Depopulation as a new population policy challenge

Wolfgang Lutz, Wittgenstein Centre
Nicholas Gailey, University of Vienna

The notion of "depopulation" has become a prominent political catchword in an increasing number of countries, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. It has been called the country's single most important problem by the president of Serbia and an existential threat by Croatia's president. It is the combination of strong labor out-migration to Western Europe with low fertility and thus rapidly shrinking cohorts of younger people that give rise to such alarm. Yet, the established toolbox of population policies has little to offer to these leaders. In this paper we put the issue of depopulation into the context of longer-term demographic trends and broaden the demographic perspective to include considerations of human capital and labor force participation in addition to the conventional focus on population size and age structure.We present different scenarios for selected countries in which in addition to age-dependency ratios we assess future trends in labor-force-dependency ratios and productivity weighted labor-force-dependency ratios. Based on this we propose the paradigm of defining population policies more broadly as "policies of national human resource management". We show how such a broader definition of population policies can offer concrete policy advice to governments concerned about population decline in addition to population ageing.

Keywords: Politics and demography, Population size and growth/decline, Theory, Human capital and labour markets

See paper.

  Presented in Session 51. Population Ageing, Population Decline and Migration