Business users breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday after the UK’s statistics authorities announced they have decided against scrapping the 200-year-old census. They plan instead to replace paper forms mailed to households with an online questionnaire. Read more

After decades of explosive population growth, which is now slowing, Asia will remain the geographic region with the greatest number of people by the middle of this century.

But it is Africa, the world’s poorest region, that is now forecast to grow most quickly over then next few decades, according to new forecasts by a US demographic institute. Its population is set to show the fastest rate of any world region, more than doubling by 2050, the research says. Read more

The United Nations Population Division is the go-to source for demographic data covering everything from urbanisation rates to old age life expectancy.

But now Sanjeev Sanyal, a global strategist at Deutsche Bank, has questioned the UN’s latest global population forecasts – a stunning act of lèse-majesté.

In a paper released this week, he argued that total fertility rates (TFR) among women in fast-growing economies are already falling so fast that the UN predictions – relied on by demographers, sociologists and economists all over the world – simply cannot be credible. Read more

While there is no doubt that fertility rates among female migrants are disproportionately adding to UK population growth, the pace of increase appears to be easing, according to the latest granular analysis of the 2011 Census data.

In fact, since 1970, the year in which births among non-UK born women rose at their fastest rate was 2000, which was 8.4 per cent higher than the number in 1999. Since then, the rate of increase in births among immigrant women has been falling erratically and since 2009, has been growing by under 2.0 per cent each year. Read more

The “oldest old” – generally defined as those aged 80 or 85 and over – are rising as a percentage of total population in both developed and emerging economies. So the question arises about how the healthcare costs of this increasingly frail group should be shared.

In the US, where health expenditure per capita is roughly twice that of any other developed economy, the question is particularly vexed. Recent proposals to rein in Medicare, which provides health care for those aged 65 and over, include measures that would require individuals to pay more from their own pockets than they do right now. Read more

For all the antipathy that migrants are generating in Europe, a look at the numbers suggests they may be sorely needed. In much of the European Union, migrants are filling the ranks of the working age population, particularly in countries where the number of those aged 20 to 64 has been falling as a percentage of the total population.

Moreover, the data show a persistent pattern: migrants, as a percentage of population, are highest at the youngest working ages, peaking in most countries at 30 to 35 and falling thereafter. Read more

Anyone wondering why the issue of paying for long-term care is rising so swiftly up the political agenda need look no further than the latest UK census.

Much of the conversation about older people to date has revolved around estimates of the future numbers of elderly who will need care. Projections for the number of over-85s by 2031 have been steadily revised upwards in the past couple of decades:

2013 aging projections

But there has been little focus on what has already happened. Read more

Croatia today becomes latest nation to enter the European Union. This itself is a remarkable achievement as less than 20 years ago, Croatia was a party to a fratricidal war that tried to break the former Yugoslavia into ethnically pure geographic regions and included the mass murder of civilians of other ethnic groups.

Although it is now long over, the EU’s newest member still faces considerable economic and demographic challenges to bring it in line with EU norms. Life expectancy at birth for men, for example, lags the rest of the EU by nearly four years and its GDP per capita is only 61 per cent of the EU average.

Moreover, it cannot count on a growing population to boost its economic output; its fertility rate at 1.4 per woman is not only below the level needed to keep population stable, it is lower than the EU average of 1.57 births per woman.

Croatia charts

Source: Thomson Reuters Datastream Read more

Today’s OECD International Migration Outlook takes a comprehensive look at the fiscal impact of immigration, but also has some interesting numbers on destination and origin countries.

Britain has been the destination of choice for immigrants from OECD nations in the past five years, but tiny Belgium is not far behind. Also Germany, where unemployment is now lower than it was before the financial crisis hit in 2008, is a close third choice.

Outflows of population, predictably are largest from countries with the highest unemployment rates, OECD data show.

OECD 1 Read more

A leading Iranian presidential candidate has told women to have more babies.

The country’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, who has championed “resistance” against the west, is a staunch conservative. In a recent campaign speech he lashed out at the western view that empowering women can act “as a tool” to speed up economic development. In Islam, he said, “the core identity of women lies in their motherhood”.

But he’s fighting against the tide of Iranian demography, which has undergone a radical shift in the past three decades.

Iran fertility

Source: United Nations Population Division

Iranian total fertility rates (TFR) have collapsed from 6.49 per woman in 1974 to 2.17 in 2000 and 1.89 as at 2006. Demographers regard a TFR of 2.1 per woman as what is needed to keep a population stable. So the Iranian birth rate is not even enough to maintain current population levels, let alone to expand them.

 Read more

Britain’s official statistics agency, in its analysis of how median income households have fared over time, has found a small consolation for those on the eastern side of the Atlantic. While UK income inequality is rising, middle-earners’ incomes are more closely related to economic growth than in the US.

The Office for National Statistics used inflation-adjusted data from the US Census Bureau and International Monetary Fund that cover the years 1984 to 2008. It found that US median equivalised disposable income grew at less than half the rate of its GDP per person. For example, by 2008 – the latest year for which data are available – US GDP per person had grown by 55.3 per cent while median incomes had only grown by 26.1 per cent since 1984. Read more