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2.9

Best Case Study for Declining Populations? South Korea

South Korea is the world’s first country to have a total fertility rate below 1 (in 2019, it dropped to 0.98).  It may not be the largest population of the 86 declining populations (114 countries have TFRs above replacement level), but it makes for an incredibly important case-study to explore emerging demographic patterns because in the coming years, it probably won’t be the only country with a TFR below 1.

Korea Pyramid
Population pyramid from the National Atlas of Korea

South Korean governments at multiple levels have implemented some pro-natalist policies (tax-benefits, cash incentives, maternity leave, paternity leave, etc.), and the TFR continues to drop.  The economic reasons for this demographic decline make it a textbook example of a highly-developed economy where raising children is very expensive in a post-industrial, overwhelmingly urban context.  However, I think more time should be spend investigating the cultural patterns that led more and more young adults to either postpone child-rearing or skip it all together. In South Korea, as in other countries, marriages are becoming more infrequent, but the social stigma associated with raising a child out of wedlock remains very strong (only 2% of births are to unwedded mothers).  Many women returning to the workforce find that child-care options are limited they struggle to find the same wages that they had before they started a family.  Even before without children though, women in South Korea are confronted with the highest gender wage gap among OECD countries.  As reported in the WSJ, “South Korea has a strong economy, fast internet—and a big gender gap.” Korean work culture expects long hours, after hours social gatherings, and other practices that make it difficult to workers, but especially women, to find a manageable balance between having a career and a family.  Many corporations are reluctant to hire/promote/mentor women that might conceivably conceive and leave the company.

Korea Fert
South Korea’s declining fertility rates (source).

Today, many Korean families see having no children as the only way to survive/improve their quality on life given the economic and cultural context within which they are operating.  The government has been pouring millions of dollars to reverse this pattern but the fertility rate continues to drop.  The video below gives an introduction to the issue.

This video provides a more in-depth look into the issue (turn on the closed captioning)

GeoEd Tags: South Korea, declining population, population, gender, labor.

Good resources to understand South Korea’s Declining population:
National Atlas of Korea: Population Projections.
QZ: South Korea’s birth rate just crashed to a new alarming low
CityLab: South Korea is trying to boost its birth rate.  It’s not working.

A slightly larger than average South Korean family
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The demographic time bomb that could hit America

“Japan’s demographic crisis provides some lessons for where America might be headed.”

Source: www.washingtonpost.com

This op-ed looks at the demographic trends of Japan’s declining population and tries to see what this might mean for the United States. 

Questions to Ponder: What are the cultural and economic forces that lead to a declining population? What are some of the difficulties that confront countries with declining populations? 

GeoEd Tags: declining population, population, USA, Japan.

Scoop.it Tags: declining populations, population, USA, Japan.

The changing face of Japan: labour shortage opens doors to immigrant workers

Japan – once one of the world’s most homogenous societies – is starting to unwind its traditional opposition to large-scale immigration

Source: www.theguardian.com

Japan is one of the closest examples of a nation-state.  And like Iceland, that is in part because the ocean historically has acted as a massive barrier to cultural diffusion and migration. Today though, modern transportation makes that barrier negligible.  Cultural attitudes have continued to not favor international immigration but their declining population has forced a change towards the end of 2018 (see any of theses five articles from Washington Post, Japanese Times, Nippon.com, the Guardian, and the Diplomat).

Japan has traditionally been one on the countries most opposed to allowing large number of migrants into their country.  The administration is still presenting themselves as tough on immigration; the 2018 policy change will allow semi-skilled workers to enter Japan for 5 years, but they cannot bring their family members with them, and they still must pass a Japanese-language exam.  These shifts are not an abandonment of policies that seek to preserve cultural homogeneity, but they are also an acknowledgement of the demographic realities and struggles of a declining population.     

Until 2018, Japanese policy only highly-skilled migrants were allowed in to Japan, with advantages given to those with Japanese ancestry.  However, these stringent migration policies coupled with Japan’s declining birth rates meant that Japan’s population was declining substantially enough to negatively impact their economy.  There were foreign workers filling in the gaps, but only 20% of those workers had functioning work visas under the old prohibitive system. This new policy is primarily aimed at replacing workers in sectors that are facing severe labor shortages, that are being classified as “semi-skilled workers.”  The law is trying to walk a fine line, trying to bring in more workers to Japan while simultaneously making it very difficult still trying to make it very tough for these workers to settle permanently in Japan. This will have a significant impact on Japanese society, and in the near future, it’s cultural institutions.   

