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Chart of the Week

Fertility Rates Keep Dropping, and it’s Going to Hit the Economy Hard

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The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Total fertility rates, which can be defined as the average number of children born to a woman who survives her reproductive years (aged 15-49), have decreased globally by about half since 1960.

This has drastically shaped today’s global economy, but a continued decline could have much more severe long-term consequences. If the world has too many elderly dependents and not enough workers, the burden on economic growth will be difficult to overcome.

Global Fertility Rates

Fertility Rates Start to Decline

First, it’s important to address some of the reasons for these falling fertility rates.

In developed nations the introduction of commercially available birth control has played a large role, but this also coincided with several major societal shifts. Changing religious values, the emancipation of women and their increasing participation in the workforce, and higher costs of childcare and education have all factored into declining fertility rates.

Birthrates Wane, Economy Gains

Initially, reduced child dependency rates were actually beneficial to economic growth.

By delaying childbirth, men and women could gain an education before starting a family. This was important in a shifting labor market where smaller, family-run businesses were in decline and a more skilled and specialized labor force was in demand.

Men and women could also choose to start their careers before having families, while paying more in income taxes and enjoying the benefits of a higher disposable income. Increased spending power creates demand, which stimulates job growth – and the economy benefits in the short-term.

A Global Phenomenon

46% of world population is in countries with rates below replacement

Worldwide fertility rates began to fall substantially in the mid-1960s. While each country has its own underlying causes for this, it is interesting that in developed and developing nations, the downward trend is similar.

Part of this is due to developing countries’ own efforts to rein in their rapidly expanding populations. In China, the One Child Policy was introduced in 1979, however fertility rates had already dropped significantly prior to this. India’s government was also active on this front, sterilizing an estimated 8.3 million people (mostly men) between 1975 and 1977 as a method of population control.

The Age Imbalance

So here we are now, with a global fertility rate of just 2.5 – roughly half of what it was 50 years ago.

Today, 46% of the world’s population lives in countries that are below the average global replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman.

Because these countries (59 to be exact, including BRIC nations Brazil, Russia, and China) are not repopulating quickly enough to sustain their current populations, we are beginning to see a substantial imbalance in the ratio of elderly dependents to working-age people, which will only intensify over the coming decades.

Aging Population Map

By 2100, the U.N. predicts that nearly 30% of the population will be made of people 60 years and older. Life expectancy also continues to increase steadily, which means those dependents will be living even longer. Between 2000 and 2015 the average global life expectancy at birth increased by around 5 years, reaching an average of 73.8 years for females and 69.1 years for males.

Economic Reversal

What does this mean for the economy?

As this large aging population exits the workforce, most of the positive trends that were spurred by declining fertility rates will be reversed, and economic growth will face a significant burden.

Working Age Population

The global increase of elderly dependent populations will have serious economic consequences. Health care costs for the elderly will strain resources, while the smaller working population will struggle to produce enough income tax revenue to support these rising costs. It’s likely this will cause spending power to decrease, consumerism to decline, job production to slow – and the economy to stagnate.

Solutions

Immigration has been a source of short-term population sustenance for many nations, including the U.S. and Britain. However, aside from obvious societal tensions associated with this strategy, immigrants are often adults themselves when they relocate, meaning they too will be elderly dependents soon.

Several nations are already experiencing the effects of a large proportion of elderly dependents. Japan, with one-quarter of its total population currently over the age of 65, has been a pioneer in developing technologies, such as robotics, as a solution to ease strained health care resources. Many countries are restructuring health care programs with long-term solutions in mind, while others are attempting to lower the cost of childcare and education.

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Chart of the Week

Trump’s Relationship with the Price of Oil

What goes through the head of a U.S. president? The tweets of U.S. President Donald Trump reveal a contentious relationship with the price of oil and OPEC.

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Visualizing Trump’s Relationship with the Price of Oil

What goes through the head of a U.S. president?

That is a question that both voters and leaders alike would love to know the answer to. As it stands, scores of pundits and analysts already dissect everything from the choice of a tie, to whom a leader sits next to at a state dinner, to glean the potential direction of government policy.

Financial markets rely on the accurate interpretation of government policy to guide investment decisions. But what happens when you’re faced with a world leader who broadcasts his unfiltered thoughts instantaneously and globally? It’s sure to stir up international attention.

This week’s chart is inspired by work done by John Kemp, an energy reporter for Reuters. Kemp tracked all instances of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets mentioning oil and OPEC, against the shifting price of oil.

Where’s Your Head At?

U.S. President Donald Trump has actively worked to tie the success of his administration to the fortune of the economy and stock market.

If the economy does well, Trump hopes cheap gas at the pump will help translate into votes at the ballot box in 2020.

The key to keeping the economy growing is access to cheap energy, and oil is the critical commodity that’ll keep a fragile economy on the road. This is a line of thinking that can be seen throughout Trump’s tweets on the subject.

Tracking Trump’s Tweets

This week’s chart tracks President Donald Trump’s tweets from April 2018 to March 2019 that mention oil and OPEC.

Pre-Sanctions

The tweets start five months before the deadline of sanctions on Iran. During this timeframe, speculation that Trump would place sanctions on the oil-producing nation drove up the price with the prospect of a restricted supply of oil and increased tensions in the Middle East.

Despite the implications of U.S.-imposed sanctions, Trump squarely put the blame on OPEC for this period of rising oil prices. Tweets such as “OPEC is at it again. Not Good!” or “The OPEC monopoly must get price down now!” can be seen in this period.

