-off country, Swaziland, comes at 39.6 years at least a decade ahead of the Roman average and on par with the luckiest Roman districts. Combine this with the very high disease load of the average Roman and sustained undernourishment--Smil cites evidence suggesting that, at least as measured by average height, the food supply improved after the Roman Empire's collapse in the west--and the picture of a congenitally unhealthy ppopulation is inescapable. Combine that with the abundant evidence for the exceptionally unequal distribution of wealth and power within the Roman Empire, and with the significantly lower level of economic output (estimated by Smil to be inferior to that of central Africa and, of course, lacking the imported technologies available to central Africans) and you have a Rome that stands few comparison with even the worst-off countries of our 21st century world.

Wikipedia's G.W. pointed out that--to say the least--mortality and illness on this scale hampers economic growth.

Mortality on this scale discourages investment in human capital, hindering productivity growth (adolescent mortality rates in Rome were two-thirds higher than in early modern Britain); it creates large numbers of dependent widows and orphans; and it hinders long-term economic planning. With the prevalence of debilitating diseases, the number of effective working years was even worse: health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE), the number of years lived in good health, varies from life expectancy by no more than eight percent in modern societies; in high-mortality societies such as Rome, it could be as much as one-sixth beneath total life expectancy. A HALE of less than twenty years would have left the empire with very depressed levels of economic productivity.

It's difficult to avoid concluding that death and suffering on this scale had an effect on the cultures of the time. Smil remarks that, even though Romans accepted the fundamental humanity of slaves, Roman slaveowners--like their counterparts in the Atlantic slave/sugar economy more than a millennium later, in pre-revolutionary Haiti say--were still quite willing to treat their human property quite inhumanely (137-138). This habituation to extreme suffering, this coarsening of human sensibilities, isn't the sort of mindset that would support the sorts of rational, non-zero-sum social and political bargains that created the institutions undergirding the 21st century world.

Demographic patterns not too far removed from the Roman Empire's are normal for human beings, almost 95% of whom lived on Earth before it broke from the established demographic patterns in the 20th century. Even in favoured long-prosperous Canada, they prevailed within a century of my birth.

Originally uploaded by etherflyer

(This photo of a late 19th century Torontonian child's grave was taken by a friend of mine, and used here and in another blog post of mine; he's since taken others.)

We at Demography Matters are concerned with seeing where established trends will take us. Tonight, a day before the new year, I thought I'd take a look back to see where we escaped. It's worth gauging the distances between then and now, I think.

Monday, December 27, 2010

On Spike Japan

Spike Japan, maintained by Tokyo blogger Richard Hendy, is one of the more interesting blogs out there, certainly among the more original blogs taking a look at the intersection of demographics with economics. Documenting his travels to areas of Japan outside of metropoli like Tokyo in acute essays and well-chosen photos, places that are slowly (or quickly) falling apart owing to a combination of two decades of slow-to-no economic growth and ever accelerating depopulation, Hendy got some international attention via this article from The Guardian written by Chris Michael earlier. How did he start? He describes Spike Japan's genesis in his introductory essay "Down the benjo: The ruin/nation of Japan".

It may come as a shock to almost all of you living outside of Japan, and to some of you living in the center of its big cities, that as we approach the summer of 2009, swathes of the country are in ruins. It came as a shock to me, too, I have to confess, having lived for almost all of the last decade in the bubble of central Tokyo and only venturing outside occasionally to get to the airport, nearby beaches, and old friends in the mountains.

As the financial results came in for Japanese companies for the last quarter of 2008, in late January and early February, they were suggestive of a complete cessation of activity in certain sectors of the economy. My interest in what happened outside of the bubble I live in was only really piqued, though, by a report in the Financial Times that many of the Brazilian emigrants to Oizumi, the town in Japan with the highest percentage of such residents, were ready to pack for Sao Paolo. I went out to investigate and was fascinated and amazed by the combination of immigration, industry, bleakness, and normality. A series of e-mails I had anyway been writing to a friend gained traction from this visit, and developed into a series titled “Down the benjo”; “benjo” is a no longer particularly polite Japanese word for “bog” or “john”. I owe inspiration for the title from a reference early in the year by Willem Buiter, Professor of European Political Economy at the London School of Economics, on his maverecon blog at the Financial Times, to the Icelandic economy having been flushed “down the snyrting”. Much the same, it struck me when I read his post back in January, was happening to the Japanese economy.

The visit to Oizumi led to another, this time to Hitachi, the home of the multinational conglomerate of the same name, which prompted a longer e-mail essay, which in turn prompted a ramble down a recently abandoned railway line less than an hour from Tokyo, which resulted in a 15,000-word essay that took the best part of a month of free time to put together.

Hendy has visited rural areas and small cities, two stand-out travelogues being his extended exploration of the northernmost and most recently settled major island of Hokkaido, and his recent sojourn to the
Amakusa islands off the west coast of Kyushu. Whether in Hokkaido, Amakusa, or elsewhere, the regions of Japan that Hendy visits are all areas located away from its prosperous industrial and urban centres, substantially rural, blighted economically and scenically by Bubble-era constructions, lacking in innovative local enterprises, heavily indebted, and sharing in the general drain of the young to the cities. After the recent financial crisis, the prospects that these regions might receive the investment that might turn things around--making them destinations for retirees, say--are trivial. The dream of a return to the land is ridiculous.

According to the Rural Depopulation Research Association, "There are probably a lot of people who would like to move to the countryside if the conditions were right, (but) it's difficult to see how the number could increase with the present situation. The local communities need to maximize their areas' resources."

The "I-turn" movement (moving from the city to the country) and the "U-turn" movement (people from the country heading to the city, then back again) have been around since the 1980s. However, the things that discourage more young people from moving to the countryside are the same as ever.

"As things are," says Yuzawa. "Even if people want to go back the countryside, often there is nowhere for them to work and nowhere for them to live."

[. . .]

A survey by the Rural Depopulation Research Association in 2000 found that "company work" is the most popular choice for those that have already moved to the countryside. In other words, they avoid the shortage of work by commuting to the city. Relatively few work in the government construction industry, which plays a major part in the rural economy. Other U-turn and I-turn employment ranges from tourism to geriatric care to traditional crafts.

With the help of the help of the organization, local governments try and match jobs to candidates; but the right work isn't always available, and sometimes idealism isn't enough to persuade young people to give up city salaries.

But the Japanese country needs help from somewhere.

In a 2000 survey, more than a third of Japan's municipalities were classified as depopulated more than half Japan's land area. All had lost more than a quarter of their residents since the 1960s.

The thing is, what's happening to rural and marginal Japan is going to happen to urban and core Japan sooner or later. Trend economic growth, as Hendy observes, is inexorably trending downwards towards nothing, as the workforce continues to contract, the dependency ratio tips crazily, productivity stagnates and foreign competition grows and infrastructure ages.

It might just be, however, that despite recent evidence to the contrary, Japan has embarked on a vicious demographic spiral, in which a variety of complex feedback mechanisms set to work: aging results in declining international competitiveness, which results in greater economic hardship at home, which results in a suppressed birthrate; aging results in ballooning fiscal deficits, which in the absence of debt issuance must result in higher taxes or cuts to government spending, which cause economic pain, driving down the birthrate; aging, as the elderly dissave, results in a decline in the pool of domestic savings on which government borrowing is an implied claim, reducing room for fiscal maneuver and resulting in less ability to withstand exogenous shocks; aging further entrenches conservative attitudes to everything from pension reform to immigration, resulting in greater government outlays and smaller government receipts; aging leads the electorate to fear for the future of the pension system, resulting in more saving by the economically active, depressing consumption, which drives manufacturers offshore and raises unemployment, which is strongly correlated with the birthrate.

