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The world is too small for us

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Crowded, isn’t it?

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Improving environment starts with tackling overpopulation

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Do not replenish the earth

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Limits to Growth

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The more men, the more jam

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Couples wanting children are doubly responsible for the future

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Overpopulation = overconsumption

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Stop the exhaustion and pollution of the earth

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Too little prosperity for too many people

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We love people, but not their number

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We cannot let humanity happen

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Thursday, 25 February 2010 15:14

The unnecessary spectre of an ageing population

A large number of elderly people
Whenever talk arises of reducing or even stabilising the population, the spectre of the ‘ageing population’ invariably surfaces. It is suggested that there will be too few people in the future to do all the necessary work and,
in particular, to provide for the elderly; that the costs of health care, care of the elderly and provisions for old age will become astronomical. Because of these fears some people make a case for encouraging an increase in the number of children. Those who have truly lost sight of the issues actually want to encourage immigration for those same reasons.
 
Below is an explanation of why the continuing ageing process which Dutch society is undergoing holds no great threat. Reference is made to data from 1997 throughout (source CBS, Dutch Census Bureau). As far as the information is concerned, 1997 is a year that does not diverge strongly from other years. See table 1.
 
Table 1
Age distribution of Dutch society in 1997 and 2040
Age group
1997
 
2040
 
Difference
Youths 0 - 19 years
24%
3,809,000
15%
2.0 million
-9%
Middle 20 - 64 years
62%
9,735,000
53%
7.0 million
-9%
Elderly 65 years and over
14%
2,110,000
32%
4.2 million
+18%
Total population
100%
15,654,000
100%
13.2 million
 
 
In 1997 nearly all paid work was done by 41% of the total population:
1% by the youth group of 15 – 19 year-olds.
40% by the middle group of 20 – 64 year-olds.
Of the total number of 20 – 64 year-olds in the middle group only 40 out of 62 people were in paid employment in 1997. That means the labour participation in this group stands at 65%. See table 2.
 
Table 2
Labour participation of 20 to 64-year-olds in 1997 and 2040
 
Middle group 20 - 64 years
1997
 
2040
 
Active (employed)
40
6,224,000
41
5.4 million
Unemployed
22
3,511,000
12
1.6 million
Total
62
9,735,000
53
7.0 million
 
This indicates the presence of a huge “labour reserve”. According to the official unemployment statistics in 1997 there were about 400,000 unemployed persons registered with job centres in the Netherlands. There was, however, also a form of hidden unemployment that affected upwards of 2 million people. See table 3.
 
Table 3
People receiving benefits in 1997
Unemployed receiving benefits but without a job-search requirement, or receiving benefits for study purposes
approx.    0.4 million
Job seekers, such as housewives and school-leavers, with no claim to benefits
approx.   0.4 million
Recipients of disablement insurance benefits who are willing and able to work in areas other than their original employment
approx.    0.9 million
People in early retirement, in subsidised jobs and on reduced pay
approx.    0.4 million
Total
approx.    2.1 million
 
Disproving unaffordability
For every 100 active people in our society in 1997 there were 152 inactive. And of these 152 only 34 were older than 64. This leads to the conclusion that a relatively small, active group cares for a relatively large, inactive group of people. The fear is that in the future the number of active individuals might be too small to support the population and that the number of elderly might be too large to care for. That fear is invalidated by the presence of a large labour reserve alone. Moreover, the number of active people between the ages of 50 and 65 is relatively small. In the 60 – 65 year-old age group, especially, no more than 11% have a paid job.
 
We have already seen that 41% of the population in 1997 was active, i.e. they had a paid job, working at least 12 hours a week. These 41% seem to be able to provide a very good quality of life for the whole population. The foundation has calculated what the situation will be in 2040 making use of the simulation programme POPTRAIN of the NIDI (Dutch Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute).
The projective constitution of the population can be calculated on the basis of the number of births per woman, migration figures and life expectancy. The foundation based itself on a scenario in which the ageing process of the population is marked: 1.3 children per woman and zero migration.
 
