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from Global Investing:

Russia’s people problem

President Vladimir Putin is generally fond of blaming the West for the ills besetting Russia. This week though, he admitted in his State of the Nation speech that the roots of Russia's sluggish economy may lie at home rather than abroad.  The government expects the economy to expand a measly 1.4 percent this year (less than half of the growth the US is likely to see) and long-term growth estimates have been trimmed to 2.5 percent a year.

Much of that is down to the lack of reform which has left many big companies in the state's (generally wasteful) hands, weak rule of law that deters investment and capital flight to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a year. Yet there is another factor that could be harder to fix -- Russia's poor demographic profile. The population started declining sharply in the early 1990s amid political and economic turmoil, falling by 3.4 million in the 2000-2010 decade, according to census data. The impact is set to be felt sharply from now on, exactly when children born in 1990s would have started entering the workforce.

The consequences are already being felt. Russia will close more than 700 schools this year for lack of pupils and the jobless rate has dipped to a record low of around 5 percent, not because the economy is booming but because the country is running out of people who can take the jobs.

Russian bank VTB estimates that the labour force will shrink at the rate of 0.3-0.5 percent a year over the next decade. And Natalia Orlova, chief economist at another Russian bank, Alfa, (the source of the above graphic) says that in 2013, the labour force will have shrunk by 800,000,  a decline that she expects will gather momentum and ultimately end up at 2 million a year.  Not only will the labour force shrink by 3 percent between 2013-2016, but the share of skilled employees in the workforce has halved over the past decade, she says:

from India Insight:

Thirty-three percent of world’s poorest live in India

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

India has 33 percent of the world’s poorest 1.2 billion people, even though the country's poverty rate is half as high as it was three decades ago, according to a new World Bank report.

from Edward Hadas:

The demographic effect

The populations of many countries are declining in a time of peace and prosperity. That unprecedented and basic change in society must indicate something, but what? The experience of Japan, where the trend is most advanced, provides some hints.

Until about 1950, Japan followed the once universal pattern of population increasing along with incomes. Then the birth rate began to decline. By around 1970, the birth dearth began; from then on there have been too few babies to keep the population constant. For the past two decades, roughly 140 children have been born to every 100 women. At that rate, each generation is about a third smaller than the last, although lengthening life expectancies kept the total Japanese population from falling until 2011.

from Global Investing:

Euro emigration – safety valve or worker drain?

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Four years of relentless austerity in many of the euro zone's most debt-hobbled countries have forced many of their youngest and sometimes brightest workers to grab the plane, train or boat and emigrate in search of work. For countries with a long history of emigration, such as Ireland, this is depressingly familar -- coming just 20 years after the country's last debt crisis and national belt-tightening in the 1980s crescendoed, with the exit of some 40,ooo a year in 1989/90 from a population of just 3-1/2 million people.

The intervening boom years surrounding the creation and infancy of the Europe's single currency and expansion of the European Union eastwards saw huge net migration inflows back into the then-thriving euro zone periphery  -- Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy -- and created a virtuous circle of rising workforces, higher demand for housing/goods and rising exchequer tax receipts.

from Breakingviews:

Greying China could be left in the red

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By Wei Gu

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

China is developing a rich country problem: old age. The number of Chinese aged 60 or over may more than double to 438 million between 2010 and 2050, according to the United Nations. That will dent China’s competiveness and worsen social strains. A higher retirement age is one idea proposed by the country’s State Council to counter a huge pension fund shortfall. It’s not popular, but there may be little choice.

from Breakingviews:

China can’t reproduce its way out of trouble

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By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

China has outgrown its one-child policy. Three prominent government scholars called this week for the government to scrap it before China’s population gets too old, too fast. Yet after 30 years, such an intrusive policy can’t be reversed overnight. China will need time to prepare for the 2.3-child world.

from Photographers' Blog:

No Man Is An Island

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By Cathal McNaughton

For almost 20 years Barry Edgar Pilcher has lived alone on the island of Inishfree.

He is the sole permanent inhabitant of the tiny windswept island off the coast of Co Donegal in Ireland where he writes poetry and plays music. Once a week – weather permitting – Barry, 69, makes the 15 minute boat journey to Burtonport, where he does his weekly shopping in a petrol station. He posts letters and picks up the modest provisions he will need for the week and then it’s back to his ramshackle cottage where he lives and works in a single room.

from Global Investing:

Urbanization sweet spots

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It's a hard slog sometimes looking for new and surprising sources of global economic growth that have not already be heavily discounted by global investors, especially in the uncertain world of 2012. It's been as hard of late to find new arguments to invest in China and quite a few people suggesting the opposite.

But a Credit Suisse report out on Tuesday homed in on worldwide urbanization trends to find out where this well-tested driver of economic activity was likely to have most impact int he 21st century. For a start, the big aggregate numbers are as dramatic as you'd imagine. More than half  of the world's population now lives in urban areas, crossing that milestone for the first time in 2009. And, accordingly to United Nations projections, urban dwellers will account for 70 percent of humanity by 2050. As recently as 1950, 70 percent of us were country folk.

from Photographers' Blog:

Privileged witness to the start of life

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By Vivek Prakash

It's an experience I will never forget. I have no children of my own, but when the day does come, maybe I'll be just a little bit more prepared for it.

I had come a long, long way from my usual cosmopolitan stomping ground of Mumbai, to a place just about as far interior as you can go in India. I was about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Rajasthan border in the state of Madhya Pradesh, in a village of about 700 people. This is very, very small by Indian standards. There were dusty roads that a car could barely fit down, mud houses, a scorching heat during the day which turned to a deep chill at night.

from Breakingviews:

Unravelling India, Part 3: Demography

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By Jeff Glekin and Hugo Dixon

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Newly born babies at a hospital on the occasion of

Source: REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

Newly born babies at a hospital on the occasion of “World Population Day” in the Indian city Lucknow

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