This write-up was to explain the structural changes faced by the demography of the world. It tried to focus on some important factors like population increase and its effects, use of human resources, unemployment among the youths, immigration and its effects, generational conflict, and pressure on the social security system and the roles The United Nations could play to proffer solutions to these structural changes. As a result of these factors, many instabilities and unfavourable conditions are present all over the world. Increase in population in some parts of the world especially in developing and under-developed countries pose a serious problem to the populates in regards to the use of available resources, unemployment among youths, generational conflicts, poverty, high natality rate, and so on. And while this is going on, in other parts of the world like Europe, almost the reverse is the case. In Europe, depopulation, low fertility rate, low natality rate, a high number of ageing population, pressure on the social security system, and so on are the issues at hand that need attention both from national and international levels. As solutions to these problems, the work has tried to indicate the roles The United Nations together with its principal organs and special organisations could play. These roles are; provision of effective access to sexual and reproductive health education in collaborations with governments of each nation or country, maintenance and sustainability of existing structures and projects that could help achieve the aims and objectives of sexual and reproductive health education to the populates, channelling large part of the fund meant to support abortion and sterilisation to developing nations in support of sexual and reproductive health education and projects that could help better the lives of the people, intervention to halt or control exploitation of mineral resources from developing and under-developed countries and support to research projects in collaborations with the governments of the countries cornered, and control of immigrants through effective and proper collaboration with the countries concerned through establishing structures that would enable the immigrants to fit well in their new society and contribute to the economic development of their host countries. Proper and effective control on immigrants would go a long way to help solve to a large extent the problems of a high rate of retired and aged workers in many developed countries, increase the population of countries experiencing depopulation which indirectly would reduce the pressure on the social security system. Full and effective support to countries running entrepreneurship programmes by The United Nations and other non-governmental organisations can play a vital role in youth unemployment in the world. The intervention of The United Nations with other international organisations against human right violation mostly in African and Asia continents will go along way to solve some structural changes present in our world today. These structural changes our present world is experiencing need urgent attention from all and sundry and with the help of The United Nations in collaboration with other organisations and governments worldwide in redefining, replanning and restructuring of new strategies and policies to the existing ones can help militate against this world phenomenon termed “ Demography Tsunami.”
THE ROLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS AGAINST STRUCTURAL CHANGES IN DEMOGRAPHY OF THE WORLD
Introduction: The uncontrollable growth of the human population has been the concern of many individuals and organisations all over the world. Policies and measures are constantly been put in place by many national and international bodies to remediate the effects caused by structural changes in world demography. The exploding rate at which the world population is taking poses a serious problem and threats not only to human beings but also to the environment and this calls for urgent and strategic interventions from all. John Bongaarts a Dutch-American demographer said that, “ Today the world’s population is up to 7 billion but this figure keeps fluctuating through three processes: fertility, mortality, and migration according to (2009) but nevertheless there is a constant and gradual increase, indicating future adverse effects if measures are not taken in order to resolve it.” He went further in describing briefly these three processes; fertility as the number of children that women have and is to be contrasted with fecundity ( a woman’s childbearing potentials), mortality as the study of the of causes, consequences and measurement of processes affecting death to members of the population, and migration as the movement of persons from one locality of origin to a destination place across some pre-defined, political boundary.
Demography according to Wikipedia is the statistical study of populations, especially human beings. As a general science, it can go further to analyse any kind of dynamic living population, that is, a population that changes over time or space. It encompasses the study of the size, structure, and distribution of population, and spatial or temporal changes in it in response to birth, migration, ageing, and death.