Japan might be an extreme case, not least because of its lack of immigration--South Korea has become much more of an immmigrant country in a shorter period of time--but it's certainly not the only global economic power out there with lowest-low fertility. There's Germany, say, and certainly the various descriptions of the former East Germany's rapid population aging and shrinkage doesn't sound out of kilter with what Hendy has been writing about and photographing.

Spike Japan is one of those blogs that works on two different levels, as a personal travelogue and as an extended meditation on the existential economic problems of post-growth societies. Visit it for both of these reasons.

Monday, December 20, 2010

On sputtering integration in Toronto

One of the less cheerful tags ar my personal blog is "three torontos". The tag comes from a phrase in the title of a 2007 report by the University of Toronto's David Hulchanski, who found that Toronto's neighbourhoods could be divided into three categories based on patterns of income growth: neighbourhoods which saw significant income growth over the 1970-2000 period; neighbourhods which more-or-less stagnated (growth or decline of less than 20%); and, neighbourhoods which saw significant income decline. These divisions map onto enduring social, geographic, and ethnic divisions in Toronto, onto any number of patterns like the distribution of cyclists, voting in the recent municipal election, and the boundaries of the once-autonomous communities in an amalgamated Toronto. A follow-up study, available here and covered in the Globe and Mail by Anna Mehler Papierny, suggests that on the balance of existing trends Toronto's going to be polarized into two areas, have and have-nots.

Toronto is becoming a city of stark economic extremes as its middle class is hollowed out and replaced by a bipolar city of the rich and poor – one whose lines are drawn neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

New numbers indicate a 35-year trend toward economic polarization is growing more pronounced: The country’s economic engine, which has long claimed to be one of the most diverse cities in the world, is increasingly comprised of downtown-centred high-income residents – most living near subway lines – and a concentration of low-income families in less dense, service- and transit-starved inner suburbs.

Three years ago, University of Toronto professor David Hulchanski published a paper on Toronto’s “Three Cities,” illustrating a growing socioeconomic disparity among the city’s census tracts. But the three-way divide Prof. Hulchanski and his fellow Cities Centre researchers described is swiftly being reduced to two, according to a new paper they will release Wednesday. Toronto, a predominantly middle-class metropolis just three decades ago, is increasingly dominated by two opposite populations – one with an average income of $88,400, and another of $26,900.

These two groups live in different neighbourhoods, work in different sectors, send their children to different schools and have divergent and unequal access to city services and public transit. Even the 905-area suburbs outside of Toronto are seeing a dramatic drop in the proportion of middle-income earners in their population, the report finds.

Those in the lowest-income areas are also more likely to be immigrants and visible minorities.

“It’s only going to become worse,” Prof. Hulchanski said. If the trend continues, the paper suggests, Toronto in 2025 will have a concentration of high-earners along the lakefront and the city’s subway lines surrounded by low-income areas – with almost nothing in between.

[. . .]

It also seems to contradict Toronto’s most prized mottos – “Diversity our strength” and “The city that works.” Neither of those rings true any more: Toronto’s diversity is becoming balkanized, turning it into a weakness where it could otherwise act to the city’s advantage. The creation of economically polarized pockets of high- and low-income residents means Toronto simply won’t “work” as a municipal entity.

“We used to brag about it,” Prof. Hulchanski said. “ ‘Toronto’s an efficient city – it works.’ We know now that’s not true.

“To have so much poverty in one geography and for it to be so deep and for the social distance to be so large … that isn’t healthy.”

In a five-year period alone, average incomes declined in 34 of the city’s census tracts (about 7 per cent of its total) – 23 of those areas became predominantly low-income. At the same time, 12 areas became high-income and nine earned “middle-income” status.

This has to do with the exclusion of immigrants from the labour force. As the Toronto City website boasts, Toronto's population is quite cosmopolitan, absolutely and relative to other Canadian cities. A variety of sources suggest that new Canadians just aren't fitting into the labour market, as evidenced by current unemployment rates.

While jobless rates dropped both nationally and locally – to 7.6 per cent Canada-wide, the lowest level in two years, and to 6.7 per cent from 9.2 per cent earlier this year in Toronto – unemployment is ramping up for people who have come to Canada in the past five years.

In Toronto, 19.7 per cent of recent immigrants are unemployed. That’s far higher than the 13 per cent who were jobless just a year ago, and nearly three times the jobless rate for Canadian-born residents.

It’s not unusual for immigrants to be hit harder by recession and to take longer to recover their job prospects. But Toronto relies more on immigrant labour now than it has in the past: As of 2011, virtually all of the city’s job-market growth depends on immigrants.

“Because of the fact that more than 50 per cent of our residents are foreign-born, there’s a sharper thrust and a higher stress for us to do really well,” said Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation.

What’s perennially missing in a city with a plethora of disconnected services and growing socioeconomic stratification, advocates argue, are the tools to connect immigrants to jobs. To this end, the federal government has pledged $2.3-million in funds to help Torontonian immigrants integrate – cash that has gone to programs started in May of this year.

And a new initiative through Scotiabank is teaming up with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council to try to link immigrant professionals with their Canadian counterparts.

Immigrants who’ve arrived in Canada since the financial crisis face a growing Catch-22 of employment barriers, says TRIEC executive director Elizabeth McIsaac. They are at a disadvantage from the start, and the longer their lack of Canadian experience bars them from the job market, the harder it is to join and the longer their unemployment is a drag on the rest of the economy.

“If you landed in the middle of a recession and you didn’t get your first opportunity, your time out of the market exacerbates the challenges you had getting into it.… It begins to have a multiplying effect – a real scarring effect on immigrants.”'

The gap between immigrant and native-born worker incomes is taking an extra generation to close, a combination of competition from guest workers and the semi-legal labour market, a lack of Canadian-recognized credentials, and--quite possibly--the continued exclusion of new Canadians from the closed social networks of established employers and professional groups which let people join the labour market at a level befitting of their skills.

So. Ontario--including Toronto--may be doing better than in Québec in integrating immigrants into the mainstream labour market, and it's certainly doing a better job of avoiding creating a metic class than countries with less porous immigration regimes like Germany. Even with a national economy that has been performing quite strongly relative to most of its First World peers, this still isn't good enough to avoid creating a very problematic social and geographic pattern of relative deprivation linked to ethnic and national origins in Ontario's, and Canada's, largest city. This can lead in very negative directions. On ethical grounds alone, this is unacceptable.

Any suggestions as to how Toronto--and other cities--could pull out of this? Getting a sufficiently dynamic labour market, and associated economy, is key. Is there best practice to be productively shared?

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Pure" north, "impure" south: Cause for conflict in Korea?

One very notable difference between North Korea and South Korea, quite apart from their broadly different demographic profiles, lies in the ethnic and national composition of the populations of the two Koreas. These differences might even explain part of North Korea's hostility towards the South.

