Early versions of this report predicted that the world’s population would double by 2050, and population growth has proceeded almost exactly on schedule. However, even this estimate may be too low. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, most official projections underestimate both fertility and future gains in longevity.
Unfortunately, the greatest fertility is found in those countries least able to support their existing people. Populations will triple in the Palestinian Territories and Niger between 2000 and 2050 and will more than double in Yemen, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. In contrast, populations in most developed countries are stable or declining.
The United States is a prominent exception. Assessment: Demographic trends such as this are among the easiest to recognize and most difficult to derail.
Barring a global plague or nuclear war—wildcard possibilities that cannot be predicted with any validity—there is little chance that the population forecast for 2050 will err on the low side. Implications: Rapid population growth in the United States compared with its industrialized competitors will reinforce American domination of the global economy, as the European Union falls to third place behind the United States and China. To meet human nutritional needs over the next forty years, global agriculture will have to supply as much food as has been produced during all of human history.
Unless fertility in the developed lands climbs dramatically, either would-be retirees will have to remain on the job, or the industrialized nations will have to encourage even more immigration from the developing world. The third alternative is a sharp economic contraction and lower living standards.
A fourth alternative is the widespread automation of service jobs as well as manufacturing, to accomplish the work needed to support accustomed living standards. However, this requires development of a means other than wages to distribute wealth and to provide both a living income and a fulfilling occupation for workers and would-be workers displaced by machines and software.
Barring enforcement of strict immigration controls, rapid migration will continue from the Southern Hemisphere to the North, and especially from former colonies to Europe.
A growing percentage of job applicants in the United States and Europe will be recent immigrants from developing countries. Implications for Hospitality and Travel: Rapid population growth, compared with other developed lands, will preserve America’s place at the top of the global economy, with China taking second place from the European Union. This will help to keep the hospitality and travel industries growing rapidly.
2. Population of the developed world is living longer.
Each generation lives longer and remains healthier than the last. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, every generation in the United States has lived three years longer than the previous one. An 80-year-old in 1950 could expect 6.5 more years of life; today’s 80-year-olds are likely to survive 8.5 more years.
Life expectancy in Australia, Japan, and Switzerland is now over 75 years for males and over 80 for females. A major reason for this improvement is the development of new pharmaceuticals and medical technologies that are making it possible to prevent or cure diseases that would have been fatal to earlier generations.
Medical advances that slow the fundamental process of aging now seem to be within reach. (This is a controversial issue within the medical community, but the evidence appears quite strong.) Such treatments could well help today’s younger generations live routinely beyond the century mark. Assessment: See the Assessment: for Trend 1.