From recent findings and research, it has been observed that while an increasing number of countries are experiencing depopulation, low fertility rate, pressure on the social security system, and ageing, other under-developed and developing countries are experiencing the opposite with continuing explosion of unemployed youth and lack of resources. Many developed and rich countries in Europe are experiencing some similar problems just like other developing and under-developed countries especially in Asia and Africa. The major ones are youth unemployment, generational conflict or gap, and high pressure on the social security system. But the effects of these problems are more felt in developing and under-developed countries where the population growth is high and available human resources are low. The root cause of these problems especially in Africa is sometimes linked to corruption, bad system of government and poor economic growth. Nigeria as a country in West Africa with a population of 188,462,640 according to 2015 estimated census keeps increasing every day especially in the northern parts and despite the rich and abundant human and natural resources present, the government is still facing serious problems in catering for the needs of her populates due to high corruption rate in governmental system and private establishments, poor management of infrastructures and social amenities, poor economic growth, lack and poor implementation of policies on sustainable human developments, unemployed youth, late age retirement in civil service, to mention but a few. The issue of unemployment on its own has triggered other problems like social insecurity, armed-robbery, family instabilities, and high rate of kidnapping.
Due to environmental changes and different world view perspectives between parents and their children, there is a generational gap or conflict between them. This environmental changes and different world view perspectives between youths and their parents take it root from differences in their epoch based on their social, cultural, political and economic aspect of life. The youth of nowadays no longer reason as their parents do and in some ways they are right. Right in the sense that things are no longer the way it used to be. The Dictionary of American History (2003) defined generational conflict or gap as a difference of opinions between one generation and another regarding beliefs, politics, or values. In today’s usage, it is seen as a perceived gap between younger people and their parents and/or grandparents.
The Potential Roles of The United Nations
The United Nations as an intergovernmental organisation in promoting international cooperation, together with her five principal organs can cope with the structural changes the world demography is experiencing through playing the following roles:
POPULATION INCREASE:- Population increase poses a threat and future negative implications in world demography and is still being experienced in developing and under-developed countries especially in Africa and Asia.
According to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) in the world population data sheet, the world population will reach 9.9 billion in 2050. Its president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jeffrey Jordan went further to say that “ Despite declines in fertility rates around the world, we expect population gains to remain strong enough to take us toward a global population of 10 billion,” significant regional differences remain, though. For example, very low birth rates in Europe will mean population declines there, while Africa’s population is expected to double.” Increase in human population has negative effects on the lives of the populates and the environment. Poverty, poor health, unemployment and lack of sustainable human resources are the most immediate effects that do arise. United Nations as a body can play a potential role through the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF). This United Nations organisation addresses reproductive health and population issues all over the world. Through working with governments of different countries, this organisation has been able to provide access to sexual and reproductive health education, promoting the rights of women and young people and empowering them to reach their full potential especially in developing and under-developed countries. Proper, effective, and easy access to sexual and reproductive health services by United Nations Population Fund will go a long way in providing good and concrete knowledge in family planning, voluntary fertility reduction and reduction in infant, human empowerment, and maternity mortality. Though some of these countries have already structures and facilities on the ground to help in sexual and reproductive health education it is unfortunate that these structures are either not functioning properly or not functioning at all and are poorly equipped and need the intervention of The United Nations.
Billions of dollars are been spent almost on yearly bases by some European countries in collaboration with NGOs in promoting abortion and sterilisation under the name of population control. I believe that if these resources could be channelled into health and educational infrastructures and their maintenance in countries that are in need, many lives would be transformed for good. From my own observations, promotion of abortion and sterilisation succeeded to a large extent in making larger poor families into smaller poor families. I see this a waste of fund to some extent because the size of the family was reduced but the level of poverty still remains and is on the increase from one generation to the other. Gender mostly affected are women. Men who after the fatigue of the day either in the farmland or from petit trade businesses that pay them little or nothing at the end of the day, have no other means of recreation or distracting themselves at night other than sex and drinks especially in remotes parts of some countries. In a situation like this, a woman will be given birth every blessed year with little or nothing to feed the children. But with the help of United Nations Population Fund, the provision of proper, effective and improved sexual and reproductive health education and services to individuals in remote areas of the world will enable them especially women to break out of intergenerational cycle poverty. Through this means, they will be empowered and enlightened together with their husbands to enable them to decide whether, when and how to have children in line with their religious belief and tradition if possible, thereby increasing women autonomy within their households, educational level and improved earning power. In one of United Nations Population Fund’s publications titled “Population and Poverty” stated that: “ Meeting the reproductive health and contraceptive needs of all women in the developing world pays more than for itself and for every dollar invested in contraception, the cost of pregnancy-related care is reduced by $1.43.” I am not against this idea but if we can imagine what might have happened if it had been invested in health, education, and research programmes in these countries. The answer is clear to all.
