Monday, December 19, 2005

 

What Remarkable Creatures (we are)

Demographers (at the INED, in France) estimate that the world population of living humans reached six and a half billion December 19, 2005, give or take a couple of years. Fifty years ago, when we were only two point seven billion, they (demographers) predicted we would be 6.5 billion in 2005. Well done, humans! Rarely are long-range targets and plans achieved, and this, involving billions of people over a span of fifty years! We also managed to heat the planet to its highest temperatures known or estimable over the past 650,000 years. We are unstoppable, the sky is the limit! Or maybe not, but that is what we appear to assume, by and large.

In a recent article, Joel Cohen, of Columbia University and Rockfeller University, pointed out three or five remarkable demographic phenomena of our times (for those of us born before about 1960).
To this we should add the point made by Richard Freeman, Director of Labor Studies at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Herbert Ascherman Professor in Economics at Harvard University:
In 1980, the global workforce consisted of workers in the advanced countries, parts of Africa and most of Latin America. Approximately 960 million persons worked in these economies.

Population growth — largely in poorer countries — increased the number employed in these economies to about 1.46 billion workers by 2000.

But in the 1980s and 1990s, workers from China, India and the former Soviet bloc entered the global labor pool. Of course, these workers had existed before then. The difference, though, was that their economies suddenly joined the global system of production and consumption.

In 2000, those countries contributed 1.47 billion workers to the global labor pool — effectively doubling the size of the world's now connected workforce. read more

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