Joseph Chamie

Mr Joseph ChamieIn the following months, I would like to introduce you to a few interesting people. Some of them I had the pleasure to meet in person, and a few others, although not very high-profile, deserve their five minutes of publicity.

I’d like to start with Mr Joseph Chamie, speaker at New York Model United Nation Simulation 2004 in the general assembly third, the body in which I’ve had the pleasure to participate. Our group represented Luxembourg – note the “Non-Violence” (a.k.a. “The Knotted Gun”) by Fredrik Reuterswärd, a gift from the Government of Luxembourg to the United Nations. The job I’m going to apply for is related to demography, so during the preparations for my portifolio I came across a U.N. webcast aired on November 30th 2004. If you use Real Player (bloated software, try Real Alternative), you can watch the video here or read the transcript here. To be honest, if you want to get an impression of an interesting Demographer, watch the video, the 28 minutes are well invested, I promise.

In the general assembly, Mr Chamie started with a little demonstration of how the world’s population changed over the last 50 years. After explaining the three pillars of demography, birth rate, death rate and migration, Mr Chamie said the second half of the 20th century was the most extraordinary in human history. Exemplifying why, he first outlined the world he was born into in 1944. Then he asked all delegates in the room who had highschool education to stand up. There were over two hundred delegates in the room, all of us standing up. We looked at each other, then he asked all delegates who don’t have a university degree to sit down. Again another impression, then everyone who lived in the city had to stand up, after that everyone who was born in the countryside. There was only a handful of delegates. Then the married delegates were asked (I stood up again), then the female delegates with one child – both times, there were only a few people. Mr Chamie asked who had more than two children, then three – only one delegate, coming from Africa if I remember correctly, was standing. This demonstration was the basis for his inspiring speech. The collection of 20th century records were:

  • population growth from 1.6 to 6.1 billion people
  • 87 million increase in 1987
  • shortest time to add 1 billion
  • shortest doubling time
  • incredible decline in mortality
  • first-ever decline in fertility
  • international migration
  • unprecedented urbanization
  • etc.

From the video, a few statements:

CHAMIE: Well population change is very simple. There are only three ingredients: mortality, fertility and migration. And…ah…for most countries, migration is relatively secondary for most countries. So it’s fertility and mortality. With low mortality the real engine is fertility and that’s what accounts for these differences. And they’re very…
JENKINS: Fewer women having fewer babies? That’s the bottom line is it?.
CHAMIE: Exactly. Lower birth rates, the lower replacement explains why we would be going three hundred years back to two point three billion.


CHAMIE: They’re many reasons bringing down fertility. One, of course, is mortality rates have come down; that’s a pre-condition – you have to have mortality rates coming down. Second, people are moving to cities, life is changing, children are not as needed as they were on farms and agricultural work. Third, women are becoming educated – once they become educated, they join the labor force – they are delaying marriage, they’re delaying their first birth. Tastes have changed. Now all those ingredients put together – and effective contraception to boot – means that people are choosing smaller families because that’s what they want – and we’re seeing this globally.


CHAMIE: Well, our projection indicates that India will add another half billion people – five hundred million people – over the next fifty years.
JENKINS: That’s a large growth…
CHAMIE: Pakistan over the next fifty years – despite the fact that Pakistan now is a hundred and fifty-five million and China is one point three billion – over the next fifty years Pakistan will add more people than China. O.K.? Pakistan will move up the list and become the…our projections indicate the fourth largest country in the world


CHAMIE: By mid century the population of Iran will overtake Russia’s. The population of Palestinians would be larger than the Israelis, the population of the Moroccans would be larger than the Spaniards. The population of the Philippines would be bigger than Japan.


JENKINS: There are countries I believe, like Italy and South Korea that are already trying to encourage women to have more babies as a way of addressing this problem. Am I right, and if so, have they had any success?
CHAMIE: They’ve had pro-natalist policies and trying to raise it, but so far, they have not been able to raise it back to replacement and most demographers do not believe that they will be able to get it back to replacement in the near future. And the reason why is that people choose according to their own interests and most women are saying, I will have one, possibly two but we are not going to three, four and five simply because we don’t have the time, we are working and we need more help if we’re going to have this and there’s no help coming.

I read estimations a few months back that Germany would need three million immigrants each year to stop the population aging. No politician will be able to explain such an influx. I’ll probably be alive in the next 50 years – I’m curious how nations will deal with Mr Chamie’s prognosis.

UN Webcast Archives- World Chronicle

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