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In The Graying of the Great Powers, Richard Jackson and Neil Howe predict trouble ahead. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest youth-bulge with over a third of the population, more than double the number in the developed world. The youth bulge could lead to instability in sub-Saharan Africa and some Muslim nations, including Afghanistan and Iraq, until at least the 2030s. As the youth bulge increases, “so does the likelihood of civil unrest, revolution, and war.”[i]  Historic global aging never seen before hit developed nations first. This phenomenon is creating a demographic gulf between them and developing nations, but will eventually reach there as well as people live longer and numbers of births decrease. As populations age their economic growth is threatened, and probably will cause the influence of the developed world to wane, according to the authors of The Graying of the Great Powers. The exception is the US due to immigration and relatively high fertility rates that likely will maintain its influence.

Demographic change will impact Russia with its population decrease, China will have to handle an age wave just when it becomes a middle-income country, and some countries will face intense competition between faster and slower growing ethnic and religious groups. As countries rapidly modernize, stress follows from “some combination of globalization, urbanization, rising inequality, family breakdown, environmental degradation, ethnic conflict, and religious radicalism.” Demographers Jackson and Howe predict that the disparities between graying countries with their shortage of youth labor and countries with large youth populations will come to the forefront in the 2020s to make it the decade of greatest global danger.

[i] Richard Jackson and Neil Howe. The Graying of the Great PowersCenter for Strategic and International Studies, 2008, p. 193.


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