Aging, Not Overpopulation…
EDITORIAL, 13 Jun 2011
…will be the dominant tendency of the 21st century demography, writes Gérard François Dumont in Le Monde Diplomatique June 2011.
The world population was 1.6 billion in 1900, 6.1 billion in 2000, heading for 9.1 billion in 2050–but even if all of then moved to the USA the density would be less than the Paris region, Ile de France. Then, if the fertility stabilizes, so may the population, and with low fertility–also due to aging–the world population may decrease, like Portugal today.
The percentages of the world population for China-Africa-India were respectively 22%-9%-15% in 1950 are 20%-15%-18% today and are expected to change to 16%-22%-18% by 2050. India will pass China with 1,5 billion vs. 941 million in 2100 (UN), meaning more poverty as India seems incapable of handling caste.[i] And Africa, already past one billion, will overtake both, meaning less poverty if rich Africa liberates itself from Western neocolonialism; today even military, using Libya as a bridgehead.
Then, the aging, “geronto-growth”, persons above 65: 5.2-7.6-16.2 percent for 1950-2010-2050, with median age moving 24-29-38. Or, in absolute figures: 130-417-1,486 million. Needless to say, the balance between population and “geronto” growth varies from one country to the other, also due to migration. But the world tendency is clear. Already in the early 1960s this author found the 2 kids norm to dominate, by far, women in fertile age in so distant places as Sicily in Italy and Kerala in India. With the reproduction rate being 2.1 per woman the decreasing fertility scenario seems strong.
Aging is often seen as a problem: ever more retired people, producing nothing, only consuming, carriers of ever more expensive diseases, insisting on staying alive unless pain is intolerable.
To this author–“retired” for soon 15 years and more productive than ever–nothing but legitimation of grotesque structural violence due to compulsory “retirement”. The tyranny of the middle-aged.
That young and middle-aged want to deny the older money-making jobs they want for themselves is like denying women education and work outside the home. Ageism works like sexism and racism. True, older people, like women, may be less physically strong than hefty, muscular males–but with automation (including tractors) and growth of the symbolic economic sector that factor matters less. Rather, the problem is to find positions for males with muscles and little else; a bad answer being the military, for war, possibly a reason for the increasing brutality and stupidity of that institution.
The overall living age has increased from 37 in 1900 to 69 in 2010. Morbidity is yielding to mental disorders (uni- and bipolar depression). And that touches the heart of the matter. Jobs are standard operating procedures-SOPs, for money-making, and may be dirty, dangerous, humiliating, boring; taxing on body-mind-spirit. Work is creative self-realization and inner human development, being socially useful, networking with others for social development. The idiotic measure of growth perpetrated on us by economists measures added monetized market value only, and none of the inner human, or outer social, growth, positive or negative (GNP-GDP [Gross National Product-Gross Domestic Product], however, are actually also good indicators of Nature Destruction, ND). We base our economies on work for the few on the top, and jobs for the many lower down; squeezing tired human lemons through alienating jobs so that throwing them away as “retired” may look like a blessing.
But even so all older people have something younger varieties have not: experience. True, it may add up to conservatism; “this is the way we always did it”. But it may also add up to a sense of variety beyond standard routines, a sense of diversity in the human condition, warning of dangers, but open to opportunities. Wisdom.
So the first conclusion is to promote a shift from job to work, and self-employment may play a key role in expanding the latter.
And the second conclusion is work for everybody, regardless of race, gender and age; having retirement with no obligation to have a job or work only an option, not an obligation. From the brutality of a sudden cut from a 100 to 0% productive life from one day to another all kinds of transition formulas can be envisaged, and the flexibility is increasing in this field. From five to three to one day a week, and so on. The larger the age span in an organization, the more useful the inter-generation dialogue between experience and wisdom and the knowledge of freshly minted MBAs and PhDs. Retired generals and diplomats often exude more wisdom than those who are only tired; using freedom of expression to compensate for guilt by association. Any organization will benefit from cultivating that freedom before retirement so we do not have to wait for WikiLeaks.
The third conclusion is that people work for the pleasure of it, for the challenges to their creativity, for real participation as opposed to the fake one on a golf course. Major keys to health. By depriving people of work, forcing them into jobs and retirement, we produce health problems that tax strained economies further.
Work is a fine mode of living; jobs may be necessary burdens. Money is used to bribe us into jobs for our livelihood. A rational society would have a living income for all, for food, clothing and housing, free health services, free education from Kindergarten to PhD; making us free to work. But early childhood, old age, and education, receiving, not giving much in return, are also modes of living. So why not oscillate between all four, like in “third age” education, or having retirement years like professors have sabbaticals, and then enjoy work till death us parts? Many actually do so in Civil Society, away from Capital, not waiting for State reform. A health-productive trend, financed by retirement funds as living income.
Retired all over, unite! You have only early death to lose.
[i]. In an excellent article “Quality of Life: India vs China”, NYRB, May 12 2011, Amartya Sen does not mention caste problems.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Jun 2011.
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