Shutterstock Photo
Shutterstock Photo

“Globalization is not the problem. It is the answer,” said Jack Goldstone during his Signature Lecture at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Goldstone, who is the Virginia E. and John T. Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, presented 10 Billion: How Future Population Trends will Impact International Security and Global Governance.

We can expect to have 10 billion people by the middle of this century, if not sooner. But global population growth is actually slowing down, said Goldstone. The real problem is not running out of food or water. It comes in understanding where those 10 billion people are, how old they will be and how we decide to redistribute resources around the world.

The four percent average of annual population growth between 1950 and 2000, although arguably a strain on resources, was a very powerful motor for economic growth. Innovations — in food, housing, entertainment and travel — to meet those population demands improved the quality of life for everyone. Now, growth is very unlikely to exceed three percent per year between 2015 and 2040 — and in some places growth is already negative.

However, Goldstone identified the rise of subgroups in the world’s population, each of which have their own unique dimensions and global challenges. These include aging populations; the booming African population; the growth of a global middle class; a shift from a rural to an increasingly urban population; and fragile-state populations.  

An aging population, Goldstone said, hurts growth in a number of ways — from decreased productivity and lower work force participation, to greater expenses and depleted rather than accumulated capital. Changes to medical care (such as global agreements to facilitate legitimate and cost-saving medical tourism) and reconceptualising retirement (phasing into retirement in order to extend working years) are among the solutions to this challenge.

Goldstone explained that by 2070, based on current trends, Sub-Saharan Africa could have more workers than China and India combined. The critical issue is whether or not these workers will be educated and productive. Although the continent has been very successful at providing primary level education, the same effort has not been put into secondary education. A large number of women in Africa are marrying at a young age, after primary education, and working in the informal sector. This education gap is a reason why fertility rates have remained high in Africa, and it is not benefiting the continent’s development.

Africa’s population growth, Goldstone explained, is a problem for the world as a whole. If the continent is to reach China’s level by 2060, its carbon emissions would total over 20 billion tonnes — or as much as Europe, China and the United States combined in 2013. To meet this challenge, the continent requires a new, low fossil fuel energy regime; secondary school education for women; and renewed attention to and availability of family planning.

Toward the end of his keynote, Goldstone focused on the relationship between huge youth cohorts, state-fragility (defined as the provisioning of public services such as education and healthcare) and the concentration of violence. For example, countries with very young age structure have more outbreaks of civil violence, while countries with higher median ages tend to be more successful in achieving and keeping democracy.

Fortunately, Goldstone said, most of the world’s workforce is in countries that are relatively well run and stable. If, however, nothing changes within 25 years we are looking at a world in which more people of working age are living in countries with high-fragility and instability — bad environments for providing education and facilitating investment. This, he said, is a terrible risk for the global economy, and will provide migration and security challenges for old countries (such as Canada and in Europe) that are aging and facing economic debt.

The biggest problem of all, according to Goldstone, is that global governance institutions that we expect to keep order — the United Nations, NATO, International Monetary Fund, World Bank etc. — will grow increasingly illegitimate, irrelevant and dysfunctional.

Six countries — India, China, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria and Pakistan — represent 48 percent of the global population. Yet, they are weakly engaged in global governance (excepting China), according to Goldstone. He said that if we can adjust the aforementioned institutions to incorporate younger, faster growing countries into the global economy, political and defence organizations — giving these countries more of a shared leadership role and stake in managing world problems — we should be able to cope with the issues ahead of us.

Watch Jack Goldstone’s lecture at CIGI, in its unedited entirety, at You can follow Goldstone on Twitter @jgoldsto.

The biggest problem of all, according to Goldstone, is that global governance institutions that we expect to keep order — the United Nations, NATO, International Monetary Fund, World Bank etc. — will grow increasingly illegitimate, irrelevant and dysfunct
The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.