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The world’s workforce will stop growing by 2050

A report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (registration required) this week offered interesting insights in to the world in 2050, including the prediction that Asia will be home to over half the world’s economic growth, and that China’s economy will surpass America’s in 2026.

Amid all this talk of growth is a little-noticed but startling fact—by 2050 the world will all but stop producing an increase in workers. Over the next 35 years, the labor force’s average growth rate is expected to be just 0.3%, and at the end of the period it almost disappears. In the previous 35 years, that figure has averaged 1.7%.

Even more concerning, as workers dry up, the general population will continue to grow:

This is important, and dangerous, because it is the working population that, typically, creates value, contributes tax dollars, and earns income that can be spent taking care of those not working (the elderly and the young).

But global figures alone don’t tell the whole story. Countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia are expected to grow their labor forces dramatically by 2050, while developed nations are likely to see theirs shrink.

The situation could mean that developed economies change their attitudes to migrants, from one in which they try to keep people out, to one in which they fight to attract workers. Alternatively, a shrinking labor force could allay the fears of those concerned about the coming robot takeover of jobs—we’re going to need our mechanical friends after all.