It is a good time to be a worker. Well, apart from the lockdowns. And it’s probably not great if you are in hospitality. Or tourism. Or in the airline industry.  

Ok, let’s start again. Leaving aside COVID (who doesn’t want to do that!?) the next few years and decades will be a good time to be a worker. Assuming that all the jobs aren’t taken away by AI, machines and Algorithms then there will be a demand for workers in many parts of the world. Assuming that supply and demand does its thing, that should make labour more valuable and therefore wages should rise. Which makes it a good time to be a worker. (Assuming that wage and price controls are not legislated for as they were when labour was particularly scarce in the wake of the Black Death in England…) 

By the middle of this century (which is not so far away now…only 29 years) it is predicted that many of the world’s economic powerhouses will be facing large declines in their working-aged populations. According to the OECD, by 2050 the number of those aged between 20 and 64 (“working-aged”) living in South Korea and Italy will have declined by a fifth from the start of the century. Germany will see a slightly smaller decline while in Japan the same cohort will have slumped by 40 per cent in 50 years. China’s working aged population has been declining for a number of years now

These nations will face structural economic headwinds. There will be underfunded social systems, tight labour markets and overstretched medical and care sectors. There will be fewer taxpayers carrying the economic burden. Conversely, countries with natural growth rates will have an in-built economic advantage. And there will be a few of them. The OECD nations as a group will see the working-aged population actually increase by 11 per cent from 2000 to 2050, driven largely by Australia, Turkey, Canada and the United States. 

We are perhaps entering an age in which countries will be competing for labour rather than trying to keep migration down. Perhaps migrant caravans on the horizon will become a political and economic boon. Perhaps.

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...