GeoEd Tags: Japan, East Asia, declining population, migration.

Europe’s Population Change (2001 to 2011)

The map provides a level of detail previously unavailable. It is the first ever to collect data published by all of Europe’s municipalities.

Source: www.citylab.com

Questions to Ponder: What regions can you identify as a part of a trend?  What possible factors have led to these patterns?  What are the long-term implications of this data? 

 

Tags: Europe, declining populations, population, demographic transition model, models, migration. 

 

10 countries that desperately want people to have more sex

Roughly half the countries around the world experience low fertility rates, and some get pretty creative in how they encourage procreation.

Source: www.businessinsider.com

While many countries have anti-natalist policies (policies to discourage more births), other countries with declining populations have pro-natalist policies in an attempt to increase fertility rates.  While not an exhaustive list, this list gives a few more examples that teachers can use to show how countries in stage 4 of the demographic transition are dealing with declining fertility rates.  

 

 

Tags: declining populations, population, demographic transition model, modelsunit 2 population. 

Japan forces a harsh choice on children of migrant families

Born in Japan, Gursewak Singh considers himself Japanese. The government doesn’t. But it offers children like him a chance to stay – if their parents leave.

 

Gursewak’s parents, who are Sikhs, fled to Japan from India in the 1990s. For several years, they lived without visas under the radar of the authorities until they were put on a status known as “provisional release” in 2001. It means they can stay in Japan as long as their asylum application is under review.  While there were almost 14,000 asylum cases under review at the end of 2015, Japan accepted only 27 refugees last year. The year before that, the number was 11.

The low acceptance rate stands in stark contrast to Europe, which has seen hundreds of thousands of refugees arrive from countries such as Iraq, Syria and Eritrea. In the first half of the year, European countries ruled on 495,000 asylum applications, approving more than 293,000.

 

Tags: culture, Sikhdeclining populationpopulationmigrationrefugees, JapanEast Asia,             .

Source: www.reuters.com

Why Italy’s ‘Fertility Day’ is backfiring

“Facing a low fertility rate (1.4), Italy is holding its first ‘Fertility Day‘ on Sept. 22, which will emphasize ‘the beauty of motherhood and fatherhood’ and host roundtable discussions on fertility and reproductive health. That may seem inoffensive, but the country’s health department is trying to raise awareness with an ad campaign that’s striking many as misguided and, worse, sexist and alarmist.”

Source: www.cbsnews.com

This pro-natalist campaign designed by the health ministry has received near universal criticism (in an attempt to see other perspectives, I searched for a more positive or even neutral article on the topic and came up empty-handed).  Italy’s Prime Minister openly scoffed at the premise of the campaign, and many pundits argue that it shames and pressures women into thinking about personal choices of childbearing as if they were communal responsibilities.  Unlike the infamous ‘Do it For Denmark‘ advertisements that were filled with playful innuendos, or Singapore’s ‘Maybe Baby‘ which highlights the joys of parenthood, this one has more overtones of duty and plays on fear more than those other pro-natalist campaigns.   

 

Tags:  ItalyEurope, declining populations, population, demographic transition model, modelsunit 2 population. 

 

Fertility Rates-Differences Within Countries

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“An important aspect about country level data of fertility to keep in mind is that there can be considerable heterogeneity within countries, which are hidden in the mean fertility which were discussed in this entry. The mean Total Fertility Rate for India in 2010 was 2.8 (UN Data): But this average hides the fact that the fertility in many Southern Indian regions was below 1.5 (which is similar to the mean fertility in many European countries), while the fertility in Northern India was still higher than 5 children per woman (which is as high as the mean of the African countries with the highest fertility).”

Source: ourworldindata.org

This is a stunning example of uneven development and regional differences within countries.  Too often we discuss countries as if the situation inside the borders of one country is the same throughout it, even if the geographic contexts can be wildly different. 

Questions to Ponder: Why are the fertility rates in so different in northern and southern India?  How does this regional imbalance impact the country?  What are other examples of major differences within a country? 

Tags: regions, population, demographic transition model, declining populationmodelsunit 2 population, India, South Asia. 

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