The good news is that globally we may reach zero population growth by 2080. The bad news is that we will have to stuff a couple billion people into an already crowded and resource exhausted world.
Most people have not considered what a decreasing population growth means to our economy and lifestyle. As birth rates drop the population ages. The ratio of workers per retiree drops. Here in the US that ratio is projected to be 2.1 by 2040 (at current retirement age).
An aging population means that health care costs rise. It is expected that health care costs will consume 20% of the GDP by 2019. As of 2002, those over 65 (13% of the population) consume 36% of every health care dollar. It is clear that ratio cannot hold when 30% of the population is over 65.
The recent economic meltdown has reduced the older worker's ability to finance his/her own retirement. Many had counted on their home equity, which disappeared.
The national debt is $13 trillion and the annual deficit for 2010 is projected to be $1.5 trillion.
There are some tough realities to face here. We cannot continue on the path we're on.
- Young people cannot count on Social Security and Medicare. Like my farmer grandfather, they need to save for their retirement, while still being stuck paying the SS tax.
- We will need to pay higher taxes
- We cannot pay tens of thousands of dollars in health care to provide a sick person an addition month of life. We will have to calculate bang for buck. I don't know whether we're up to that.
- We will retire later and later until we really don't retire at all. We may change what we do, but we will continue to produce as long as we're physically able.
- We will need to improve productivity due to a shrinking workforce.
- We will need to reduce our standard of living.
So we see that only one component of the current convergence of crises will cause significant changes to our way of life.
On the brighter side:
How to Shrink a City