Monday, January 11, 2016

Central Banks & Governments Treat Secular Change as Transitory Phenonomenen

According to the US Census, the US 0-24yr/old population will shrink outright by 170,000 persons between 2015 and 2020.  Now, this decline against a population of nearly 105 million 0-24yr/old Americans may seem petty, but when every metric you are gauged by is growth, a shrinking base of consumers (aka, shrinking pie) probably matters.  And when their parents wages are flat to down in real terms, and the cost of credit rising and the usage declining...well, if I were Abercrombie and Fitch or Nike or Activision Blizzard or thousands of universities all dependent on growth...I'd care.

Globally, the 0-24 population is still rising...but likely entirely due to population increases in Africa offsetting declines among the 34 member nations of the OECD, China, Brazil, (and very soon) India.  These population declines are not new, are not small, and are only accelerating. 

The chart below highlights the global annual population change in the 0-24yr/old population.  Globally, growth among this segment has fallen 80% from it's 1968 peak and after a short bump to come over the next 5 years, is set to flirt with zero growth.  Clearly, OECD and CBI (China, Brazil, India) have become huge negatives.

Population Growth of 0-24yr/old populations...

Below, the OECD 0-24yr/old annual population turned negative in '82 and declines more every year since.  There are now 26.5 million fewer under 24 year olds in the 34 OECD nations than in 1982, a 6% decline and projected to be down by 10% in 2050.  And this is in spite of large net immigrations into the US, UK, Israel, France, etc. etc.  FYI, OECD members include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israël, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.

OECD members like Japan and Germany have seen sustained, massive declines.  Japan's 0-24 population peaked in 1955, has fallen 41% since, and is projected to be down 64% by 2050.  Germany's young population peaked in 1973 and is down by 34%, and projected to be down 48% by 2050.  But there are others among the OECD equally in dire S. Korea which peaked in '81 but has already seen a decline in young of 37% and by 2050 is projected to fall by 59%.  Funny, none of these nations (and so many more) had one child policies and yet have seen deeper population falls than in China.

China's young population turned negative in '92 and 0-24yr/old populations has declined by 152 million since or about 6.25 million fewer Chinese young every year (YoY) since '92.  This represents a 26% decline among the young and is projected to be down 42% by 2050.  Looking at China's neighbors and like advanced and developing nations, something tells me the recension of the one child policy recently in China will likely have little to no impact on China birth rates. 

Brazil's young turned negative in '06 and have declined by 7.3 million since or about 9%.  However, Brazil's young are projected to fall steeply and be down 41% by 2050.

And India's 0-24yr/old population is set to turn negative in 2018 and be down 10% by 2050.

So much micro and macro depending on growth of consumption, particularly among the young.  However, every year the tide of population growth recedes further and faster (nearly everywhere but Africa) and central banks only answer with rate cuts to allow greater indebtedness (ever more debt among ever fewer people at ever lower rates all to pretend we are still "growing"). 

Will we ever acknowledge that these huge population declines are working there way through our populations from the bottom up and eventually we'll almost surely see halving of many advanced and developing nations populations.  Half the shoppers, half the homebuyers, half the tax base, half the "growth".  Our central banks and governments are pretending this secular change is anything but...and wrongly formulating policy that is nothing but short sighted and ultimately ruinous for the vast majority, particularly the young.

***all population data and estimates for this article are via OECD and US Census.