Demographics is destiny.
Countries with a young, growing workforce grow faster. Countries with an ageing, shrinking workforce find growth to be much harder.
Michael McDonough, the Chief Economist at Bloomberg LP, just published this great chart, showing the demographic pyramids of Japan, China, and the US. Demographic pyramids show the relative size of each age cohort at a point in time.
So for example, you can see that in 1990, Japan had a lot of workers who were in their early 40s (prime working age) as well as a sizable contingent of teenagers. But you can see that these days, there are very few teens, and lots of folks who are older than 60, which speaks to how the country is graying. By 2050, there will be tons of 70 year olds, and almost no teenagers (relatively speaking).
In 1990, China was incredibly young, with almost nobody old, but as you can see it’s rapidly ageing as well, with a substantial contingent of workers in their 40s.
The best looking, really, is the US, which has a nice evenly distributed population. The shape of the pyramid isn’t changing much, in part because our immigration policy keeps the population from getting too old.
Click the chart to enlarge.