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David Coleman (2007)

The Future of the Developed World: Some Neglected Demographic Challenges

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 32, 3-4/2007, p. 641-666, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398

The demographic challenges facing Europe, and more broadly the whole of the developed world, have attracted intense interest from individual scholars, national governments and international organisations. Given the unprecedented nature of the current levels of birth and death rates and of international migration, and their powerful economic and social implications, that is hardly surprising. Much attention has rightly been given to the future of fertility, to the implications of population ageing and to the development of policies on international migration. Some other aspects have not yet received the attention that they deserve.

This paper will address two of them. First, there has been a tendency, especially in communications from the EU, to discuss these issues on a pan-European level as if there were a uniformity of demographic pattern and trend, and thus to assume that Europe-wide policies are desirable or feasible. While all developed countries have some features in common, demographic trends and patterns in Europe are very diverse and in many areas are divergent rather than convergent. Data are presented here on this diversity, its likely consequences for the size and ageing of the populations developed counties, and hence the magnitude and differences of the challenges that they will have to overcome in order for their societies to prosper economically and develop harmoniously socially and culturally in the 21st century. It points out that this diversity is matched, or even exceeded, by that of developed counties outside Europe.

The second topic concerns the demographic and ethnic consequences of international migration and more broadly, the consequences of the demographic diversity between majority and minority ethnic groups in the developed world. Those created by international migration are reasonably well known, those of indigenous minorities less so. Minority groups, both immigrant and indigenous, are often at different stages of the demographic transition. Migration, and minority demographic differentials are projected to have radical effects in the medium and long-term on the ethnic composition of many countries of the developed world, given current levels of inflow. This prospect, and its implications, has been overlooked amidst recent preoccupations with population ageing and it possible rectification by migration, the integration of immigrant populations, and policies on asylum and labour migration.

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