Friday, November 30, 2007

Global Demographic Trends - the rise of Africa

In 2007, the top ten African countries were:
  1. Nigeria - 127 million
  2. Egypt - 80 million
  3. Ethiopia - 77 million
  4. Congo (Kinshasa) - 66 million
  5. South Africa - 44 million
  6. Tanzania - 39 million
  7. Sudan - 39 million
  8. Kenya - 39 million
  9. Morocco - 34 million
  10. Algeria - 33 million.

In 2007, the top ten African countries are projected to be:

  1. Nigeria - 357 million
  2. Congo (Kinshasa) - 203 million
  3. Ethiopia - 145 million
  4. Uganda - 128 million
  5. Egypt - 128 million
  6. Sudan - 88 million
  7. Tanzania - 67 million
  8. Kenya - 65 million
  9. Madagascar - 56 million
  10. Morocco - 51 million

These are very large increases indeed. They could well be larger if African life expectancies increase significantly.

Note that South Africa has vanished from the list, with a projected decline in population from 44 to just 33 million.

The size of the African increases has significant implications for economic development and political stability. How will these extra people be employed, fed and housed? What are the implications for Africa of projected climate change, given the projected population increases?

Note on Sources

Source data can be found at the introductory post.

Posts in Series

Introductory post. Last post. Next post.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Global Demographic Trends - the decline of Europe

In 2007, the top ten European countries by population were:

  1. Russia - 141 million
  2. Germany - 82 million
  3. France - 64 million
  4. UK - 61 million
  5. Italy - 58 million
  6. Ukraine - 46 million
  7. Spain - 40 million
  8. Poland - 39 million
  9. Romania - 22 million
  10. Netherlands - 17 million

In 2050, the projected top ten European countries are:

  1. Russia - 109 million
  2. Germany - 74 million
  3. France - 70 million
  4. United Kingdom - 64 million
  5. Italy - 50 million
  6. Spain - 36 million
  7. Ukraine - 34 million
  8. Poland - 32 million
  9. Romania - 19 million
  10. Netherlands - 16 million

With the exception of France and the UK, these numbers show a pattern of population decline across Europe. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this at a time when global populations are pressing against resources. However, it has implications for relative economic performance and for public policy.

In the next post, we will look at Africa.

Note on Sources

Source data can be found at the introductory post.

Posts in Series

Introductory post. Last post. Next post.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Global Demographic Trends - A few macro numbers

In 2007, the world's ten largest largest countries in population terms were:

  1. China - 1.32 billion
  2. India - 1.13 billion
  3. US - 301 million
  4. Indonesia - 235 million
  5. Brazil - 190 million
  6. Pakistan - 165 million
  7. Bangladesh - 150 million
  8. Russia - 141 million
  9. Nigeria - 135 million
  10. Japan - 127 million.

In 2050, the world's ten largest countries in population terms are projected to be:

  1. India - 1.81 billion
  2. China - 1.42 billion
  3. US - 420 million
  4. Nigeria - 357 million
  5. Indonesia - 313 million
  6. Bangladesh - 280 million
  7. Pakistan - 278 million
  8. Brazil - 228 million
  9. Congo (Kinshasa) - 203 million
  10. Mexico - 148 million

Even at this most macro level, we can see some interesting features.

In both 2007 and 2050, three of the top ten belong to the old Indian Empire of the British Raj. However, India and China have reversed positions as the world's most populous countries. Further, by 2050 India in absolute terms will dwarf the populations of Pakistan and Bangladesh. This has interesting implications for the power dynamics on the subcontinent.

Both China and India have been growing fast in economic terms, China somewhat faster. The size of India's population means that increases in per capita incomes are likely to be less than China's. However, aggregate Indian GDP could well pass that of China.

Factor in climate change. If the projections are to be believed, by 2050 Bangladesh's projected 280 million people are likely to face very serious problems from rising sea levels. How will they respond?

At present, Russia is the only European country in the top ten. In 205o there are projected to be none. As will be discussed in a later post, Europe as a whole presently faces population decline.

In 2007, Nigeria at 135 million is the only country in the top ten. On the 2050 projections, There will be two: Nigeria at 357 million, Congo (Kinshasa) at 203 million.

The African population is still growing rapidly. The continent as a whole has been experiencing economic troubles. Will this change, or will Africa become a powder keg? What does all this mean for powder structures within Africa?

In the next post, we will look at the European dilemma.

Note on Sources

Source data can be found at the introductory post.

Posts in Series

Introductory post. Next post.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Global Demographic Trends - Introduction

Demography and demographic trends are critical to longer term management, yet still poorly understood.

Take, as an example, the projected growth in the world population from 6.6 billion in 2007 to 9.4 billion in 2050. 2.8 billion is a large absolute increase at any time, larger still when we take into account the forecast effects of climate change on food production as well as resource usage. Among other things, this has implications for the profitability of food production.

