Young and Desperate

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Young and Desperate

As every Trends subscriber knows, "demography is destiny." That is, demography sets the stage on which technology and human behavior interact with the laws of nature and economics to create the environment in which we live and work.

Unlike the uncertain evolutionary path of technology, and the fickleness of human behavior, demography is largely "cast in stone."

That why, as far back as 2002, the Trends editors began calling attention to the huge male youth boom that first impacted China and now threatens to increasingly destabilize India and Africa in the years ahead. Why? Because there's a close relationship between the surging populations of young men and revolutions, wars, and upheavals.

As precedents for this forecast, a recent report by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analysts Ajay Kapur, Ritesh Samadhiya, and Umesha de Silva cite the following historical examples of this largely underappreciated phenomenon:1

  • The civil war in medieval Portugal circa 1384
  • The English Revolution of 1642 to 1651
  • The Spanish conquistadores ravaging Latin America in the early 1500s
  • The French Revolution of 1789
  • The emergence of Nazism in 1920s Germany

Similarly, problems appear to be developing in emerging markets, right now.

How big is this boom in the population of young men? There are currently 180 million men aged 15 to 29 in India, 170 million in China, and 160 million in Africa.2

When there aren't enough jobs to employ all of these young men, that fact alone can galvanize conflict, as can stagflation, rising income inequality, unaffordable property, and other problems typically facing emerging markets.

Particularly if they're unmarried, these young men have less to lose by banding together and committing crimes, fomenting unrest, or embracing violence. The marriage issue is a particular concern in China and India, where a cultural preference for male children has led to sex selection of infants; this now means there are tens of millions more young men than young women.

In a marriage market where women are scarce and thus able to "marry up," certain characteristics of young surplus males are easily and accurately predicted...

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