It was the positivist philosopher Augusto Comte who pronounced the phrase “Demography is destiny”, a statement that makes more sense than ever in these times. Demography has become one of the great social sciences of the 21st century due to the decisive consequences that the demographic facts have, and above all they will have, in the economy and in the societies of the present and the future.
Three major population variables are of major importance: fertility, aging and migration. There is no country in the world where the decline in fertility has begun, which is especially intense in developed countries where generations are no longer renewed. The decrease in women of childbearing age, the multiplication of the rates below 2.1 children per woman and the increase in the number of years children have had a generalized decrease in the number of births. This produces, in turn, a decline in the number of young people (sections 0-14 and 15-29) in the labor pyramid and a consequent aging of the entire working population.
At the other end of the scale, the fall in the birth rate and the increase in longevity are causing this deep aging of our populations and an inversion of the traditional demographic pyramid in which there are already older than young people. Aging, the most widespread population event today, is a positive phenomenon, but it poses a number of challenges and opportunities. Among the challenges are those related to the structure of the active population, the payment of pensions, the financing of health, disability and dependence or the political consequences of the process. Among the benefits we must mention the new opportunities derived from the consumption of a population with special needs, good purchasing power and that will live for many years.
In developed societies, and our analysis will focus on them, the combination of low birth rates and intense aging, with its more immediate repercussions in the labor market and the payment of pensions, make immigration an undeniable resource. This is the third major variable that will focus the work of the observatory: knowing the immigration we have and what we will need to maintain our economy and improve the difficult demographic situation that we are going through. Immigration is not going to solve all our problems, both labor problems and those related to pensions. If the working population must grow to avoid the profound imbalance between assets and dependents, there are other instruments to achieve it: incorporate more women into the activity or delay retirement, at least until a time when technification and robotization reduce the human size of the population. working market. But we must continue to rely on immigrant labor, which, at least in the short term, will continue to play a fundamental role in our shrinking labor markets.
The Observatory is born with the vocation to deepen in these fundamental demographic questions and its economic-social derivatives. Their research aims to be eminently applied and to be very focused on diversity issues, both gender, especially age. And see how these variables affect the world of the company. The companies are going to be, therefore, our priority area of analysis and the recipients of our work. For this we will exploit the existing data, but we will try to obtain those that we lack through surveys and other instruments that we will direct or can be provided by the companies themselves.
Our first research will focus on the activity of seniors in Spanish companies, but the Observatory is born with an international vocation so that in the future it will extend its field of action to other scenarios.
We leave in complex times, when complex solutions are need it and where a one solution for all do not work anymore. Age, but also Diversity of cultures, skills and genders is not only a fact in today’s corporate world, but a strategy for business survival. With our research and analysis on demography and diversity, we hope to help organizations to think strategically and to realized that a varied talent pool is an essential business asset.
Director of the Observatory of Demography and Generational Diversity