In this scenario the percentage of older people (65+) will gradually increase from 14% now to a maximum of 32% in 2040. The population of the Netherlands will then decrease in number from almost 17 million now to 13 million in 2040. After that the percentage of older people will, in the case of a progressive decrease in population, also gradually decrease. See table 1 for the composition of the population in age groups in 1997 and in 2040.
 
Another result of this scenario with the lowest birth figures (and thus the fewest young people) is that in 2040 the same percentage of 41%, the active percentage, is able to care for the whole population, as in the current situation. The number of older people might have increased, but the percentage of inactive individuals will have decreased from 22% in 1997 to 12% in 2040. See table 2.
The result: lower benefit payments and a higher income from pension contributions. Because the shift in age distribution is a gradual process, our society will have plenty of time to anticipate the changing circumstances through education. Furthermore, these calculations do not take into account a number of factors that could improve the affordability of the provisions. These could include labour-saving developments that would allow us to achieve the same result with less than 41% of the population in active work.
 
Solidarity
A 1997 study by the NIDI gave the following results. More than 80% of the Dutch are of the opinion that a rise in the costs of old age provision should not lead to higher taxes for older people. Furthermore, 80% think that in the case of rising unemployment older people should have the same rights to work as young people. This attests to a strong sense of solidarity between the old and the young. Young people, it seems, are well aware of the fact that older people show solidarity towards them too. After all, older people pay the insurance contributions and taxes that make it possible for young people to go to school, pursue further education, and for those young people who are unemployed to receive benefits.
 
Antisocial
There is actually no reasonable argument for a further increase in the population of our overcrowded country. No responsible policy can aim to cure the effects of an ageing population by encouraging more births. After all, this would entail that each generation of parents would need to be followed by a generation of children of an equal number. A consequence of this would be that a population that has reached a point of overpopulation would never be able to decrease towards a size more in accordance with societal and ecological capacities. In this way the problem would be continually passed on to the next generation, in the knowledge that the problems are growing and their solutions are becoming increasingly expensive and difficult to find. “Passing the buck” in this way is short-sighted and antisocial.
 
This is why we lament the fact that the government has not yet adopted a conscious policy to decrease or stabilise the population. By subscribing to the Rio treaty our government has in fact committed itself to taking measures against population growth, but not much seems to be happening. The government’s policy can even be regarded as somewhat paternalistic. The Netherlands has a family allowance policy that includes allowances for each individual child, paid maternity and parental leave, subsidised childcare etc. From the continued existence of these regulations we cannot conclude that the government regards a potentially limitless growth of the population as a real problem.
 
Nature
Our population is still growing at a rate of a million people every 10 to 12 years, a very frightening acceleration indeed! Its effect is to magnify all the problems that we already have. Just think of such matters as the increase in CO2 emissions, the increasing disappearance of nature, the extinction of animals and plants, growing aggression, traffic congestion, water contamination and lack of space. Within the next 20 years the government wants to build a further 950,000 new houses. Things are not much better in other countries either. In actual figures the world population is growing by about 245,000 people each day. This leads to even more hunger and wars. Man is advancing everywhere but at a great cost to himself, to animals, to plants and to nature in general. It seems patently absurd to opt for a course that is leading us to an abyss! Anyone who takes nature and the environment seriously should logically be against population growth.
 
Table 4
Number of inhabitants of the Netherlands rounded off in millions
1500
2
1800
2
1900
5
1950
10
2000
16
 
Family allowance
A larger generation of children thus proves unnecessary. This is why a modern government need not hesitate to actively support a decrease in population. One step in the right direction would be for the government to review various regulations, particularly the family allowance policy. This incentive bonus is no longer desirable.
 
Those who do opt for a large family have to realise that this is a luxury that puts a negative ecological pressure on society. It seems logical that those who cause this strain will come to pay for it themselves. At the moment the government saddles the taxpayer with the costs. This is highly unfair.
 
The Foundation advocates abolishing family allowance. One might equally question the continuation of other related benefits such as maternity and parental leave. Naturally any measure should only apply to children born after the relevant measure is introduced.
 
2010
 
 

World population