John Bruton

Opinions & Ideas

Category: Africa

DEMOGRAPHY IS DESTINY

CHINA CHANGES ITS ONE CHILD POLICY ………………..
AFRICA COULD BE THE WORLD’S 21ST CENTURY ECONOMIC GIANT

I was in China this week. The purpose of the visit was to promote Chinese investment in Ireland. 

I met the Irish Ambassador, Paul Kavanagh and his small team, who are working very hard to promote links between Ireland, and what is now the largest economy in the world.

The Chinese economy is being rapidly restructured.

Services are now the largest sector, 48%, as against 41% in manufacturing. There is now less reliance on exports and more on the home market.
Last Thursday, it was announced that China is to end its one child policy. This is a response to the fact that labour shortages will eventually be a problem for China.

This one child policy was first brought into force in 1980.

It  has been very effective.  The Total Fertility rate globally is 2.5, in developing countries it is 2.7, in the poorest countries it is 4.4, but in China it is only 1.6! 

The Chinese population will peak in 2027 and begin to decline thereafter. In this, China is like Europe.

In contrast, the population of Africa could increase from 1.1 billion to 4.8 billion by the end of the century.  Africa’s labour force will grow whereas that of Asia will remain stable, and Europe’s labour force will fall. As a result, Africa’s economy could enjoy the fastest growth in the world, over the next century, if it can maintain political stability.

A labour shortage is already evident  in China. The number of young people in the 18 to 24 age group today is 108 million, as against 124 million in 2008.   The number in that age group will fall by 7 million in each of the next 10 years. 

At the other end of the age spectrum, the number of retired people will start to grow rapidly. That is bound to have an effect on the overall productivity of the Chinese economy.

More and more Chinese families now consist of four grandparents, two parents, but only one child.. Growing up as an only child is a very different experience from growing up in a  large family and it remains to be seen what effect this will have on society.

Because of the preference of families for sons over daughters, more female babies are aborted, which has led to an imbalance in society. Abortion is contrary to the tenets of traditional Chinese religions, like Taoism, as I saw in a plaque displayed in a temple I visited in Beijing. But it is the policy promoted by the government. The fact that more girls than boys are aborted has not got much attention from the world feminist movement.

The new two child policy will not become effective straight away. Regional laws have to be passed to bring it into effect, and to remove the severe penalties that still apply to having a second child. 

There are also practical difficulties in the way of parents who may wish to have a second child. Housing is in very short supply in the big Chinese cities and there will simply not be room for a second child. Already many parents, who have gone to work in the cities, have had to leave their only child behind them in a rural village, to be cared for by a relative, because they cannot find room for the child in the city where they work.

A declining labour force and housing shortages are among a number of challenges China must face at the same time.

The country must also
  • orientate the economy away from heavy industry to consumer goods
  • reduce the level of debt of local governments, state owned enterprises, and households. 80% of all public spending in China is done by local governments 
  • reduce reliance on coal as an energy source because coal burning causes so much pollution

DEATHS OF REFUGEES CROSSING TO EUROPE FROM AFRICA


Below is a copy of a statement I cosigned, with other members of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

These are deaths of people reduced to desperation by conditions in their home countries. In many ways, they are like the people who left Ireland during the Famine here in the 1840’s, but with the added dimension of their being subjected to physical violence as well as starvation and disease.

They did not make the decision lightly to try to come to Europe, and  had  to undertake long and extremely dangerous overland journeys within Africa itself, before they ever get to the point of embarkation. 

They are people with a strong work ethic. As a prosperous continent, Europe has a moral and legal obligation to help these refugees. The burden should be shared across all EU states,
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Statement to Europe’s Heads of State and Government:

While migration is a complex problem that needs a comprehensive and long-term approach, the first priority for European leaders must be to stop the death toll that is a stain on the conscience of our continent. The events of recent weeks show that stopping search and rescue has not dissuaded migrants, but vastly increased the numbers of deaths. According to UNHCR, over 1,600 migrants have died in 2015 while trying to make the crossing. We call on the EU Heads of State and government to go beyond the ten point plan issued earlier this week in immediately restoring an expansive search and rescue operation in Mediterranean waters, with a level of funding and a mandate that match the humanitarian emergency that confronts us. 

The wave of migration from North African shores is fuelled by turmoil and conflict across the Middle East and the Sahel, and amplified by the breakdown of state authority in Libya. The EU is rightly committed to do what it can to help reverse these developments, but there will be no easy or short-term solution. 

In the meantime, the EU must accept that attempts at migration will continue on a large scale, and develop a range of measures that reflect our values and responsibilities, including: 

  • Legal channels for asylum seekers through facilities in countries of origin or transit, to reduce the numbers carried by illegal traffickers; allowing individuals to apply for asylum from a country other than their own.
  • Set up a system of relocation and redistribution within the EU, to reduce the weight of the burden falling on a handful of member states.
  • Policies to secure the accommodation of refugees in non-European countries, as long as they cannot return to their countries of origin, through the construction of safe and decent facilities in third countries.
  • Develop cooperation with third countries to destroy the boats used by traffickers.
  • Launch a cooperative law enforcement effort to break trafficking networks, confiscate their assets and prosecute those involved.


Measures such as these are necessary to ensure that the EU’s approach to the complex challenge of migration is sustainable, equitable and humane. However the starting point of the European response to the recent surge in migrant deaths must be a recognition that we cannot allow such terrible events to persist among those trying to reach our shores. “

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