United Nations Development Programme can also play a vital role. Since this organisation focuses on poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS, democratic governance, energy and environment, social development, and crisis prevention and recovery, in partnership with other organisations like World Health Organisation (WHO), International Monetary Group (WMG), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) can help in provision of loans or monetary assistance to developing and under-developed countries to establish policies, effective strategies and implementation of programmes that could help in solving problems caused by overpopulation. The provision of funds have been in existence to countries that are in need but the major problem is control and effective follow-up on how the funds are been used by the beneficiaries in establishing and executing the stipulated programmes for the populates.
The table below from the Population Reference Bureau on world population data shows an estimate of world population from 2016 to 2050.
RESEARCH PROJECTS AND USE OF RESOURCES:- Many countries in the world most ones pay little or no attention to research work. Take Nigeria as an example. There are much research works been supported by the government at the initial stage but only to be abandoned before completion and the remaining fund for the project will end up in individuals pockets. The Nigerian government has been in partnership with many governmental and non governmental organisations in terms of carrying out research works but many have not been realised and if at all realised, they do not last because of the following problem: lack of supervision, misuse of fund by the beneficiaries, lack of maintenance and continuity in the research work, corruption, and so on. In this case, if The United Nations through her Specialised Agencies could develop new strategies and system in sponsoring and monitoring research works especially those ones dedicated to finding peaceful strategies to transitions nations from corrupt governance to truly representative and accountable governance, the economic and social aspects of the beneficial countries will be affected positively.
The resources especially natural ones that are found in developing and under-developed countries are been exploited by developed countries sometimes out of selfishness and greed. When this becomes the order of the day, what do we think will be the fate of these countries that are been exploited. Many countries in Africa are victims to this act and we know the rest of the story. United Nations Economic and Social Council with International Court of Justice can intervene to help remedy the situation through dialogue with the parties involved in order to create an atmosphere of good support and effective economic development that allows the populace of each nation or country to use her resources for their own good thereby leading to an enhancement of human rights worldwide and good economics for all. This pertinent point really needs serious attention because it is not helping matters at all. For over centuries now, Africa has been an exploiting field for other parts of the world even though many times out of greed the African governments have been collaborating to the detriment of their people. Another typical example is the Democratic Republic of Congo, a land blessed with diamond and many other mineral resources but when you look at its social and economic aspects, it is nothing to write home about. I have been there and it was an experience lived. Other countries in the world are also experiencing either similar or the same situation.
The efforts of the United Nations for peacekeeping in some countries during wars and political instability is highly appreciated by many but if it can go an extra mile in responding to the cry for help of the populates of these countries to international organisations, through developing effective means and strategies in monitoring the exploitation of natural resources, it will help to reduce the rate of exploitation. From my own observations, while I was in DR Congo, the rate of exploitation is always high during political instability, inter-tribal wars and conflicts with neighbouring countries.
YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT:- Youth unemployment is the unemployment of young people, defined by the United Nations as 15–24 years old. An unemployed person is defined as someone who does not have a job but is actively seeking work. There is 1.2 billion youth in the world aged between 15 and 24, accounting for 17% of the world’s population, 87% of them live in developing countries. The problems of youth unemployment are greatly felt in countries with the poor educational system, the unskilled labour force in the labour market and poor regulations, and overpopulation. Taking the first cause stated above and linking it to the situation in Nigeria, the quality of education is really getting off the rails. The government pays little or no attention to the educational system of the country and this has greatly affected the quality of learning and directly affecting the number of youths who are capable of employment. Due to this, many graduates are been produced every year in the country that is not capable of applying the knowledge acquired in practical form. Even with the little available job offers, there is still a lack of qualified graduates for the available jobs.
United Nations can go into a collaborative activity and agreement with governments in developing and under-developed countries in rendering quality education and establishing centres for acquiring qualitative and effective entrepreneurship skills, not only in the provision of funds but also in its organisation and continuity. For instance, in a country with 5000 job offers from the government yearly and each year more than thirty thousand persons graduate from tertiary institutions. What do we think will be the effects of this? Definitely, if this continues every year, the number of unemployed youths will keep increasing. The annoying part of the whole thing is that almost all graduates want white collar jobs. But I believe with proper management and organisation of existing entrepreneurship scheme programmes and if possible the creation of more especially in rural areas, the issue could be handled.
Entrepreneurship plays a vital role in the economic development of any nation. The problem in some African countries is not the establishment of entrepreneurship centres but their proper and effective management and continuity. I strongly believe that the United Nations can play a potential role here in providing sophisticated learning materials and experts in the management of these centres and forming of indigenous people that could continue in the management. The United Nations should look for more efficacious and new strategies in making herself fully involved in promoting entrepreneurship skills acquisition in countries where there is a high rate of youth unemployment. This will go along the way to refine the mentality of many Africans that are desperately in need of white-collar jobs instead of looking for other alternative measures in making themselves useful and productive in life. Many youths in some African countries are still dependent on their parents for their livelihood and this is one of the causes of generational conflict. Establishment of sophisticated entrepreneurship centres in poor populated countries by The United Nations will go a long way to reduce youth aid dependency and unemployment. This was confirmed by Wim Naude in his article titled “ Entrepreneurs and Economic Development” where he said that “ In many of these countries, including resource-poor North African countries, where populations consist of many young people who see little prospects of gaining employment with decent wages. Promoting youth entrepreneurship here has become a vital policy objective of many development organizations and donors.”
The United Nations has been playing its roles in adjudicating disputes among states in cases related to war crimes, illegal state interference, and ethnic cleansing, but more attention and focus should be placed in some African countries where a high rate of corruption is rampant and the misused of fund provided by non governmental organisations working in collaboration with The United Nations. This will help to monitor the ways fund made available by the United Nations and its organs are been used in carrying out the purpose(s) it was meant for.
Continuity in youth empowerment programmes by the United Nations could be used in collaboration with governments to tackle the issue of unemployment among the youth in the world as a whole. This fact has been recognised fully by the United Nations in the just concluded Annual Youth Forum held in the United Nations headquarters. From the addressing speech of Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, he said, “ Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for youth will generate decent jobs for them and assist in their transition from school-to-work.” He went further to described the initiative as a unique partnership with governments, the United Nations system, businesses, academic institutions, youth organizations and other groups to scale-up action to create new opportunities and avenues for quality employment in the global economy. As this year’s forum focuses on the role of young people in implementing, communicating and realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development, which aims for global changes through 17 goals within the next 15 years. I repeat, there should be proper and effective supervision of the above-mentioned goals between the United Nations and governments in programming, implementing, maintenance and continuity. Ethiopia and many other countries are really benefiting from the United Nations Development Programme in terms of entrepreneurship. The continuous support to entrepreneurship programmes all over the world will help resolve the issue of employment to a large extent. It would also help change the mentality and ideological nature of the youths that one must be employed by the government, forgetting that one could be self-employed in life. Once this change of mentality is achieved, people especially the youths will be oriented and motivated in developing and acquiring skills for a better tomorrow. One good news about entrepreneurship is that it is a chain process because individuals who participated in the programme will end up employing others once they are established and this continues.