North Korea's population is exceptionally homogeneous. Although North Korea's ties with Communist Vietnam did see some Vietnamese students migrate, thei North Korean women, and despite the settlement of some ethnic Koreans from Japan with their wives in the decades after the Second World War, North Korea is ethnically homogeneous. The only exception to this lies with North Korean female migrants, for whom survival sex is a frequent feature of life. The luckier women marry Chinese farmers and are integrated into local communities; the unlucky ones are deported back to North Korea, where they are stigmatized for having contaminated the Korean race by consorting with ethnic Chinese men and are subject to forced abortions (at least some of the time, more sophisticated than having prison guards repeatedly kick pregnant women), and infanticide if the pregnancy is advanced (their mothers frequently being forced to watch, so as to encourage them not to err in the future).

Why such an inhuman insistence on homogeneity? Brian Myers' The Cleanest Race, partially serialized here in the New York Times, the basis of a short article in the March/April 2010 issue of Foreign Policy, argues that North Korean identity is founded on the basis of extreme xenophobia and outright racism towards non-Koreans.

North Korea's race-centric ideology was inspired by that of the fascist Japanese who ruled the peninsula from 1910 until the end of World War II. Having been taught by their colonizers to regard themselves as part of a superior Yamato race, the North Koreans in 1945 simply carried on the same mythmaking in a Koreanized form. This can be summarized in a single sentence: The Korean people are too pure-blooded, and so too virtuous, to survive in this evil world without a great parental leader. This paranoid nationalism might sound crude and puerile, but it is only in this ideological context that the country's distinguishing characteristics, which the outside world has long found so baffling, make perfect sense. Up close, North Korea is not Stalinist -- it's simply racist.

The celebration of racial purity and homogeneity is everywhere in North Korea. The citizens pictured on the country's new currency, for example, could pass for members of the same family, which in a sense they are. A worker in one painting appears much like a farmer or soldier in another, while the children pictured in schoolbooks are downright identical. White is the dominant color in Pyongyang: White concrete plazas, white or at least blond-stoned buildings, and white statues of virginal maidens in long gowns abound. Pyongyang is often photographed or depicted under snow, a favored symbol of purity itself. "Our nation has always considered its pure lineage to be of great importance," a North Korean general told his South Korean counterpart during a 2006 meeting to discuss realignment of the maritime border between the two states. "Since ancient times our lands have been one of abundant natural beauty," he said. "Not even one drop of ink must be allowed."

And what about South Korea? There's a large and growing number of immigrants in South Korea, roughly divisible between economic migrants and marriage migrants. South Korea's future is as likely faces a as an immigration country.

As Young-bum Park observed in 2004, South Korea in the 1990s was caught up in the same consistent dynamic as other high-income economies.

Due to its low unemployment rate, by the early 1990s South Korea realized it needed temporary labor to fill unskilled jobs that natives were becoming less and less willing to do. In fact, without foreign labor, it would have been nearly impossible to keep the "tiger" economy growing.

As a country that places a high value on its homogeneity, this also marked the beginning of a tension that continues today: the need for foreign labor versus the desire to remain a purely Korean nation with strict immigration policies.

One early source of immigration to South Korea was the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, an autonomous district in eastern Jilin province historically with a Korean majority. This became a minority owing to various factors including low birth rates, assimilation proceeded and emigration to Chinese cities and South Korea, the claims that Yanbian constituted a "Third Korea" aside. Perhaps ironically, Jeanyoung Lee reports that these immmigrants are somewhat unpopular, especially in the work environment.

Other nationalities began to feature in the country's statistics. The number of Mongolian immigrants began to grow sharply--a 2008 press report commented on a Mongolian-born Korean citizen who was now herself an immigration official. Other large groups included Vietnamese and Filipinos, often workers or as women recruited to marry local men. This latter in particular may as radically alter South Korea's ethnic composition, at least as it is perceived to be homogeneous. Many smaller nationalities are also present, such as Iranians. All of these migrants could be far outnumbered by North Korean migrants/refugees if/when that country collapses.

Perhaps the most notable form of immigration, insofar as South Korea's future is concerned, is that of non-native women. For decades, selective abortions resulted in the local sex ratio being strongly biased towards men. In later years, this led to shortages of marriageable women, especially in rural areas of South Korea. How did South Korean men respond? South Korea, like Taiwan, responded to the gender imbalance by "importing" women of non-local background. Some of the effects of this are summarized in Yonhap News's English-language edition by Ben Jackson.

Until recently, any introduction to South Korea included the mention of its ethnic homogeneity without fail. Once known as a "Hermit Kingdom," the country was where blood and nationhood were one and the same, and mixing with foreign blood was considered undesirable.

These days, however, South Korea's rapid economic, cultural and demographic changes are unleashing new trends and currents that flow far beyond the country's borders. International marriage, once regarded as an anomaly by many Koreans, has become a significant social phenomenon.

[. . .]

Mixed-nationality unions in South Korea are often regarded as being confined largely to the countryside, where many young men struggle to attract Korean spouses to a life perceived as less comfortable than the city, but statistics show that the practice is now far from uncommon in Seoul and other metropolitan areas.

According to 2009 research, the rising ratio of men to women of "marriage age" would reach a peak by 2014. This means that in terms of pure numbers, two out of every 10 men will be unable to marry because of a lack of women.

Women also appear to be putting off marriage: While in 1975 only 11.8 percent of women aged 25-29 were unmarried, the figure had risen to 59.1 percent by 2005.

[. . .]

"A lot fewer Joseon-jok (ethnic Koreans living in China) are marrying Korean men, while the number of brides from places like the Philippines and Vietnam is increasing," she said.

"The recent decrease may be because Koreans and foreigners are becoming more aware of the potential difficulties of international marriage, and because many men that were looking for international marriages have now tied the knot."

Jang also points out that in terms of sheer numbers, many more international marriages take place in Seoul, its metropolitan region and other big cities because of the overall concentration of population in these areas.

In terms of percentage, more international marriages still occur in rural regions, she said.

Indeed, fertility rates among immigrant women in at least some parts of South Korea are significantly higher than among native Korean women, although fertility in the former population is well below replacement. These children of mixed nationality often face significant discrimination. Still, there are signs that the Korean government is trying to change this.

A recent study by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs projected that immigrants and their descendants will account for more than 5 percent of the Korean population by 2050. That’s more than 2 million people, a sevenfold increase from the 309,841 this year.

According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, international marriages now make up 10 percent of all marriages in Korea. The ministry said the number of interracial children rose from 44,258 in 2007 to 121,935 in 2010.

[. . .]

To help absorb these multiethnic families, the ministry four years ago established about 160 family-support centers across the nation that offer language education and vocational training because immigrants often suffer from language and cultural barriers.

“The number of mixed-race children will continue to grow and [the future of] the Korean population depends on the fate of the immigrants’ descendants,” said Lee Sam-sik, director of the low-fertility division at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.

Politicians are paying close attention to the surge in the number of multiethnic children, in part because they would have the right to vote when they turn 19.

The ruling Grand National Party has responded to such trends by supporting multiethnic centers in each district and devising assistance programs for families.

[. . .]

Foreigners in Korea have largely settled into low-incomes lives. Most foreign women marry older farmers or manual laborers, and 59.7 percent of mixed-race families live on less than 2 million won ($1,786) per month, according to statistics from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

The migrants are themselves trying to organize, too.