While world populations continue to grow, the world population is also aging. This effect varies from country to country. Some countries will continue to grow in population terms, others are projected to contract. While this is well known, the actual implications are less well understood.

Take, as one simple example, the youth focus still built into much marketing. In many countries the dollar value of the younger marketplace is stagnant. It is the older age cohorts that are growing in absolute numbers and in dollar value terms. There have been some subtle market shifts that reflect this, an example is the increasing presence of older people on TV, but there is still an overall youth focus.

Take, as a second example, changes in relative power associated with population shifts.

Today Japan has 127 million people and is the tenth most populous country in the world. By 2050, the Japanese population is projected to fall to 88 million, its ranking to seventeenth. What does this mean for the structure of the Japanese economy, for Japan's place in the world?

In coming posts we plan to explore some of these issues. The posts will not be rigorous in an academic sense. Our aim is to stimulate issues, to point to things that need to be considered.

Note on Sources

Data in this series is drawn from a variety of sources including:

Source information will be updated as the series develops.

Posts in the Series

Friday, November 16, 2007

Problems with Freedom of Information

One of the side-elements in the current Australian election campaign has been a focus on Freedom of Information. These are sets of laws at Federal and State level that give the citizen, and the media, the right to access Government information.

I have always been a strong supporter of Freedom of Information (FOI), but now am having some doubts as to scope.

As a senior Commonwealth Public Servant, I used to give my Minister the best advice I could. I gave arguments for and against, along with recommendations. Sometimes I wrote thought pieces, trying to tease arguments out without setting positions. Often, the advice was very frank.

At the time I wrote, the thought that my advice might be revealed was not relevant. Had it been, I would not have written that way.

I have recently had cause to look at advice now provided by a Department to a Minister. There is no real equivalent to the type of advice I used to provide.

Part of this is due to changes in style. But part is also due to the fact that advice may be revealed through an FOI request.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Teenage Work in Australia

A little while ago there was an interesting story in The Sydney Morning Herald (weekend edition 25-26 August 2007) by Andrew West on teenage work in Australia. He cites figures from a US Department of Labour report suggesting that Australia has more teens in the workforce than any other developed country.

Over the period 1995-2005, no less than 60.6 per cent of Australian aged 15-19 were working. This compares to 43.7 per cent in the US, 30 per cent in Germany, 13 per cent in Italy and just 9.1 per cent in South Korea.

Like all statistics, these have to be treated with care. For example, it has always been the case that kids help out in family businesses often without being paid or appearing in workforce numbers. Nevertheless, the figures are interesting.

There are clear cultural differences between countries that affect working patterns. In some countries kids are expected to study; school or post school is seen as a full time occupation in its own right.

This used to be much more the case in Australia. Now kids work because they want to buy things or because they need the income to help pay for study.

High teenage work participation is a two edged sword.

From an employer's viewpoint, it means that kids acquire work discipline. That's good. But it can also mean that the time devoted to study, to the acquisition of knowledge and skills and the capacity to think, is reduced. Here there have been recurrent complaints in Australia from employers about a decline in the standard of, for example, recent graduates.

There is another issue as well.

Australia, along with many other countries, has been suffering from skills shortages. High teenage work participation can lead to lower participation in formal education whether at university or vocational level. There is some evidence that this has been happening in Australia.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Avoiding contract woes - defining the need

Photo: Gordon Smith, Apsley Lower Falls, near Walcha, New England Tablelands, Eastern Australia

Great gorges cut their way through the eastern edge of Australia's New England Tablelands. Peaceful countryside suddenly gives way to jagged cliffs.

This is very like contracts. Conceived in peaceful country, disputes suddenly move the parties over the edge of the cliff into the rugged gorges below.

It may sound dumb, but in our experience the biggest problem with contracts comes from failure to define the purpose the contract is to meet.

Too often in the desire to complete the deal, parties rush to complete the contract. Far too often, also, contractual matters are left to lawyers.

A contract is first and foremost the legal wrapping that goes around a business deal. If you haven't defined the deal properly, then the legal wrapping will be imperfect.

As professionals, the core role of lawyers is to provide advice on legal issues. They cannot be expected to compensate for your failure to define what you want or are prepared to offer. The clearer your advice to them, the better they will be able advise you and at a lower cost.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Telstra - the shareholders are revolting

For the benefit of international readers, Telstra is Australia's major telco and one of Australia's largest public companies. It has also just suffered the major embarrassment of having shareholders reject the remuneration package for its CEO.

The vote is not binding, but is still places the board in a difficult position. Could the board have avoided the problem? Probably, but only if it had been far more open than appears to have been the case.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Management Perspectives - Country Traffic

We have just been reviewing to country of origin of our visitors. To our surprise, by far the largest group (34%) comes from the US, followed by Australia (23%) and then the UK (9%).

The US dominance was a bit of a surprise because this blog presently has an Australian bias. Now that we are changing directions to better reflect our title, it will be interesting to see how the country pattern changes.