IMMIGRATION:- The issue of immigration has been one of the most current and daily news headline in many developed and rich countries like Germany, United States of America, Italy, Brussels, and so on. From recent research, the number of immigrants in these countries is on the increase every blessed day. This poses a serious problem to the demographic nature of the host country and the immigrants’ countries of origin. Many of these immigrants left their home countries due to wars, political crises, economic crises and instability, and lack of employment in search of green pastures and a better life elsewhere.
According to Karoly Lorant, an economist, in his research work titled “ The Demographic Challenge in Europe”, said that “ Over the past 15 years, the number of people crossing borders in search of a better life has been rising steadily. At the start of the 21st Century, one in every 35 people is an international migrant. Globally the stock of migrating people increased from 75 million in 1965 to 175 million in 2002.” He went further to ascertain that, “ Most of those who have left their countries are motivated by a desire for better opportunities. But there are also millions of people who have been forced to migrate for fear of persecution.
The current waves of immigrants and asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa are linked much more to the worsening conditions in these countries, than with labour shortages in Europe.” It is clear that most developed and rich countries in Europe that are experiencing depopulation and low level of working-class persons need the presence of immigrants to help increase their population and if possible workforce in their economy. This is due to low fertility rate, longer life expectancy, high aged population and low working population. In Karoly Lorant work, it was made clear that “A report by the United Nations makes the strongest argument for the free flow of immigration. The reason was that population growth is crashing throughout the industrialized world. This will either impose an intolerable tax burden on future workers or force more of those over 65 years to remain in the labour force. The report says that to keep the population at its present level until 2050, Europe would need 1,6 million new immigrants every year, that is to say, 80 million people.”
In the speech of the former Secretary General of The United Nations Kofi Annan on 29th January 2004 to the European Parliament, he said, “ It would be unwise for Europeans to keep their doors closed to immigrants because at the long run, it would harm the long term economic and social prospects.” I believe if the United Nations could collaborate very well with developing and developed countries especially in Europe based on proper and effective immigrants control, the demographic tsunami can be handled. The issue of migration can be a solution to the declining and ageing population in rich and developed countries in Europe but it should be looked and studied critically in order to avoid negative consequences in the future. The United Nations Population Division in one of its research on demographic forecast saw migration as a solution. This was started as follows from the work of Karoly Lorant:
“ United Nations Population Division carried out research
whether the migration would be a solution to the declining and ageing population of the developed countries. According to the projections (medium variant), Japan and virtually all the countries
of Europe are expected to
decrease in population size over the next 50 years. In addition
these countries are undergoing a relatively rapid ageing process.
To maintain the population at the present level the
European Union (EU-15) needs some 47 million
net immigrants in the period of 2000-2050.
If the goal was to keep the number of the
working-age population(15 to 64 years)
at the present level the European Union (EU-15)
would need 80 million net immigrants.
The same goals for the enlarged Union (EU-25) would
require additional 10 and 17 million net immigrants
respectively. From the unchanged working age
population scenario (80 million net immigrants)
comes the often mentioned 1,6 million yearly
net immigrants Europe is advised to receive.”
The United Nations together with its organisations should collaborate properly and effectively with the governments of these countries experiencing a high flow of immigrants in creating means and developing policies which would enable the government benefit from the immigrants and indirectly helping the immigrants to be useful. This collaboration could be a formulation of projects and creating an enabling environment for immigrants to participates actively in the economic development of the countries they found themselves and if need be, financing these projects if the countries concerned are not buoyant enough to take up the projects on their own. The integration of immigrants into the economic activities of European countries experiencing low fertility rate, long life expectancy, and high ageing population will help reduce the pressure on social security system by boosting the working population rate. But in all this, control measures should be put in place to help in checking immigration rate especially in Europe so as to prevent over population in the future.