The mixed-nationality children of South Korea are going to play a hugely important role in determining South Korea's future. If such a high proportion of South Korea's rising generation are of mixed ethnic origins, and if--as seems possible--their mothers retain links with their homelands, it's not impossible that South Korea could transition quickly enough into a society of mass immigration. Maybe South Korea will see a Spanish-style multiplication of its immigrant population; maybe it won't. Given current attitudes towards people of mixed and foreign background, I'd be inclined to expect relatively problematic integration, but then, things can change. Add to this the efforts of South Koreans to promote vulnerable Seoul as a world city, a cosmopolitan centre that plays a major role in the world's economic, political, and cultural circuits, one that will necessarily attract people from around the world. Whatever the outcome of these trends, the myth that South Korea is an ethnically homogeneous society is going to come to an end.

What does such a profoundly chauvinistic regime as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea think about what its leaders might consider the "adulteration" of "pure" Korean blood? I have my suspicions. Might this influence their policy-making? Possibly; would they see a government that did nothing to prevent the contamination of its supposedly pure gene pool, but actually encouraged it, as legitimate?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

On the inevitable dominance of Seoul in South Korea

The recent shelling of South Korea's Yongpyeong island by North Korean-South has obviously been quite disturbing. It likely won't come to war, notwithstanding being the most substantial confrontation between the Koreas since the armistice. If it did come to war ... Anatoly Karlin's scenario for a second Korean war does have an eventual South Korean-US victory over the North, but one coming at the cost of hundreds of thousands of casualties--military and civilian, mostly North but also South and American. The economic costs, both directly to the Koreans and indirectly to the wider world, almost don't stand thinking about.

One of the most worrying things about North Korea's military threat to the South lies in the fact that Seoul--the historical capital of Korea, and a metropolitan area home to half of South Korea's 50 million people--is within range of North Korean artillery. Although--as Karlin notes--growing military superiority may allow for successful preemptive strikes, and despite ongoing efforts to build sufficient shelters for Seoul's population, the city is obviously at risk. Close to the 38th parallel that inspired the post-1953 DMZ, Seoul's prosperity is fragile.

Over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, Charli Carpenter put forward a proposal by one Robert Kelly to diminish South Korea's vulnerability to the North by decentralizing the country, moving population from the northwest of the country to the southern areas.

The various criticisms of this plan--that it would be very expensive, that it would take a long time to make any noticeable shift in the distribution of South Korean population, that it would be illiberal, that it would be a waste of money once reunification/regime change came, that it would be illiberal, that expecting South Korea to move its capital from Seoul would be as plausible as expecting France to move its capital to Lille or Lyon, and that given South Korea's small size it's not obvious that even a partially successful decentralization would make much difference--all stand. The first comment is the one I like best.

Cities are built on geography and human inertia. What starts as trade routes and resource-rich regions result in the financial, government and service structures to support those primary industries. That’s what causes the influx of immigrants, the concentration of wealth, and eventually the self-sustaining nature of the city.

Cities don’t die unless that fundamental geographic economic advantage disappears. While there might be ways of encouraging growth in the south, there won’t be a fundamental shift of population without a regional economic incentive.

Moving the government buildings from one spot to another might shift a population, but only a small portion of it. Only 16 US state capitals are located in the largest city of the state, after all.

The commenters, it should be noted, did agree that inasmuch as state policies discouraged investment and development outside Seoul, these policies should be changed to favour the growth of the second tier of South Korean cities.

This sort of sentiment isn't new. The idea of decentralizing population and industry in a centralized country was most prominent in France, where geographer Jean-François Gravier coined the phrase "Paris and the French desert" to describe the dominance of Paris over the rest of France. Owing to early declines in birth rates, and perhaps also the concentration of immigrants in Paris (and other cities), many regions of France saw their populations stagnate and decline, while Paris become ever-more powerful in a centralized republic. After the Second World War, systematic government planning did aimed to promote decentralization.

Industrialisation in France was based, as in other countries, on coalfields. The black countries in the North, Lorraine and Massif Central were the first centres of the steel, chemical and textile industries. But the second phase of industrialisation was of greater advantage to Paris, as major industries, such as cars, aircraft, engineering and electrical goods, began operations in and near the city. In one hundred years, the population of the capital, which was already 2 million at the end of the 19th century, grew fivefold.

[. . .]

The planning body, DATAR, was set up in the early years of the Fifth Republic (1963). Its work is centralising by nature, but its effects have been contradictory. At first, the division between Paris and the “provinces” (a condescending term, now replaced by “regions”) was accentuated. Paris, the centre of politics, the economy, research and culture is also the hub of infrastructure networks. The web of roads and railways was strengthened by new forms of transport: motorways, high-speed TGV trains and airports.

Furthermore, industrial policy in the Gaullist period focused on aerospace and the nuclear and electronic sectors for reasons both military and civilian. This planned industrial policy, based on nationalised industries, was the origin of what are now called new technologies. But the new technologies were located in the Paris region, where they had all the elements required for their development: grandes écoles, universities, CNRS and the military-industrial complex.

This process of concentrating highly qualified employment in metropolitan areas was extended to other cities. Those that already had an industrial, university and technological basis, such as Grenoble, Toulouse and Bordeaux, benefited from the establishment of aerospace industry, nuclear and electronic research centres and became science cities. Other regional cities created science parks, such as Montpellier, Lyon, Nancy, Metz, Rennes, Nantes, Lille, Nice and Marseille. Publicly funded science research was more evenly spread across the country and privately funded research set up closer to universities.

The net effect may have been to decentralize France, to allow second tier cities to emerge as niche competitors to Paris. French efforts to decentralize the country, however, had two negative effects.

  • First, as Bernard Marchand wrote in his September 2010 essay "The concept of "territory" in French planning: An essay in dialectical analysis", French planning not only aimed to support regional centres, but to support rural territories which possessed unviable economies at the expense of urban and suburban areas which desperately needed attention and government investment, what he called an overemphasis of territory over households.

  • Secondly, trying to diminish Paris risked harming Paris' status as a world city. In a very real sense, Paris' competitors aren't Lille and Lyons, but rather London and New York City. Depriving Paris to boost the second tier of French cities would harm Paris' rank in this clasisfication, and, by extension, France itself.

  • The same problems would apply to Seoul and South Korea. Indeed, Paris and Seoul are classified by one author as "macrocephalic" cities, places where geography and governance and economics and population have concentrated to produce one urban centre that completely dominates the rest of the country. (Vienna and Budapest, former imperial capitals now the metropolises of much smaller rump states, and a Bangkok more developed by far than the Thai countryside, also fall into this category.) Sociology Danny Dorling's 2008 paper "London and the English Desert: The grain of truth in a stereotype" argues that Greater London is starting to acquire a similar position of dominance in England. Other cities--Tokyo-Yokohama in Japan, Buenos Aires in Argentina, perhaps, Johannesburg in South Africa, or Baghdad in Iraq--might be in similar positions.

    Is it in the interest of the South Koreans to decentralize their population so radically? Military vulnerability aside, it doesn't seem to be the case. Regardless of what policies have encouraged Seoul to become so dominant in South Korea's urban hierarchy, and the legitimacy of these policies (the decisions of military dictators to concentrate everything in the national capital comes to mind), Seoul is now what it is. Trying to take the metropolis apart--as opposed to trying to promote growth in other major urban centres, and perhaps using high-speed commuter connections to functionally fuse more cities in South Korea with the capital--would involve massive and expensive population shifts, to say nothing of the strong possibility that there might not be many places to hide in a compact South Korea. It would certainly hurt Seoulites efforts to promote Seoul as a world city.