Whether these tweets had any influence on oil producers is unclear, but they certainly outline a policy preference for cheap oil and a general animosity towards OPEC.

Post-Sanctions

On Nov. 4, 2018, Trump did impose sanctions but excluded Iranian oil exports, deflating a speculative bubble around the price of oil, and the president’s ire towards the region.

In the aftermath of sanctions, repeated news of record oil production and growing energy independence in the U.S. helped drive the price of oil back down. Though the president’s mood lightened, he still persisted in his accusations of OPEC manipulating the price.

Prices continued to fall, plummeting to nearly $50 per barrel by the end of 2018. Cheap oil is a direct threat to the profits of OPEC nations, but higher prices can create an array of challenges for the U.S. economy.

So despite a U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, this is a natural tension baked into the relationship.

So, what would a U.S. foreign policy look like without dependence on the Middle East?

Shifting Sands

The Middle East has had a considerable influence on U.S. foreign policy since the harsh lessons of 1970s energy crisis. Multiple wars of intervention to protect Saudi oil interests—and in turn, ensuring continued American access to oil—have ravished the region and led to a state of dysfunction and constant tension.

However, with the recent declaration of American energy independence, this relationship may change with a renewed prospect for peace. Trump may work to further undermine the power of OPEC to control oil prices, as well as the Middle East’s influence on U.S. foreign policy.

American energy independence is already challenging established relationships around the world. For example, Ukraine just recently accepted its first shipment of American oil in a move to counter Russia’s influence in the region.

A New Era

Diplomacy by Twitter has yet to prove to be an effective bridge in sustaining good international relations. That said, charting the tweets of world leaders is a unique way to interpret government policy and energy economics in this new era of social media.

It seems that the next time you want to know what is going through a leader’s head, you can simply try checking their tweets.

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Chart of the Week

Visualizing the Wealth of Nations

These 10 countries hold 74% of the world’s $204 trillion in private wealth. How will this wealth of nations change over the next decade?

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Visualizing the Wealth of Nations

Just as there exists a longstanding inequality in the distribution of household wealth, so exists a considerable differential in the amount of wealth held by countries on the international stage.

Simply put, some nations are “haves”, while many others are “have-nots”.

“Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.”

– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Ranking Riches

We previously showed you how the ranking of the richest countries in the world has changed over the course of the last 10 years (2008-2018).

Today’s chart keys on a slightly different question.

What are the wealthiest nations today, both in absolute and per capita terms, and how is this list projected to change over the next decade? Let’s see how the wealth of nations stack up.

Private Wealth: Now and in the Future

Using data from the Global Wealth Migration Review, here are the 10 wealthiest nations both now and as forecasted in 2028.

RankCountryWealth (2018)Wealth (2028F)Approx. Growth
#1🇺🇸 United States$60.7 trillion$72.8 trillion20%
#2🇨🇳 China$23.6 trillion$51.8 trillion120%
#3🇯🇵 Japan$19.1 trillion$24.9 trillion30%
#4🇮🇳 India$8.1 trillion$22.8 trillion180%
#5🇦🇺 Australia$6.0 trillion$10.8 trillion80%
#6🇬🇧 United Kingdom$9.1 trillion$10.0 trillion10%
#7🇩🇪 Germany$8.8 trillion$9.7 trillion10%
#8🇨🇦 Canada$6.0 trillion$7.8 trillion30%
#9🇫🇷 France$5.9 trillion$6.4 trillion10%
#10🇮🇹 Italy$3.8 trillion$4.2 trillion10%

It’s worth noting that these figures are meant to represent wealth, which is defined as the total amount of private wealth held by individuals in each country. It includes assets like property, cash, equities, and business interests, minus any liabilities.

China has been the best performing wealth market in the last decade, and these projections show the country as continuing on that track. In fact, both China and India are expected to see triple-digit growth in private wealth between now and 2028.

As far as developed countries go, it’s not surprising that growth rates are much more modest. In Europe, countries like Great Britain, Germany, France, and Italy are only expected to add 10% to private wealth in 10 years, while Canada (30%) and the U.S. (20%) do marginally better.

One notable exception here is Australia, which is expected to add 80% to private wealth over the timeframe – and it will leapfrog both Germany and the U.K. in the rankings in the process.

Wealth per Capita

Here’s a look at the wealth of nations in a different way, this time with numbers adjusted on a per capita basis.

RankCountryEst. PopulationWealth per capita (2018)
#1🇲🇨 Monaco38,695$2,114,000
#2🇱🇮 Liechtenstein37,810$786,000
#3🇨🇭 Switzerland8,420,000$315,000
#4🇱🇺 Luxembourg590,667$300,000
#5🇦🇺 Australia24,600,000$244,000
#6🇳🇴 Norway5,258,000$198,000
#7🇺🇸 United States327,200,000$186,000
#8🇸🇬 Singapore5,612,000$177,000
#9🇭🇰 Hong Kong7,392,000$169,000
#10🇨🇦 Canada36,540,000$163,000

When using per capita numbers, it’s absolutely no contest.

Monaco, the city-state on the French Riviera, is a money magnet with $2.1 million of private wealth per citizen. This means the average Monacan is at least 10 times richer than the average North American or European.

Liechtenstein, a microstate that sits in the Alps between Switzerland and Austria, also has a high average wealth of $786,000 per person. Like Monaco, its population is well under 50,000 people.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that three countries on the per capita list also made the overall list. Put another way, the countries of Australia, Canada, and the United States can all claim to be among the wealthiest of nations in both absolute and per capita terms.

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