Saturday 01 February 2014

IbnKhaldūn, Niccolò Machiavelli and other Realist theorists propose that Thucydides’ Melian Dialogue— that the strong do what they will; the weak suffer what they must —illustrates a fundamental factor in international politics. They argue that power is the dominant factor among nations and the primary determinant of global outcomes. Realists recognize a strong economy is essential to state power and influence; they also emphasize relationships between population growth and economic development and between population and national power. Population is seen as a form of latent national power. Fernand Braudel emphasized the huge impact of slowly evolving,but semi-permanent factors on the development of states, and his ideas helped foster world-systems theory.Taken together, these different theorists might all highlight demography as a slow-moving yet significant strategic challenge for today’s UAE.

Demography, the study of population changes, offers tools for a range of strategic issues through analyzing fertility, mortality, and migration. Fertility addresses the number of children produced;Mortality outlines the causes and consequences of death, and Migration assesses the movement of persons across political boundaries. According to Professor Jack Goldstone, as labor pools shrink and welfare spending increases in the future, the economies of many traditional great powers will slow: Japanese, Russian and even Chinese workforces are expected to shrink, blunting their economic capabilities and constraining their national power. Action now could affect how the UAE navigates such changes.

Replacement fertility,the rate at which adults have enough babies to replace themselves,is 2.33 children globally – at that rate global population growth tends towards zero. Recently the UAE ranked 91 of 224 nations with a fertility rate of 2.37. Niger (7.03) was first in global fertility; behind the UAE were Saudi Arabia(2.21), France (2.08),and the United States (2.06);Singapore (0.79) was at the end of the list. Mortality rates, the number of deaths in a specific population per 1000 individuals per year, average8.3 globally.Mortality rate comparisons show the UAE as best (lowest) in the world with a rate of 0.9; the worst is Lesotho(21.5), followed by Afghanistan (18.2); again France (8.6) and the U.S. (8.1) were in the middle; the rest of best included Kuwait (1.8), and Qatar (1.1). So, given these two factors, the number of UAE nationals should continue to grow.

Migration rates show the difference between immigrants and emigrants in a nation, per 1,000 inhabitants; migration rate analysis shows the UAE to be number two globally with 24.4 migrants per thousand nationals. Again the U.S. (2.92) and France (1.48) are in the middle, but this time Saudi Arabia is at the bottom of the list (-6.82). So, although the number of nationals will rise gently (fertility minus mortality), the huge number of immigrants arriving in the UAE means migration continues to overwhelm domestic population growth.

Thus, for the UAE, demographics remains a concern, both as the nation’s wealth shifts from petroleum to other sources of economic power (which generally require more manpower) and as the paucity of nationals must bear an ever-greater share of the burden for effecting the key processes of the state even as the total population continues to swell. Other nations will most certainly decline as their ability to handle population changes proves insufficient; with continued good vision, the UAE can maintain the right course, manage this demographic challenge, and grow stronger; but there can be no doubt – it must be managed.