    South Korea's population is caught in an unenviable situation, living in a thriving city that's at risk of devastation. In this respect, Seoul might not be unlike the cities of the Cold War world, which regardless of their ideological affiliations were vulnerable to annihilation in the space of a half-hour at most. I can only hope that the experts are right when they say that an escalation to war is unlikely, and that the Koreas--even North Korea, however unlikely it may be--will be as lucky as the rest of the world was.

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    A coda for Statistics Canada

    The long-form census so vital for Statistics Canada's production of information--something I blogged about this September--is not coming back. Statistical agencies elsewhere in the world have taken note, like the European Statistcal System in its Governing Advisory Board's annual report.

    Official statistics have to be professionally independent, strong and of high quality. One indispensable precondition is that the ESS as a whole must be in a position to resist outside pressures when it comes to its core professional competences. Since the peer reviews in 2006-2008, the legislation has been revised to strengthen the professional independence of the statistical services in one third of the countries in the ESS. In five countries the legal process is either under way or being planned. However, legal proceedings can be lengthy and in two countries the revision process is exceedingly slow. Moreover, some of the revisions do not yet guarantee professional independence explicitly enough, particularly in countries where complex legal structures or ministerial dirigisme can be observed.

    While close interaction with the political and budgetary authorities is required, the legislation should specify the parties involved in and procedures for planning statistical programmes. Legislation and the final perimeter of statistical outputs should be left to political decision-makers, but decisions on methods, standards and procedures and on the content and timing of press releases should remain in the hands of the statistical services. However, in one country the statistical institute itself reports, and in six others stakeholders have pointed to, shortcomings in the content and timing of releases, multiannual programming and the role and status of the Director-General.

    Strong legislation underpinning the professional independence of statistical services is a necessary condition for good governance, but is not sufficient on its own. For example, a revised Statistical Law is now in place in Greece, but implementation must still be carefully monitored, as it takes time to change the administrative culture. On the other hand, in a few countries history and tradition are considered to induce de facto professional independence, even if the legislation does not fully comply with the Code [of Practice]. This was also assumed to be the case in Canada but proved wrong (7-8).

    In an interview by Sharon Broadfoot in the Ottawa Citizen, this is expanded upon.

    "We were utterly astonished, given our view of Canadian statistics. We didn't expect it to happen in Canada, quite frankly," said Johnny Akerholm, chair of ESGAB. "We've all been full of admiration of everything that is going on in the statistical field in Canada. Canada has frequently been seen as the benchmark, the best performer."

    ESGAB was established by the European Parliament in 2008 to boost the professional independence, integrity and accountability of European statistical agencies. One of the tenets of the organization's code of practice is that the autonomy of statistical agencies should be guaranteed by legislation, and the annual report cites Canada as a country where the statistical agency had a tradition of independence, until the government exercised "dormant legal powers" in making changes to the census.

    [. . .]

    Greece provides a recent example of the importance of reliable statistics produced free of political interference, Akerholm said, noting that the country's statistics obscured the true depth of financial troubles that are now rippling through the European Union.

    "Of course, the figures might be all right even if you have a political influence, but there could always be the suspicion," he said.

    Note the linkage of Canada with Greece. This is not a good thing. And yet, as Don Cayo of the Vancouver Sun notes, Canada's situation will look brighter with the tricks of the new voluntary survey in much the same way that the tricks of Greece's government-influenced statistical agency made that country's economic situation look so much better.

    We'll be seen to be richer than we were just a few years earlier, not to mention better educated and more universally able to communicate in Canada's two official languages.

    Of course, it won't be true. This will be a distorted picture painted by the 2011 census. Thanks to the federal government's decision to scrap the mandatory long-form questionnaire, it can be expected to seriously under-represent huge groups of lower-income Canadians who'd make the picture grittier -- not to mention more realistic. And much more useful.

    Of course, even though it's fairly easy to predict which groups are likely to be under-represented, there is -- without the mandatory long-form data -- no way to know the magnitude or distribution of the under-count for any given group. This matters.

    "The census is used enormously widely," Fellegi told me when we talked shortly after a private meeting of the cabinet-appointed National Statistics Council last week. "City planners, for example. Or business people who want to decide where to put a plant, and whether they can find the kind of labour they need in a neighbourhood, or where they should open another retail outlet or shopping centre. Or a school, for that matter, or an immigrant assistance centre, or a home for the elderly."

    John Richards, a public policy professor at Simon Fraser University and a member of the Statistics Council, noted that StatsCan has gone to unusual lengths to figure out who it's most likely to miss when the long-form survey becomes voluntary. It has reexamined its 2006 data from three cities -- Toronto, Winnipeg and Bathurst, N.B. -- to see which respondents replied readily and which ones had to be chased and cajoled. [. . .] What this study showed first is that it's the smaller centres -- places such as Bathurst, with about 15,000 people -- whose results are most likely to be seriously skewed. And those results will under-count immigrants and aboriginals in particular, as well as some other lower-income groups.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Five noteworthy links

    This morning, I thought I'd share five population-related blog posts of interest with you. (It is still morning in Toronto.)

  • At the Economist's Eastern Approaches blog, notice was made of a recent conference on the plight of the Romani of Romania. There's room for hope, but then, it also seems like the Romanian government and many ordinary people would like the Romani to, quietly, take advantage of Schengen Zone and leave, so lightening the burden. Among other things

  • No clear consensus emerged on the impact of EU funds on Romania's Romanies, most of whom live in dire conditions. This is no great surprise considering that red tape and ministerial incompetence has meant that only about 1% of the €20 billion allocated to Romania in EU structural funds has actually been spent. Government programmes for the Romanies, such as positive discrimination for universities, barely scratch the surface. Most of Romania's Romanies remain marginalised, with little or no access to healthcare, education or social services.

    But the conference did have two interesting outcomes. One was a discussion of an excellent piece of research by the World Bank, which states that the cost of educating Romania's Romanies would be far exceeded by the contribution an educated Romani workforce would make to the national economy. The opportunity presented by the report suggested that all the chatter—by both government representatives and Romani leaders—about strategy, empowerment, consultation, rights, monitoring, community projects, exclusion, research, discrimination and poverty was missing the point.

  • The Global Sociology blog examines the migration of soccer players from player-sending countries and regions (Africa, Latin America, eastern Europe) to player-receiving countries. It illustrates how "individual trajectories shape up to be [. . .] a function of interaction with specific social networks and human intermediation, social capital, economic and speculative interests, competitive advantages and structured inequalities in the world-system."

  • * The platform space: the first country to which the player comes from (often the periphery or the semi-periphery)
    * The stepping stone space: the country from which the player gains access to a “big league” country (for instance, less dominant European countries in the European football world)
    * The transit space: the country the player passes through and leaves and where the level of competition is what he is used to
    * The relay space: the country where the player was loaned before he returned to either the stepping stone or the transit space
    * The destination space: the wealthiest and most prestigious leagues and clubs (England)

  • At his New England History blog (New England being the northeastern part of the Australian state of New South Wales, not the American region), Jim Belshaw describes how demographic changes--accompanied, of course, by all manner of changes including fluctuation gender roles and theological and institutional innovation, with hostile and confused reactions to these prevailing--helped undermine the Methodist and Roman Catholic religious communities in his region (and, I suspect Australia, as most of the industrialized world).

