Signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. Photo from The Irish Times.

In a column published in today’s Asia Times Online, economist David P. Goldman points towards a correlation between the end of the violence in Northern Ireland and the ageing of the Irish population to suggest that one of the most important factors that led to peace in Ireland was “the simple fact that the hell-raising youngsters of the 1970s had become middle-aged fellows with jobs and families.”  From this view, he looks at the ageing demographics of the Palestinian Territories to conclude that the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict will similarly end in the coming, even little outside intervention.  Goldman thus suggests that, at least in the Irish and Palestinian cases, the World’s ageing demographics can lead to peace.

However, in an article in January’s edition of the journal Current History, Neil Howe and Richard Jackson see global ageing demographics as leading to a great potential for conflict during the decade of the 2020’s.  They reach this conclusion by looking at the demographics of China, Russia and other key regions, such as the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.   In China — which by 2030 it will be an older country than the United States— they fear that the country’s “coming age wave [will] weaken the two pillars of the current regime’s legitimacy: rapidly rising GDP and social stability.”  This weakening may lead “toward social collapse—or, in reaction, toward an authoritarian clampdown,” which may occur at rougly the same time that China is expected to replace the United States as the world’s largest economy.   In Russia — which, in the midst of a long demographic decline, is due to fall to 16th place in world population rankings by 2050, from 4th place in 1950 — they fear that the country’s central authority “will weaken progressively, raising the nightmarish specter of a failing or failed state with nuclear weapons” or will instead lead the nation to behave like a “cornered bear” that “may lash out in revanchist fury rather than meekly accept its demographic fate.”  Lastly, they look at the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, which will remain among the World’s youngest societies, and fear that “if the correlation between extreme youth and violence endures, chronic unrest and state failure could persist in much of  [these regions] through the 2020’s.”

Take a few minutes to read both articles and share your thoughts with IAHSA.  Are the conclusions of these scholars contradictory? If so, do you expect global ageing to lead to peace or conflict?  Are there any steps that can be taken to ensure that global ageing leads to peace?  What do you think demographics mean for the security of your country?

Israel, Ireland and the peace of the aging

Global Aging and the Crisis of the 2020’s