Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, April 30, 2010

Too few people

It's obvious to everyone that too many people can stretch the capacity of the environment and a state, but too few? China is beginning to deal with low birth rates brought about by its one child policy. Now forecasters are asking about the problems that Mexico will face because of a rapidly declining birth rate.

When the niños run out
FENCES, soldiers, infra-red cameras: the United States goes to great lengths to hold back the teeming masses across its southern border. But the masses are teeming less. Mexico’s birth rate, once among the world’s highest, is in free-fall. In the 1960s Mexican mothers had nearly seven children each (whereas women in India then had fewer than six). The average now is just over two—almost the same as in the United States. The UN reckons that from 2040 the birth rate in Mexico will be the lower of the two.

The fall follows a government u-turn nearly 40 years ago, when a contraception campaign replaced the previous nation-building policy…

The slowdown provides both relief and trouble for the state…

Mexicans are rapidly ageing. This trend, which took a century in Europe, has happened in three decades, Mr Welti points out. In 1980 the average Mexican was 17 years old; he is now 28…

The poor who clean windscreens and sell pirate CDs in Mexico City include a growing number of elderly people. Only about one in five of the over-75s has a pension, and today’s smaller families will find it harder to care for elderly relatives... [R]eforms are needed to defuse this social-security time-bomb, says Jorge Rodríguez of the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America. More of Mexico’s enormous black market must be brought into the formal economy, so as to get more companies to contribute to employees’ pensions…

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