    In the Australia of 2009, it is hard to believe that majority of the Australian population once lived outside the capital cities. The decline in country Australia began in the nineteenth century, but accelerated during the twentieth century and especially in the period after the Second World War. Uralla really suffered - by the 1960s and 1970s even its main stores had closed.

    This decline reduced the population available to the Methodist Church. However, the Church's decline was accentuated by other factors. A key was the social structure of the Church itself. To survive, the Church had to reach out beyond its now middle class base; it could not because of the attitudes of its membership and especially its senior laity. Dempsey quotes case after case where those in the lower middle and working classes with some connection to Methodism dropped out because they felt excluded.

    [. . .]

    The mass Australian mass migration program that began at the end of the Second World War brought to Australia more than a million non-Irish Catholics. The Church and its orders such as the Ursulines struggled to build and staff the schools required to educate the new arrivals. Then came waves of change and reform that swept the Church and confused the laity, but even more so the religious whose entire life had been built around previous structures.

  • At the Discover=hosted blog Not Rocket Science, Ed Yong reports on a study demonstrating that there is discrimination against people of Senegalese background in the French labour market. And if anything, relatively positive stereotypes of the Senegalese might mean they're doing better than other groups.

  • Khadija Diouf had a well-known Muslim first name and an obvious Senegalese surname and had worked with Secours Islamique, a humanitarian organisation. Marie Diouf had worked for its counterpart Secours Catholique and had an obvious Christian first name. And Aurélie Ménard had a typical French name with no religious connotations and had only worked for secular firms.

    In the spring of 2009, Adida collected ads for secretarial and accounting jobs from the French national employment agency and grouped them into pairs, matched for area, sector, company size and position. For each pair, both received Aurélie’s CV while one received Khadija’s and one received Marie’s.

    The results were striking. Marie Diouf got a positive response on 21% of her applications; she was clearly an employable (if fictional) young woman. But Khadija Diouf – her exact equal in virtually every respect – got callbacks from just 8% of her applications. For every 100 interviews that Marie was called for, Khadija was summoned for just 38. Even after Adida included a photo on the applications (the same one, showing a woman who was clearly not North African), she found the same bias.

  • Carl Haub at the Population Reference Blog's Behind the Numbers wonders whether, in light of continued low fertility rates and profound ambivalence towardss immigration, economic rationales might mean Germany could adopt a more open policy towards immigrants, perhaps using something akin to Canada's points system to accumulate skilled migrants.

  • [A}ccording to a study conducted by Bernd Raffelhü, [. . .] not only are immigrants being sought to fill technical positions in German industry but, throughout their lifetimes, they actually contribute more to government coffers than they take out. The German economics minister also stated that German companies are clamoring for workers.

    Often, immigrants are portrayed as a burden on the state budget. The study concluded that that was true in the past but well-trained immigrants in higher paying fields make an immediate contribution through taxes and increase the size of the consumer market. Given their younger age than the workforce in general, such benefits can begin immediately. While it is true that some immigrants will take lower paying jobs that Germans themselves no longer want, an increased emphasis on skilled workers will fill many gaps. The study also recommended that immigrants and their children must integrate into German society, a point recently made by Chancellor Merkel, so that Germans do not feel that their country is becoming too multicultural.

  • Co-blogger Scott Peterson, at Wasatch Economics reports on how Ireland's economic catastrophe has reawakened the old trade of emigration, this one directed to countries like Canada and Australia which have escaped the worst of things. The strict rules that potential destination countries have established, Scott notes, aren't going to help things.
  • Saturday, November 20, 2010

    On Guernsey's population control

    Reading yesterday's Financial Times, I found the insert describing how the Channel Island of Guernsey with its financial sector was coping with the global financial crisis interesting. (It's doing well, apparently.) My curiosity was piqued by a passing mention that Guernsey had an official policy of limiting population. What, I wondered, was up with that?

    Guernsey is an island with a land area of 78 square kilometres. As of March 2009, Guernsey (according to the government's 2009 Population Bulletin) had a total population of 62 274 people. Until recently, Guernsey's population history was one of slow growth (doubling from twenty to forty thousand from 1821 to 1901) followed by periods of decline and slow growth (growing from forty to forty-five thousand between 1901 and 1961). Migration tended to be emigration, nearly four thousand Channel Islanders settling in New Zealand in the late 19th century, for instance. With an economy historically dependent on agriculture, fishing, and long-distance trade, there was relatively little reason for anyone to stay and any number of pathways to leave.

    This changed in the post-war era when Guernsey's government, like the government of Jersey and the other Channel Islands, began to promote the island as an off-shore financial sector. This succeeded enormously, making the island prosperous, with barely any unemployment and a history of sustained growth that has made this microstate one of the richest entities in the world. Guernsey's comparative advantage remains there, with things like online gambling and forays into information technology being promoted for alternatives, tourism and the primary sector declining (Guernsey retains a more diversified economy than Jersey, mind). This prosperity attracted immigrants, both people with professional skills and people wanting to take advantage of other areas of the labour market. Guernsey's age pyramid shows a decided imbalance towards men in the younger age groups.

    The problem with immigration, as seen from the Guernsey perspective, is that Guernsey is already very densely populated. An increased population would impact negatively, it seems, on their perceived quality of life.

    On one side of the argument are those islanders – I suspect they’re a big majority – who feel the island is already rather overcrowded. It’s not an issue of misanthropy or xenophobia but rather just a natural desire to live in a place with a bit of breathing space. Most islanders don’t want to become urban dwellers. Not even in an up market, city-state, surrounded by pretty bays and beautiful seascapes. The vision of Guernsey as “Hong Kong dans la Manches” is a nightmare for most locals and settlers alike.

    Every time a few hundred more residents are added to the population it inevitably impacts on quality of life in the island. Not because the incomers aren’t thoroughly good sorts but just because its means more cars on our limited road system and more homes in a community where open space is already at a premium. It also puts more stress on our infrastructure – more water and electricity to be supplied, more educational and healthcare needs, not forgetting more rubbish to be disposed of.

    So there is a strong qualitative case for ending Guernsey’s historic trend of steady population growth which has gone on unabated, bar a couple of blips, since the island’s first census in 1821 showed a population of just 20,302. The $64,000 question is how?

    The key element to date in Guernsey's population control strategy is to strictly regulate housing. Most housing on the island is strictly licensed, and migrants fall into two categories, those who have essential skills and can settle with their families for extended periods of time, and those who don't.

    Is it working? Slow population growth is continuing notwithstanding these regulations, and--perhaps--a shift away from traditional sectors of the economy like horticulture dependent on unskilled workers. The restricted talent pool, is making many businesses favour greater flexibility--the Chamber of Commerce would like to see more flexibility, growth or (less likely) decline of up to 10%. The aging of Guernsey's population, meanwhile, will create more problems.

    [Consultant Greg] Yeoman said forecasts had predicted that by 2040, the number of people aged 65-84 would have nearly doubled and that those aged over 85 would have gone up by 150%, meaning the island’s dependency ratio will have increased by 64% from 0.48 to 0.79.

    ‘There will be an insufficient labour pool to support diverse business growth,’ said Mr Yeoman.

    ‘People are struggling to fill these positions now, so imagine how much harder it will be if we have 7,000 fewer in our working population.’

