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The Age Gap: Demographics Threatens Economies
CNBC.com | March 16, 2012 | 11:33 AM EDT

John Parker is the Globalization editor of The Economist.

Demography, said Auguste Comte, a 19th century social scientist, is destiny. Perhaps his assertion was a bit of an exaggeration because population trends can themselves be changed (for example by social trends, such as a desire for smaller families, or occasionally by political decisions, such as Chinas one-child policy).

But it is true that population is extremely influential and over the past few years it has become abundantly clear that demography has profound consequences for the environment and climate change, for public health, and even for politics and national security.

Demography used to be the preserve of geeks with vast databases and complicated mathematical formulae. It rarely made it onto the political agenda. But that is changing. Now you see news items about Chinas one-child policy, or gendercide (the abortion of baby girls so as to favour the birth of sons). And you hear a lot about the ageing of populations in rich countries and the health and pensions problems this will bring.

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