Jobs-led development incorporating svecchiamento as an asset?

1. Demographic transition

Barely 20 years ago the world was confronted with a population explosion. Now we witness a more complex phenomenon: while in some countries population is exponentially increasing resulting in an age distribution where the majority are younger than 25, in most of the developed countries the fertility rate has dropped to about 1.5 (considerably lower than the replacement level of 2.1) and the life expectancy has increased resulting in the number of persons older than 60 becoming greater than the number of those under 25.
This phenomenon — called demographic transition1,2 — occurred within a short time period of at most two decades, and has been generated by science and technology producing enormous improvement in health care. It occurs for the first time in human history. Superimposed on this pattern are huge migrations. Demographic transition causes tensions between regions and countries and sometimes even within a country. It makes special demands on health and social care systems. At present it seems that no country is capable of sustaining the required enormous retirement expenses nor of assuring even modestly adequate health care3. Moreover, countries that now exhibit increasing population will soon have a large portion of persons older than 65. Some cultures favour male offsprings and since progress in medicine enables choices, in some countries there is a shortage of women. In different cultural environments age distribution is accompanied by different implications. Information-education systems enable quite young children to be informed and capable of various actions that do not require either physical strength or emotional maturity, and on the other hand an extended education distances young people from economic productivity and marriage, significantly reducing the period when women consider motherhood.
The Club of Rome has been among the first to point out the importance of limits to growth4. Specifically, the exponentially increasing population with a characteristic doubling time of 40 years — which decreased to less than 25 years during most of the 20th century — is certainly unsustainable. Various criticisms and suggestions led to improvements in the original formulation of the limits5, but the main idea is now widely accepted, particularly concepts of sustainable development6 and sustainable consumption7. It is interesting to ponder why the importance of the limits has not been appreciated by the political process or by academies of science.
The nature of the political process is currently such that any long-term perspective is inherently weak. Global aspects are relevant for all countries, but the political process rarely treats them properly. The political process is too much focused on a short-term aim. It is possible that this is one of the most important reasons why citizens do not trust politics and political institutions. Aristotle calls politics a master science. But for him the aim of politics is not knowledge but actions. Politics as a ‘science’ in the sense of activity does however require science for knowledge and understanding8. Politics and knowledge are therefore intertwined, now more than ever before because knowledge is the main political power. However, politics and science differ in many ways, e.g. science asks for transparency and new ideas, even heresy, while politics does not tolerate them. Politics thrives on conspiracy; science does not tolerate it. Scientific activity is very efficient but political activity is not. Science and politics depend on each other in a very complicated manner. Science and politics differ in two major ways. First, science solves problems within a well-defined domain. Politics on the other hand encompasses everything. Second, problem-solving in science includes and depends on a rather small number of persons, while in politics, even in totalitarian regimes, it requires a very large number of people. Since politics requires a very large number of people, it is necessary to ask these people what they think and what they want. One way of ‘asking’ is polling. Gallup International’s 2002 Voice of the People survey9, designed in collaboration with Environics International and conducted from July to September 2002, included face-to-face and telephone interviews with 36,000 citizens across 47 countries on six continents. With this sample, results are statistically representative of the views of 1.4 billion citizens. The respondents were asked to rate their level of trust in 17 different institutions: parliaments, governments, UN, World Bank, IMF, WTO, legal system, armed forces, education system, religious institutions, police, health system, media, trade unions, NGOs, TNC and large national companies. The results are shocking. Around the world the principal democratic institutions — parliaments — are the least trusted. Only in North America and in non-EU Europe the percentage of those who trust parliaments is larger than of those who do not trust. However, in the same survey people from these regions said that their countries were not governed by the will of the people. In addition, a very systematic survey by the National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators10 carried out from 1973 till the present, shows that people trust scientists much more than they trust politicians. Public confidence in the scientific community stays constant at 40%, while confidence in leadership of all other institutions is below: government (20% and decreasing to 15%), congress (20% decreasing to 13%), press (25% decreasing to 14%), and educational system (40% decreasing to 25%). The only institution ranked higher than the scientific community is medicine, but even it decreased from 55% to 44%.
Academies, and more broadly academia and research institutions through their relationship — not to use the word dependence — on political institutions sometime refrain from issues that could displease their respective political leadership. The recent case of the position of leading scientists in the Russian academy concerning global warming11 is very instructive as is the fact that the Duma eventually ratified the Kyoto protocol, and President V. Putin signed it. The activities of the InterAcademy Panel, of the World Academy as well as of the European Academies and Allea are certainly encouraging, as are those of some national academies, but nevertheless it seems that there is still a demand for action on the part of such fully independent bodies as The Club of Rome. The other reason is the compartmentalization of the academic-research system, lack of inter-disciplinary and of trans-disciplinary approach, and not enough interaction with the decision-making process.
Demographic transition is a typical example of what in The Club of Rome has been called ‘problematique’12 where numerous issues are interconnected. Therefore, the demographic transition with its inputs and consequences profoundly interconnected with security and development, the dangers, threats and opportunities facing the contemporary world requires the attention and the action of The Club of Rome. Here we will address two aspects of the ‘problematique’ inherent in demographic transition: economy and culture.

Ivo Šlaus: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts and RuÐjer BoškoviÊ Institute, Zagreb, Croatia
1 S.P. Kapitza, Population Dynamics and the Future of Europe, paper at the 25th Jubilee of The Club of Rome, Hannover, December 1993; S.P. Kapitza, Mathematical Modeling 4 (1992), 65-79; S.P. Kapitza, Uspekhi Fiziceskih Nauk 39 (1996) 57; H. Buck, E. Kistler and H.G. Mendius, Demographic change in the world of work, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Stuttgart, 2002.
2 The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance, Issues and Practices, particularly Volume 28, No. 4 (October 2003), and Volume 29, No. 4 (October 2004).
3 Orio Giarini and Mircea Malitza, The Double Helix of Learning and Work, UNESCO, CEPES, 2003.
4 D.H. Meadows et al., Limits to Growth, Universe, New York, 1972.
5 D.H. Meadows et al., Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future, Chelsea Green Publications, London, 1992.
6 G.H. Brundtland et al., Our Common Future, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987, p. 383.
7 International Forum for Transition to Sustainability, Interacademy Panel, Tokyo, 2000.
8 Ivo Šlaus, invited talk on the occasion of the 90th birthday of Sir Joseph Rotblat, International conference organized by the Swedish Pugwash.
9 World Economic Forum, see, accessed 2003.
10 National Science Board, Science and Engineering Indicators, 2000, NSF, Arlington, USA.
11 Nature, Editorial, 431 (September 2, 2004), pp. 1 and 12.
12 A. King and B. Schneider, The First Global Revolution, 1991, Pantheon Books, New York.

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