demographics

By Ben Simpfendorfer of Silk Road Associates

The Yuecheng in Beijing’s southern suburbs is a pleasant looking senior living home. Its main living room is full of books, potted plants, and mahjong tables. Its bedrooms are bright and well equipped and little different from the rooms that many might be used to seeing in Europe or the US.

Indeed, to the casual observer, the Yuecheng appears to be a pin-up for the commercial opportunities of selling to China’s growing ranks of elderly people. But that’s why it’s also misleading. 

There is nothing that the west – and we in the western media – love to hate more than when Chinese money threatens to take a chunk of the free media that we see as a cornerstone of our democracies. So when a Chinese recycling millionaire said he was buying the New York Times, we either squealed with outrage or denounced it as a publicity stunt (which it seems that it was). 

The publishing industry in India is worth some Rs100bn ($1.6bn) according to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. And it is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 30 per cent.

Of the 90,000 new books produced every year in 24 different languages, Hindi publications make up about 26 per cent and English language books 24 per cent. It’s all part of the ‘globalisation’ of literature. 

India’s biggest resource – a young population, a democratic system, or the large pool of wealthy citizens it sends abroad?

According to a new report from WealthInsight, the researchers, 180,000 Indian millionaires live abroad and they are together worth $634bn – a figure that is expected to grow to $1.1tn in three years. 

For much of their history, the economies of Latin America have been isolated not only from the rest of the world but also form each other. Over the past quarter century, this has changed and the region now has the opportunity to embark on a virtual circle of development. But to realise this potential, governments must still deal with daunting challenges, writes Juan Carlos Echeverry of the Inter-American Development Bank. 

Massive open online courses, also known as Moocs, are a relatively new phenomenon in education, allowing people to take free classes from some of the world’s most eminent professors on their laptops anywhere in the world.

Excitement over these programmes reached a peak last year with the western media delirious at the idea of accessible, quality education for all. Bu where should Mooc platforms head for their next phase of growth? EMs, of course. 

A fascinating infographic from Euromonitor International (reproduced below) shows us not only that half of the world’s population is aged under 30 but also that 90 per cent of those youngsters are to be found in emerging markets.

So, EMs have youth on their side and the future is rosy! Not so fast… 

Emerging Markets across the world should be in a hurry to grow richer, according to Jonas Prising, president of recruitment company ManpowerGroup. “Otherwise they’ll lose the a race to get rich before they get old,” he told beyondbrics at Davos.

Whereas countries like Sweden, the UK or the US had several generations to adjust to new levels of economic growth, and could adjust their institutions so everyone could benefit from the countries’ increasing wealth, EMs won’t have that luxury, according to Prising. 

China’s “little Emperors” have got a lot of bad press in the 30-odd years since Mao Zedong created a generation of pampered and pilloried only children with the “one child policy”. It did not help that KFC, the Western fast food behemoth, opened its first restaurant in China soon afterwards, helping plump up the little darlings to the point where obesity is a problem for children whose parents and grandparents lived through famine.

But now an Australian study has even less nice to say about the generation that dominates China’s labour force. It says the one-child policy has created a generation of risk avoiders. Hardly good news for Beijing’s plan to create an innovation nation by producing millions of Chinese replicas of Steve Jobs. 

Robust domestic demand, the rise of the middle class and healthy corporate balance sheets are reasons why southeast Asia is being talked up as the last man standing in an otherwise anaemic global economy.

But Thiam Hee Ng, a senior economist at the Asian Development Bank, has sounded a rare note of caution on the region. He points out four factors that should give the boosters pause. 

In future, we will all have to work longer and retire later, right? Wrong, according to Jeremy Siegel, the Wharton professor. He says people in developed nations will still be able to stop work early and finance their retirement by selling their wealth to emerging market investors. “By the middle of this century, I expect all multinational companies to be owned by EM,” he says, pointing to a “new deal” between DMs and EMs.

Siegel is best known for the investment strategy laid out in his book, ‘Stocks for the Long Run‘. How did he arrive at his prediction? 

Would discounted cab rides for pregnant women and a bonus of N$20,000 ($673) be enough to convince you to have more kids?

Taipei is hoping its citizens will think so. In Taiwan, a birthrate among the world’s lowest means there will eventually be too few workers to support an aged population, prompting the government to try whatever it can to convince its citizens to have more kids. 

Anyone familiar with the name of Humayun Shahryar will know he is not a big believer in emerging markets. Take his views on China: “The whole soft-landing/hard-landing thing is a non-argument. China is crash-landing as we speak.”

But the founder and chief executive of Auvest, a Cyprus-based hedge fund, does have faith in his native India, which he reckons is next in line for China-style growth – but only after it’s been through a lot of pain. 

Beijing hopes that China will one day take its place among the world’s developed nations – but Shanghai has already got there.

Judged by everything from the city’s high prices to its low birth rate and remarkably long life expectancy – a daunting 82.5 years – Shanghai is no third-world country. 

Indian supermarketHow many modern Indian consumers will there be? A management consultancy report this week forecasts that the country’s consumer spending is set to soar in the next decade,  rising from $991m to the tune of $3.6 trillion by 2020.

But economists told beyondbrics that the Boston Consulting Group’s forecast – contained in a report that is bullishly entitled “The Tiger Roars” – could only be achieved if the government actually implements its ambitious reform agenda. And that is far from certain.