Monday, 11 April 2011

Alarming Statistics

You may or may not have read my post Great Loo Book. I was referring to The Economist's Pocket World in Figures 2011 Edition, which I bought off their website along with a couple of other erudite tomes, the Numbers Guide and the Style Guide, so I could calculate like a Cambridge prof and write like Aldous Huxley (yeah, right). Anyhow, the Pocket Guide has the most disturbing first five pages since Machiavelli decided to ingratiate himself with Lorenzo di Medici with his jolly little page-turner The Prince. Let's turn to Sex Ratios, shall we? It's common knowledge that males and females are present in more or less equal numbers in every country, but let's look at the top and bottom end of the ratio tables, starting with Greenland, which has 113 males per 100 females, followed by Bhutan with 111.4/100, Andorra 110/100 and China 107/100. The alarming thing about this is that Greenland is number 7 on the list. There are six Gulf States above them, starting with Saudi Arabia in sixth place with a ratio of 120.7/100, stratospherically ascending through Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait to arrive at the UAE with an eye-watering 203.6 men to 100 women, but topped, royally, by Qatar which has a mind-boggling 306.9 men per 100 women. I honestly don't know what conclusion to draw from this. Diet? Abortion? Why are so few girls born in these countries? Maybe it's better not to know.

Going to the other end of the scale, the ten lowest slots are shared pretty much equally between the Caribbean and the former Eastern Bloc. Either the men have drunk themselves to death (in the case of the European states) or, in the case of the Caribbean, have all married middle-aged German divorcees and gone to live in Frankfurt. Another possibility is that they've all grown beards and gone to live in the Gulf States. Whatever the reasons, Ryanair stag night weekends in Tallinn aren't likely to be in any danger any time soon. Cause and effect, maybe.

Other heart-warming statistics in this world, which has seen its population nearly triple in seventy years, is that the top fifty growing populations are all in the so-called developing world i.e. countries which can't support their own growth and the slowest (or shrinking) are, without exception in the old 'First World'. We knew all this, but seeing the numbers laid out in front of you is quite alarming. Pakistan, which started in 1947 with a population of 31 million is predicted to reach 335 million by 2050, the fourth most populous country in the world after India (1,614m), China (1,417m) and the USA (404m) by that time. The UK will have grown to 72m, Germany shrunk to 71m and France will have 68m, five million more than now. How the hell are all these people to be fed? Where will they all live? Will there be enough water? What wars will this overpopulation engender? It's almost enough to make me want to take up smoking again and shed this mortal coil earlier than scheduled.

Let's just cast a quick glance at the 'Growing Populations' rubric. The top fifty spots are, with the exception of Singapore, all in the Third World, the vast majority showing between a 2-3% rise between 2005 and 2010. Drum roll, cue Qatar, with a rate of 10.65%. Even Pakistan, with a rate of 2.16, comes in at n°48...

I don't know, but this whole thing seems unbalanced. Maybe it was ever thus; poorer countries have more children but their mortality rate is higher and life expectancy is considerably lower, ergo quicker human turnover. It seems we really can't have it both ways: a sparsely-populated world brought us a never-ending succession of wars, disputes and occupations. Now there is more wealth sloshing around disputes are fewer, cooperation is more advanced but space is scarcer, raising land and property prices and, hence, pushing up the cost of living for all and sundry. There's also less space to grow crops (especially since the Labour government decided to build on flood plains to house immigrants, at least in the UK). There's no simple answer. Basically we're doomed. Or f*****, whichever way you care to express it.

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