Jan 27, 2023 - Podcasts

Population shifts worldwide and why they matter

The United Nations projects India is set to surpass China as the world's most populous country this year, while the U.S. on the other hand needs more people to avoid big economic problems.

  • Plus, the week in politics: RNC elections and more.
  • And, five fired Memphis police officers are charged with murder.

Guests: Axios' David Lindsey, Han Chen and Neil Irwin.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Naomi Shavin, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, January 27th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today on the show: Five fired Memphis police officers are charged with murder in Tyre Nichols death. Plus, population shifts worldwide…and why they matter. But first, RNC elections and more…the week in politics is today’s One Big Thing.

The week in politics: RNC elections and more

NIALA: McConnell takes a more centrist role in Congress, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis calls for new blood to lead the RNC. In California, Representative Adam Schiff enters the race to replace Senator Diane Feinstein.

Here for a Friday politics State of Play is David Lindsey, the new managing editor for politics at Axios. Hi David. Welcome to Axios and the podcast.

DAVID LINDSEY: Hi Niala. Thanks a lot. Glad to be here.

NIALA: David, to start Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell's role seems to be shifting. What's happening this week?

DAVID: He is, uh, for years has been known as the Grim Reaper of progressive policy. That's a self-proclaimed label he's put on himself, because he's always been a foil for Democrats. But more recently he's shown kind of an impatience with the chaos in the House and he has left the debt ceiling negotiations to Kevin McCarthy, the house speaker. But has also said there won't be a default. So he's kind of promising no crisis. He infuriated a lot of right wing Republicans in the past few months by backing the big omnibus spending bill in December. Uh, and then in January, appearing with President Biden to a tout of infrastructure bill it's drawn criticism from, uh, far right Republicans.

NIALA: Today, the Republican National Committee will vote on its chair who's involved in that and what's at stake for this position?

DAVID: Big surprise on this when Ron DeSantis, who is of course seen as a, uh, rival to President Trump in a potential presidential race in 2024, he backed — Ron DeSantis did — Harmeet Dillon for the chairmanship of the, uh, Republican National Committee.

Ronna McDaniel had been long, considered the favorite. She has the votes, or had had them last year anyway. But Harmeet Dhillon is running an aggressive campaign to lead the party. And so it'll be interesting to see if DeSantis’s voice on this carries some weight with Republican voters on the chairmanship.

NIALA: So there's kind of a through line of what we've been talking about, which is basically the 2024 election, which brings me to my last question that California Senator Diane Feinstein, can you remind us who is already in this race that hasn't really been declared yet?

DAVID: So already in the race are Democrat Katie Porter. Her consumer advocacy has won her a lot of fans on Capitol Hill. And then there is Adam Schiff who was last seen on the House Intel Committee in the January 6th panel really creating a national figure for himself.

Now the Democrats are favored to win this election, but Diane Feinstein, the incumbent senator who's been there since 1992, she's 89 years old. The assumption, broad assumption is that she's going to leave. But she hasn't said that, and I think her supporters are probably getting a little irritated by all these Democrats who, uh, want to be stars or are highly thought of in the Democratic party jumping up to, uh, to run for this and announce their intentions before she leaves.

NIALA: David Lindsey is the new politics managing editor for Axios. Thanks, David.

DAVID: Thank you, Niala. Take care.

Five fired Memphis police officers are charged with murder

NIALA: Five fired Memphis Police Department officers were arrested yesterday in connection to the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, on charges including second degree murder, aggravated assault and official misconduct.

Memphis Police released a video statement this week… Here is what Chief CJ Davis had to say.

CERELYN DAVIS: I expect you to feel outraged in the disregard of basic human rights as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video.

NIALA: The video footage of Nichols arrest is expected to be released this evening.

Here is what we know so far – on January 7th Memphis officers stopped Nichols for reckless driving. The police say when they approached Nichols quote “a confrontation occurred.” He fled the scene on foot…and when police tried to take him into custody there was another confrontation. He was eventually arrested.

