The Age of Decay – How aging and shrinking populations could usher in the decline of civilization explores how declining fertility rates globally will lead to a shrinking workforce, and more importantly, to a reduced number of “essential workers”, which could massively disrupt everyday lives. Essential jobs maintain the structure that upholds society – think of plumbers, truck drivers, healthcare workers and farmworkers – and when these workers are in short supply, society could start to fray. The book draws on various incidents of essential worker shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic and shows what will happen when these shortages are not merely temporary inconveniences, but become structural and something we have to live with.
Various trends are coalescing to contribute to a growing crisis – besides ageing and shrinking populations, rising education levels (for example, 39% of Canada’s population have degrees) and the changing attitudes toward work of Gen Z, will lead to a void in essential, lower-skilled jobs that can then only be filled by immigrant labour. Consequently, attitudes to immigration must change (which is hard to fathom in this era of rising nationalism and stronger borders), as countries will increasingly have to compete for their share of essential labour. Africa will buck this trend and have an opportunity to shine—by 2100, 40% of the working-age people globally will have been born in Africa and the next century could become the “African Century”.
The book shows why automation and technology such as artificial intelligence won’t solve this problem, and it points out the limitations of raising the retirement age as a strategy.
The impact on the developed market economies and investment markets could be severe. Companies will have to contend with dwindling demand, while investors will struggle to find opportunities with positive terminal growth. Governments will have to balance a shrinking tax base with a growing population of aged persons needing social welfare.
The Age of Decay is a provocative read that author Shamil Ismail hopes will stimulate debate over the impact of changing demographics on society.
“A tautly written and well-researched book.”
Professor Charles Goodhart, London School of Economics.
“Catapults you into a future scenario that cannot be ignored.”
Dr Pali Lehohla, past Chair of the UN Statistics Commission
“An intriguing analysis of how our lives could be impacted by the changing demographic trends. A must-read for anyone interested in how the future could unfold. Captivating, carefully considered and well-argued.”
Darrell Bricker, co-author of Empty Planet—The Shock of Global Population Decline
See sample pages from the book below:The-Age-of-Decay-Preview-Publisher-p3-19