Serbia: That Incredible Shrinking Country

This weekend’s election results in Serbia, and in particular the gridlock state of the political process and the resilience of the vote for the nationalist Serbian Radical Party (as ably explained by Doug in the previous post), pose new, and arguably reasonably urgent questions for all those who are concerned about the future of those European countries who currently find themselves locked outside the frontiers of the European Union. What follows below the fold is a cross-post of an entry I put up earlier this afternoon on the new global economy blog: Global Economy Matters. I don’t normally like cross-posting, since I would prefer to put up original Afoe content, but my time is a bit pressed at the moment, and I feel the issues raised are important enough to merit a separate airing on this site.
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What A Surprise!

According to the Financial Times this morning “Vietnam’s economy is expected to maintain rapid growth in the year ahead, after its gross domestic product last year expanded 8.45 per cent – the fastest pace of growth in nearly a decade.” This is to be added to the fact that “Economic growth in Vietnam, which averaged about 7 per cent between 2000 and 2004, has been driven in recent years largely by surging exports, after the signing of a long-anticipated bilateral trade agreement with the US in 2001″.

Now let’s take a quick look at the charts, yes, that’s it: median age 25.51, fertility 2.2 , life expectancy 70.61. The median age is still a little low for achieving complete take-off, but it is certainly in at the bottom end of the ‘new tigers’ range, and with fertility down to 2.2 and life expectancy already comparatively high, that median age looks set to rise rapidly.
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Getting Older, Or Getting Younger?

Warren Sanderson & Sergei Scherbov had a very interesting article in Nature earlier this year (you can find the full article reproduced here on page 5). The article title really tells the story in itself: average remaining lifetimes can increase as human populations age. Put differently, we may be facing the interesting enigma that the longer we live, the longer we have left to live.

But, riddles aside, what Sanderson and Scherbov actually propose is a new metric: the median age of the population standardized for expected remaining years of life. Now why would that be interesting?
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Turnering The Screw

The Turner Report is about to appear. The Turner in question is the UK peer Lord Adair Turner, and the subject of the report the future of the UK pensions system. Although the final report is not due till the end of the month, the FT has been ‘ leaking’ some of the possible contents.

The commission will apparently suggest that the age at which workers can claim their full state pension should, over time, rise from 65 to 67. The increase is intended to come in stages, starting after 2020 when the UK’s women’s state pension age is set to be aligned with men’s at 65. Thereafter, state pension age should rise in line with increasing longevity, the commission will say. Now this idea seems to me to be a very important one, and I’d just like to take the time out to explain why I think this.
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More Bigtime Divergence

As people may have noted, last weekend Tobias and I were in Stockholm. One of the topics I wanted to post on but couldn’t was the latest Human Development report from the UN. There was plenty of press coverage: here, here, and here

There was even coverage in the blogs, but the tone seemed to be set by Slugger O’Toole who seemed mainly to take issue with Ireland’s rating in the HDI.

Personally I think the issues involved are much bigger than this.
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Life Expectancy in East and West Germany

After so many days of posting topics related one way or another with death, perhaps it is better to get back to life. One good excuse for doing this could be the 25th International Population Conference organised by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population and which opened yesterday in Tours, France.

You can find the full conference agenda here, and there are topics to suit all tastes for those who are interested.

Over the next few days I’ll post on one or two of the workshop topics which catch my eye, and today it’s a paper by German-based researcher Marc Luy, entitled “A new hypothesis for explaining the mortality gap between eastern and western Germany” (Only extended abstract available online at present).
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Gloomy, or Just More Realistic?

One of the problems of being a ‘dissenting voice’ is that it is hard for others to get a grip on a yardstick for evaluating what you are saying. Normally I am considered ‘gloomy’. But if what I am arguing against is a concoction of all the ‘best case’ scenarios rolled meticulously into one, it might be fair for me to ask, aren’t those who point the finger really guilty of presenting an excessively rosy panorama.

Latest case in point are the consensus projections for life expectancy, as highlighted by the forthcoming UK pensions Commission interim report, details of which are ‘leaked’ in today’s FT:
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