    He said the offshoot of this would be hugely problematic, with an explosion in the cost of providing health and social care and the unsustainability of the States pension given as just two examples.

    Based on my own personal and other history with small islands, I'm used to the idea that emigration is the major problem. Coming up against Guernsey with the reverse was a thought-provoking experience.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    On the difficulties of emigration in Senegal

    One theme we at Demography Matters have explored in the past is the substantial new phenomenon of Senegalese migration to Spain. Two news articles on some of the problems the people living in communities dependent on remittances face jumped out at me.

  • The Spiegel International's Dialika Krahe has an article, "The Second Niodior: Spanish Wages Keep African Island Afloat", examining how the island of Niodior off the coast south of Dakar is critically dependent on remittances in order to meet the demands of the villagers at home for a better life. The migrants are willing to take enormous risks to reach their destinations.

  • Those who believe that there are too many foreigners in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Spain perceive someone like Mamadou Ndour -- a man who has left Niodior Island for Europe's coast -- as a threat to peace and prosperity on the Old Continent.

    Ndour works in a gigantic greenhouse in Roquetas de Mar on the Spanish coast, where he is currently crouched over, cutting zucchini from low-growing vines. "You cut one off, throw it in the box and look for the next one. You spend the whole day bent over." The French words in his head have gradually given way to Spanish ones. He laughs when he confuses the two languages. "€30 ($42) for eight hours," says Ndour. "This isn't what I had expected in Europe."

    Ndour, 31, a tall young man, is wearing a light-brown T-shirt that's frayed around the collar. He has been living in Spain as a clandestino, or illegal immigrant, for the last three years. "It's hard work," he says, as he tosses the green vegetables into crates under the watchful eye of a Spanish farmer. He says that he was able to send his parents €150 ($214) recently.

    Ndour was a fisherman back in Niodior. The little money he earned was enough to pay for food, but not enough to buy medication for his parents. And it wasn't enough to make a wife happy one day, he adds.

    [. . .]

    Niodior is a test case of sorts, an island whose sons working in Roquetas de Mar in southern Spain are its most important source of income. Month after month, more of Niodior's young men disappear, traveling in their wooden boats to the Canary Islands, where they are then taken to the Spanish mainland. Almost every mother in the village now has a son living in Spain.

    [. . .]

    Since the economic crisis began, says [a migrant], unemployment in Spain has risen so sharply that they are no longer just competing with each other, but more and more frequently with Spaniards who come to Roquetas de Mar to earn money under the table. The unemployment rate among migrant workers in Spain rose to 27 percent in 2009, compared with 16 percent in 2008.

    [. . .]

    The next young man who plans to embark on the trip from the Senegalese Niodior to its counterpart in Spain is Sita Thiare, Moussa's younger brother. "I know that the trip is dangerous," says his father. When a family doesn't hear anything from a son for a year, he is declared dead and the imam is invited to participate in a ceremony. The father says that he knows of many families that have lost sons. "But we are all counting on Sita," he says, adding that he will have the money saved up for his passage in a few months, Inshallah.

  • The French-language Rue 89's Aurélie Fontaine, meanwhile, examines in "Au Sénégal, la solitude des femmes d'émigrés" ("In Senegal, the loneliness of the wives of emigrants") how some of the people left behind, while benefiting from remittances, are trying to cope.

    Seated on a beige leather sofa, his long legs dangle over the armrest. C'est dans son salon qu'Awa (les prénoms ont été changés) déroule sa vie de femme mariée à un « modou-modou », comme on appelle les émigrés au Sénégal. It was in her living room that Awa (all names have been changed) lives out her life married to a "modou-modou," as migrants are called in Senegal.

    The couple has a 3 year old boy. His father has never seen him. Without papers, he could not return to Senegal and run the risk of not being able to return. Meanwhile, phone call and daily video uploads maintain the link the link. : Awa asks:

    "In ten years of marriage, we have lived only four months together. Without this separation, how many children could we have had? How many things could we have done?"

    [. . .]

    Her story is that of most women of Louga, 200 km north of Dakar, the capital. It's in this city of 200,000 inhabitants that emigrants are most numerous.

    Pushed by their family, by their friends, many young girls believe that marrying a modou-modou will take care of their wants. And if the global economic crisis has complicated this pattern, ideals remain stubborn. Awa relates:

    "Between themselves, the girls say: 'If this is not an emigrant, did not marry him. Some even leave their boyfriends for a modou-modou they barely know."

    The model is so deeply rooted in society and in the Fouta region (northern Senegal), "the men complain about not finding women because they are not immigrants," said Fatou Sarr Sow, a sociologist and migration gender specialist migration.

    [. . .]

    15 000 to 20 000 men in the region of Louga are in Europe (Spain, Italy and France) and 5 000-6 000 in the U.S., according to Amadou Fall, Deputy Mayor of Louga. The young people are fleeing unemployment rate of 60%.

    As in the West during the wars, a large majority of the city's population consists of women who have not seen their husband for two, four, six or even ten years.

    The effects in subsequent generations on this disruption of family life will be worth studying.
  • The Spiegel on East German workforce shortages

    I thought our readers might be interested in the Spiegel International article "Eastern Germany Confronts Skilled Labor Shortage". Finally, the low fertility rates and mass emigration are starting to bite.

    The eastern states are ahead of the rest of the country in at least one respect: From Rügen in the north to Plauen in the south, the lack of skilled workers that western states will not fully experience until about 10 years from now has already become reality.

    In the third quarter of 2010, the number of open positions throughout Germany grew to 986,000, a 19 percent increase over the same period last year, and the trend will only intensify in 2011. Although some three million people are also registered as unemployed, this doesn't solve the problem.

    Labor market experts use the term "mismatch" to describe a situation in which an unemployed person is not offered any of the unfilled positions on the market. Either the job seeker has the wrong qualifications or none at all, is too old, is insufficiently mobile or is unsuitable for other reasons. Additional job training and costly qualification measures are a stopgap solution at best.

    [. . .]

    The microcosm of southern Thuringia offers a telling example of what has become symptomatic for parts of the east, particularly along the former border between East and West Germany and the booming regions surrounding the cities of Dresden, Jena and Potsdam. In the district around Eisfeld, not far from the border of Bavaria, for example, the number of open positions was 48.8 percent higher in October 2010 than it was in October of 2009. Unemployment there is 6.7 percent, which is about the same as the average in the West. There are already about 16,000 commuters who drive to work every day from the West to the East.

    [. . .]

    For employees, the initial consequences are not unpleasant. On the whole, wages will increase and the income gap between the East and the West will narrow. This is what the Dresden branch of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research expects, and so do others. "Wages will explode, especially for new hires," says industrial sociologist Burkart Lutz, adding that there will be a "substantial increase in average wages." At the same time, however, the lack of skilled workers creates "a substantial potential for crisis," especially for companies in eastern Germany, says Lutz. In the worst case, the region could be in for "another wave of deindustrialization."

    Go, read.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    On the poor sense of blaming the young for below-replacement fertility

    I want to begin this post by stating that this brief piece from the Baltic Course seems excessively compressed to me, and suspect it doesn't do Mezs' arguments about the tenuous nature of Latvia's demographic patterns justice.

    In a hundred years, the population of Latvia will have dropped to around 10 percent of its current level; if current demographic trends continue, there will be only 300,000 Latvians in the world in 2100, the newspaper "Latvijas Avize" was told by Ilmars Mezs, director of the Latvian office of the UN's International Organization for Migration.