As earlier mentioned, the majority of these immigrants left their countries for many reasons that could be justified. The works and presence of the United Nations in some of these countries like the Republic Democratic of Congo, India, Pakistan, Somali, and Liberia are fully and duly recognised and appreciated by many. But if the United Nations efforts and collaborations with the government of these countries could be intensified in all ramifications ( security, peace keeping, and human right), the number of immigrants in Europe could be drastically reduced and once this is achieved, developed countries in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme and other NGOs can design programmes the will enable immigrants to acquire one or two skills for those who are not intellectually qualified so that they can fit in to their present society and be useful to the society and to themselves instead being a nuisance. And to immigrants who are qualified intellectually and otherwise and capable of working, there should be a system in place that will enable them as foreigners to find a job and start a living. The current trend now is that citizens of many countries all over the world especially in developed countries are lamenting that their government pays more attention to foreigners rather than to their own citizens in terms of job provision. They are right in what they are saying since they are been affected negatively but that is not sufficient to repatriate foreigners. There must be a way of balancing the equation. Here I believe with the intervention of the United Nations Development Programme, the problem could be addressed and solved amicably.
Alexis de Tocqueville after his American travels concluded that “ Each generation is a new people.” As earlier mentioned, generational conflict arises whenever the interest or ideals of one generation collide openly with those of another generation, ( Dictionary of American History, 2003). One of the major events that can trigger generational conflict especially in developing and under-developed countries is National Emergencies, a situation that threatens the safety and health of the citizens. This is what many countries in African are really experiencing. The United Nations through the International Court of Justice can collaborate lawfully and forcefully if need be with the governments of these countries where national emergencies are frequent. I believe that generational conflict and many other issues triggered by demographic changes could be handled properly to a large extent in resolving national emergencies. Is true The United Nations have been working with governments of many countries based on this issue but more efforts and new strategies should be developed to tackle it properly. I will not fail to appreciate its efforts in trying to bring to order the governments in some African countries like Cameroun, Somalia, Sudan, South Africa, and many more who are violating the fundamental human rights of the their citizens.
Many countries in the world have totally or partially failed in addressing the issues of fragmenting families, crime and drug epidemics, and schoolroom chaos which can be referred as social pathologies affecting the younger generations and a causative agent to generational conflicts. I believe that if an extra mile could be taken by The United Nations Economic and Social Council in proper and effective collaboration with NGOs and the governments of the countries concerned on this issues, could resolve generational conflict through sustainable development.
Conclusion:- The structural changes being experienced by world demography is really a problem that needs attention so as to find possible readjustment to the changes. These changes include: low fertility rate, rapid ageing, pressure on the social security system, and depopulation in developed countries, rapid ageing of society before becoming rich, unemployment, overpopulation in developing and under-developed countries, generational conflicts, and so on. The first approach The United Nations can take is balancing the equation. This means that like countries experiencing depopulation, immigrants or foreigners should be welcome in an already established system that could enable them to integrate well into their new environment so as to be useful to themselves and to their host countries. In collaboration with governments of other countries, effective measures should be put in place to help filter out immigrants with bad intentions. The second approach is the change of the existing system and laws that were really major causes of these changes. An example is the use of fund meant for abortion and sterilisation for investment in health and educational infrastructures, and in research dedicated to finding peaceful and effective strategies in transforming a corrupt governance into a truly representative and accountable one. The third approach is the intervention of the United Nations Development Programme in youth unemployment. Proper guiding and effective support to entrepreneurship programmes will help solve unemployment. Intervention of the United Nations in defending human rights violated by individuals and governments of many countries is also an effective role the intergovernmental organisation can play to help remedy world demography and its structural changes. United Nations support in collaboration with governments of other nations research works and projects, and its intervention on behalf of countries whose natural resources are been exploited to their own detriment would be a positive step to militate against the world phenomenon known as a demographic tsunami.
Writing by: Chidi Nzugbe