Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Zika: A Political Demography Conspiracy

A new conspiracy theory coming from Venezuela is that the Zika virus was created to hurt the Global South. And it includes political demography:

En el Sur desde 2010 y hasta 2040 se estará desarrollando el fenómeno social del Bono Demográfico. Es decir, en un crecimiento constante, la población en edad de trabajar y teóricamente saludable, se hará mayor que la pasiva (infantil y tercera edad), adquiriendo el Sur un potencial productivo superior al resto del mundo.

The basic thrust is that the Zika virus is fake and is just a plot to get Latin Americans to have fewer children. That would prevent the region from achieving its "demographic bonus."

I won't bother with the absurdity of the basic charge. I give them credit for at least thinking about political demography, but the logic is problematic. Having a lot of young people is often not correlated with "superior production." In Mexico, for example, it helped prompt emigration. In less developed economies, there is a problem of having too many young people and too few jobs.

In a paper we presented at last year's SECOLAS meeting and are still working on, my dad and I argue that Venezuela's very young population has put a terrible strain on the government's socialist project. It's very hard to redistribute resources to a growing population base.

We've also been writing an op-ed about the potential long-term demographic repercussions of a demographic dent, whereby government warnings prompt shifts that would be felt years later. This isn't about a "bonus" or production, though, and would not necessarily be disastrous if handled well.


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