Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Peter Drucker, The Next Society, 2001

In the developed countries, the dominant factor in the next society will be something to which most people are only just beginning to pay attention: the rapid growth in the older population and the rapid shrinking of the younger generation [..]

The shrinking of the younger population will cause an even greater upheaval, if only because nothing like this has happened since the dying centuries of the Roman Empire. In every single developed country, but also in China and Brazil, the birth rate is now well below the replacement rate of 2.2 live births per woman of reproductive age. Politically, this means that immigration will become an important—and highly divisive—issue in all rich countries. It will cut across all traditional political alignments. Economically, the decline in the young population will change markets in fundamental ways. Growth in family formation has been the driving force of alldomestic markets in the developed world, but the rate of family formation is certain to fall steadily unless bolstered by large-scale immigration of younger people. The homogeneous mass market that emerged in all rich countries after the Second World War has been youth-determined from the start. It will now become middle-age-determined, or perhaps more likely it will split into two: a middle-age-determined mass market and a much smaller youth-determined one. And because the supply of young people will shrink, creating new employment patterns to attract and hold the growing number of older people (especially older educated people) will become increasingly important.

All this means that winning the support of older people will become a political imperative in every developed country [.. hopefully wout abusing their fears with populist slogans].

The respected DIW research institute in Berlin estimates that by 2020 Germany will have to import one million immigrants of working age each year simply to maintain its workforce. Other rich European countries are in the same boat. And in Japan there is talk of admitting 500,000 Koreans each year—and sending them home five years later. For all big countries but America, immigration on such a scale is unprecedented.

The political implications are already being felt. In 1999 fellow Europeans were shocked by the electoral success in Austria of a xenophobic right-wing party whose main plank is no immigration. Similar movements are growing in Flemish-speaking Belgium, in traditionally liberal Denmark and in northern Italy. Even in America, immigration is upsetting long-established political alignments. American trade unions’ opposition to large-scale immigration has put them in the anti-globalization camp that organized violent protests during the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization in 1999. A future Democratic candidate for the American presidency may have to choose between getting the union vote by opposing immigration, or getting the vote of Latinos and other newcomers by supporting it. Equally, a future Republican candidate may have to choose between the support of business, which is clamoring for workers, and the vote of a white middle class that increasingly opposes immigration.

Even so, America ’s experience of immigration should give it a lead in the developed world for several decades to come. Since the 1970s it has been admitting large numbers of immigrants, either legally or illegally. Most immigrants are young, and the birth rates of first-generation immigrant women tend to be higher than those of their adopted country. This means that for the next thirty or forty years America ’s population will continue to grow, albeit slowly, whereas in some other developed countries it will fall. [US] is culturally attuned to immigration, and long ago learned to integrate immigrants into its society and economy. In fact, recent immigrants, whether Hispanics or Asians, may be integrating faster than ever. [ ..] The one big obstacle to the full integration of recent immigrants in America is the poor performance of American public schools.