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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Young populations linked to political violence

Leading demographic expert says fertility and population changes can help explain global political trends

Protesters in Beirut, Lebanon. Despite unease over economic conditions, Lebanon has managed to stave off conflict as opposed to its Syrian neighbour. Reuters
Protesters in Beirut, Lebanon. Despite unease over economic conditions, Lebanon has managed to stave off conflict as opposed to its Syrian neighbour. Reuters

Countries with a large majority of young people as its population are more likely to descend into political violence and civil war.

A leading demographic expert and historian, Paul Morland said population changes explain why some countries have descended into conflict and not others.

Conflict-wrought Syria has a median population age is 20, in comparison to the now relatively stable nation of Lebanon which has a demographic aged at the median average of 30.

“Think of all the pressures on Lebanon, the same ethnically [to Syria], with the same international players sticking their noses in,” said Morland. “Yet when the civil war kicked off in Syria, its [Lebanon’s] median age was 20 years old. Now it’s 30, while Syria remains the same. There is a strong correlation between young and political violence.”

Rising nationalism in Europe and the US can be linked to an ageing population and a fall in fertility rates, he said.

“If you turn off the tap of immigration (to plug the labour shortage), there are huge economic consequences. If you don’t turn it off, you end up with the (populist) governments you see currently in Europe”.

Speaking at the release of his new book ‘The Human Tide’, Mr Morland said the idea that Western countries could be prosperous, have no children or small families in the long term but keep out migrants from the rest of the world was “not reconcilable”.

In the US, attitudes to race and immigration, as opposed to the economy, helped Trump into the White House.

However, fears that migrants had more children were overplayed and untrue.

“Perhaps most surprisingly, migrants from Latin America settling in the US end up with a drop in fertility rates. Migrants all over the world often adopt fertility rates of their new homes.”

Mr Morland also added China’s historic “coercive” one child policy was an unnecessary measure to limit China’s population.

“The decade before the one child policy was enacted, fertility rates were already recorded to have fallen from 6 percent to 3 percent. China could probably do with an extra 20-30 million twenty year olds today.”

On general population trends in the future, Morland predicts the world will be “more grey” as it ages, see more greenery and be racially “less white”.

Updated: January 31, 2019 07:26 PM

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