While in custody, police say Nichols was taken to the hospital in critical condition after complaining of shortness of breath. He died 3 days later. There is not yet an official cause of death.

NIALA: In a moment: population shifts in India, China and the U.S.


Population shifts worldwide and why they matter

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Populations are shifting around the world right now in some big ways. The UN projects India is set to surpass China as the world's most populous country this year… and here in the U.S. Experts say we don't have enough people, and the economy will suffer if that doesn't change.

Here for more is Neil Irwin, Axios chief economic correspondent, and Han Chen from the Axios World team.

Han: First, what are the major factors in these shifts happening in China?

HAN CHEN: China starting early 1970s already encouraged fewer birth, that was actually before the one child policy that was introduced in late 1970s. So during the 1970, that one decade, China's fertility rate actually came down from six child per woman to actually below three children per woman. Also, the cost of raising a child actually rose exponentially over the past few decades as the standard living improves in China. And also the third factor is that the women in China became more and more independent and career driven. Especially over the last two decades and they tend to actually push back against social expectations a lot more nowadays, marriage or giving birth a lot of women don't think is as necessary as much from their parents, as for themselves.

NIALA: And what about India?

HAN: India is still like growing really fast right now, but it is actually trending down. So from the 1970s, India's fertility rate actually declined from more than five birth per women to just below the replacement level of 2.1 in recent years. And in comparison, why is India actually surpassing China? I think because China's fertility rate last year was less than 1.2, so 2.1 versus 1.2. Even that really makes, you know, big difference here in the total population.

NIALA: Neil, Han sort of laid out that even though India's growing, it has also seen a decline. This is part of a worldwide phenomenon, and I wanted to talk about the U.S. because I think people listening might be really surprised to hear that the U.S. needs more people.

NEIL IRWIN: Yeah, the U.S. population growth has fallen below the replacement rate, over the last 15, 20 years. That's the rate at which, uh, the population is stable even without immigration. So the total fertility rate, which is the number of children born to a woman, over her lifetime on average it was 2.12 back in 2007, down to 1.65 in 2021, the lowest ever recorded.

So, you know what that implies is absent higher immigration rates, the U.S. has its own demographic challenges and the things that Han was describing with China apply in their own way in the U.S. So if you think about the finances of Social security and Medicare, they depend on their being a large workforce that is paying taxes that help pay for the retirement benefits of retirees. If the ratio of retirees to workers shifts in an unfavorable way, the finances of those programs are much more challenging. And that seems to be the path we're on where the ratio of people in their kind of prime working years to the people who are retired and not working is, uh, is really gonna be shifting in the coming decades in the United States.

NIALA: What are you thinking about or watching for next as you think about these broad demographic shifts across the globe, whether we're talking about the U.S., China, or India?

NEIL: In the U.S. I think the key question is, is the decline in immigration during the pandemic, a short term thing? And will that reverse itself? And do Americans start having more babies you know, do we experience a rebound in the fertility rate or is it at a permanently low level?

HAN: And I would just like to add to that, there's a report that from the United Nations that just came out they gave a pretty staggering statistics. So the number of people 65 or over is projected to double over the next three decades worldwide to about 1.6 billion in 2050, and that's ⅙ of the total population. So one thing that I'm going to watch out for is more concrete action plans from the most effective countries. So if those countries like Japan, China, U.S. could actually start, you know, pushing out some of those plans, they could actually set examples for others to follow. The report actually talked about a few things, reform the pension system, and maybe raise the retirement ages. And create more job opportunity for women and other disadvantaged groups. They think those things could actually help in the long run.

NIALA: Han Chen, Neil Irwin, thanks to you both

NEIL: Thank you.

HAN: Thank you so much.

NIALA: That’s all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Naomi Shavin and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. Special thanks this week to Oriana Gonzalez, and as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

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