    "The only way to stop immigrants overwhelming your country is to create more of your own children," believes Mezs, adding that if the demographic situation is not improved, the preservation of culture - the Song Festival, choirs, the Latvian language - are meaningless. "If we do not make sure that we have our own descendents, then there is no point in worrying about what to preserve or what songs to sing."

    Mezs notes that despite difficult historical conditions such as wars, plagues and famines, the country's forebears always managed to create a new generation and sustain the nation, adding that if they had made calculations based on their financial situation the way their descendents now do, many of the country's current inhabitants would never have been born.

    The UN expert notes that with each year, Latvia loses the equivalent of the population of a medium-sized town, such as Kuldiga or Talsi, due to deaths exceeding births. Meanwhile, "the Estonians have achieved the growth of their nation by a small county every year, while in Latvia every year we lose a whole town," said Mezs.

    According to Mezs, the problem in Latvia is the cult of possessions and careers. "We cannot afford children, because we have to finish our university course and start a successful career. After that we need to buy a big flat, pay off the loan for our new car, travel... but children come much lower in our list of priorities."

    Additionally, I would like to note that I agree quite entirely with Eliana Marino's guest blog this July past, exploring the particulars of the Latvian situation (below-replacement fertility, high mortality, very high emigration) and the ways in which this is already harming Latvia's future. Being concerned about population dynamics in Latvia is an entirely legitimate concern.

    But. I really have to say that, as a member of the younger generation that's often blamed for not producing enough children to keep working-age populations large and young, the strategy of blaming the young for not making massive compromises that previous generations chose not to make themselves, all with the goal of supporting previous generations in the expected style, is difficult. Why shouldn't I judge if I can afford to be a parent right now? Should I have stayed out of university? Is wanting something other than a studio apartment a sin? Maybe I should opt out of urban civilization entirely and become a peasant, tilling the fields to support a family of antedelivian proportions.

    Please. If young people can't afford the sacrifices needed to be parents at an early age, governments--elected, it should be noted, disproportionately by people from older age groups than the young being denounced--should perhaps try to change the economic and other structures which might keep us from being parents at a young date. Damning us for things not under our control and for not having done things others haven't done ourselves could be very counterproductive.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    War and demography

    The 11th of November is Remembrance Day in Canada and other Commonwealth countries, known as Veterans Day in the United States or as Armistice Day in France and elsewhere. As a commemoration of the first industrialized mass war of the 20th century and prototype for the broader second, it's a unifying symbol.

    War impacts demographics. Obviously. My co-blogger The Oberamtmann at History and Futility noted that in a piece of his examining Armistice Day in France.

    In World War One, America lost 117,465, 0.13% of the population, and fought only at the end. The standard narrative of the war is fresh American troops coming and making the difference because they had not already been fighting for four straight years. France lost 1,697,800 soldiers and civilians, making up 4.29% of the population, a much bigger blow. The vast majority of World War One’s Western Front was on French soil. France’s early defeat in World War Two spared it from many of the human losses, in terms of body count, that it suffered in World War One. World War Two was America’s second-bloodiest war after the Civil War. I think France limiting November 11 to the First World War is a sensible decision.

    Not, it should be noted, that France did better than the United States in the second, particularly insofar as civilian losses were concerned, just that losses were well below one percent of the population.

    War changes demographics, through decreased natality and increased mortality, through forced migrations and rapid sectoral change in economies, through the different tissues of human relationships torn and knitted, through its asymmetrical impacts on different populations. France might well not have been such a magnet for immigration in the 1920s and 1930s had its population of young working-age men not been gutted; communal tensions in Canada, themselves partly motivated by demographics, were aggravated greatly by the First World War in particular; the relationships of Poles and Ukrainians with their shared province of Galicia has coloured the 20th century to a surprising degree; a partial homogenization of German culture across regions may owe much to the resettlement and redistribution of ethnic Germans from across central Europe across West Germany. War changes a lot of things.

    What specific changes, or impacts, come to your mind?

    Monday, November 08, 2010

    Type II Diabetes and India

    Bloomberg has released an excellent report India’s Diabetes Epidemic Strikes Millions Who Escape Poverty which describes a new health problem for that country, which appears to be due to previously unknown factors. The scale of the problem today is described:

    The International Diabetes Federation in October 2009 ranked India as the country with the most diabetics worldwide. The umbrella group of more than 200 national associations estimates that the disease will kill about 1 million Indians this year, more than in any other country.

    With 7.1 percent of adults afflicted, India is on a par with developed countries such as Australia, where 7.2 percent of adults suffer. India now fares worse than the U.K., where 4.9 percent are diabetic. In the U.S., where more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, 12.3 percent have diabetes.

    The cause of this rapid spread of diabetes in India seems to be different than the factors driving the disease in the US and other Western countries. A British researcher identified pre-natal factors as the cause; underfed mothers produce small, undernourished babies with metabolisms equipped for deprivation and unable to cope with calorie-rich diets available to people who have escaped poverty due to India’s economic progress.

    “Barker, the British physician studying lifestyle diseases, reported findings two decades ago that are helping scientists understand India’s diabetes surge. At the University of Southampton, Barker discovered that areas of Britain in which coronary heart disease was most common had had the highest infant mortality 60 years earlier.

    Studying the medical records of about 15,000 people born from 1911 to 1940, he found those who were small as infants were more likely to get heart disease, diabetes and stroke as adults. The link sparked Barker’s hypothesis that diabetics could trace their disease to how they adapted to malnutrition in the womb.”

    One explanation for diabetes in Western countries is over-eating and lack of exercise. Barker believes that this doesn’t apply in India:

    “The conventional explanation up until that time was that poorer people have worse lifestyles and so they are kind of bringing it all on themselves,” Barker, 72, says. “That would be the prevailing view in the U.S. today. There isn’t evidence for that.”

    As Barker sees it, malnutrition during a baby’s development affects how a person’s body behaves for a lifetime. An undernourished fetus prioritizes sugar for its growing brain. To make more glucose available in the blood, the fetus stores less of the energy in its muscles by making the muscles resistant to the effects of insulin.

    What starts as a clever survival trick in the womb becomes a liability in later life. When food is freely available but the muscles can’t store excess glucose, the blood floods with sugar and diabetes develops. Too much sugar in the blood damages the heart, small blood vessels and nerves, compounding the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.”

    A problem for health care workers promoting improved pre-natal care as a solution may be that governments aren’t inclined to promote maternal nutrition as a key diabetes prevention strategy without more scientific proof, and that may take decades according to an Australian researcher who contributed to identification of the surprising increase in diabetes rates in India.

    There are about 50 million Indians with Type II diabetes and the disease strikes at an average age of 42.5 years — about a decade earlier than it strikes people of European origin. One might say that India is experiencing an accelerated health transition, defined by the World Health Organization as follows:

    In the developing regions, where four-fifths of the planet’s people live, noncommunicable diseases such as depression and heart disease, as well as road traffic deaths, are fast replacing the traditional enemies such as infectious diseases and malnutrition, as the leading causes of disability and premature death. By the year 2020, noncommunicable diseases are expected to account for seven out of every ten deaths in the developing regions, compared with less than half today.

    With drug resistant microbes increasing in developed countries, and noncommunicable health problems increasing in rapidly developing countries it seems that the world may be in a period of health convergence.