from Global Investing:

Russia’s babushka time-bomb

The babushka, that embodiment of Russian grandmotherly goodness that has spawned iconic dolls and inspired a Kate Bush song, poses one of the gravest threat to the Russian economy.

Moscow-based investment bank Renaissance Capital also expects this segment of the demography to spur politically risky pension reforms.

Russia's pension system is coming under increasing strain thanks to growing life expectancy -- particularly among women -- and a shrinking labour force due to the collapse in birth rates in the 1990s.

Since the introduction of the current system, the average life span of the Russian man has risen to 63.4 years, up from 58.7. Over the same period of time, the life expectancy for the country's women has risen to 75.4 years, up from 71.9.

Russian women are thus likely to claim a pension for 20 years after retirement at 55. Compare this to the three to four years that the average Russian man gets.

The promise of middle age

The wave of popular discontent now sweeping the Middle East and North Africa has been driven by the region’s youth, frustrated by chronic umemployment and enraged by widespread corruption.

In a special report entitled ‘Youth bulges and equities’, Deutsche Bank argues that the proportion of angry young men to the general population is not only a gauge of socio-political stability but also a key indicator of market performance.

The ‘youth bulge’ — the ratio of males between 15-29 versus those aged 30-59 – came in at an average of 106 percent in the 251 conflicts seen around the world between 1950 and 2006. Two-thirds of countries that suffered social upheaval had a young-to-old men ratio of above 100 percent compared to the current 45-55 percent average seen in developed countries.

Will food prices rise?

The Becker-Posner Blog has an interesting debate posted on the question of  food shortages and their accompanying price rises. As usual, it is a to-and-fro between economist and Nobel laureate Gary Becker and his University of Chicago colleague Richard Posner, a U.S. appellate judge.

Becker reckons that some commodity prices will rise as the global economy recovers but that food is different.

“Rapid growth in future world GDP is likely to greatly raise the prices of oil and other fossil fuels, unless concerns about global warming induce major steps to reduce the demand for these fuels. Rapid growth in world output is also likely to sharply raise the demand for cereals, meat, and other foods in developing countries. However, I have tried to show why food is different from fossil fuels and minerals, like copper, in that the supply of food is not limited by natural bounds on overall quantity. Rather, the efforts and ingenuity of farmers and researchers are able to greatly increase world food supply to meet even very large increases in the world demand for food.”