The Happy Arab News Service

Friday, July 31, 2009

Flashdance RELOADED (NationMaster Remix)

For the lack of better ideas and inspiration to keep breaking new grounds, I decided to remix my previous post. The following is a remix of my original Flashdance Reloaded using graphical material from NationMaster. The remix is based on the following sample of the original mix.
To be sure, Iran continues to be plagued by persistently high unemployment despite its relatively robust economic growth. But this is mainly a result of the fact that it takes human newborns about 20 years to get to the labor market. This unemployment reflects the demographics of 20 years ago and not the current demographic situation. The Factbook also gives another very interesting estimate. The share of the population under the age of 15 is only about 20%. It can be from 30% to all 40% in Arab countries around. For example, it's almost 40% in Syria.

This means that the pool of potential workers in Iran is not big at all and it keeps shrinking. Syria is now chronically teetering on the brink of collapse overwhelmed by the impact of its out of control demographics, but Iran is a very different story. Within the next few years the workforce will start stabilizing with the stream of new workers entering the market shrinking. At this point even modest economic growth will be enough to reduce Iran's currently massive unemployment with far reaching consequences.
Basically, the idea of this remix was born in the comments section of Flashdance RELOADED. It's another way to say the same thing. This post is a kind of experiment in trying to show demographic revolution in action by visual means. And so here we go. And we start with the Warrior's Prayer.

Manowar - The Warrior's Prayer

Children, let me tell you a story. Yes, it's a real story and no, this story is not an interesting one. Why to listen to a boring story? Because life is shit and you should start getting used to the idea that it's not going to be a picnic.

So, children, please take a look at this shit. You can click on this shit to open it in a separate window if you want to see it better (I know you don't). They call this shit population age pyramid.

Now, children. You should know that only people who have spent a major part of their lives doing drugs can get themselves interested in this kind of things. Or if you are familiar with this type of weirdos that can be usually found in university libraries occasionally known as book worms or simply cuckoos. This type of people also like this stuff.

So why to waste your time staring into this silly pyramid? Well, besides obvious benefits of steeling your will and preparing you for hardships of the real life, contemplating this kind of things have many other fringe benefits. Let me put it this way. Children, I don't know how many of you have experience of getting high on acid. I assume that as time goes by many more of you will. You have it all ahead of you. All Peyotes and mushrooms of the world are waiting for you. Anyway, the idea is the same. You start looking at a leaf or, say, your hand. And suddenly it starts getting bigger. Inside your hand you see veins and arteries. You see neuronal pathways. You see electric messages traveling down neurons. And through your hand you penetrate into other parts of your body. You get to things that you can't and are not supposed to see. Your hand becomes your world. The same with the pyramid. You look into the pyramid until it becomes your world and inside the pyramid you discover the outline of the past, present and future. Yes, the past, present and future. Just like that. Sounds cool? So lets take a look at the pyramid.

This age pyramid is built of steps, lets call them generations. Each generation covers a span of 5 years. Say at the base of the pyramid you see the first step in green color. It contains all children who are newborns or two, three and four years old. The next step is the yellow one. The yellow step are all children who are currently five, six, seven, eight or nine years old. The right side of the pyramid are all girls, and the left are all boys.

The base of of the pyramid is measured in millions of people. Say the green step should be just a bit more than 5 million people. And the yellow one is something between 4.5 and 5 million. Together the two steps should be something like 10 million people. Now what I am going to do is to tell you a story, a story of population age pyramid. And how I am going to do it? I take the two steps at the base - the yellow and green one. I will call them green generation because yellow is also a sort of green color. And I will follow these guys as they are growing up and moving up inside the pyramid. And here our story begins.

Iran, 1990. A typical age pyramid of a society at the peak of demographic explosion.

The pyramid is massively swelling at the base: the age groups 0-4 and 5-9 (yellow and green colors at the bottom). This is our green generation. You can always identify these guys by their colors - green and yellow. If you keep looking at the pyramid, you can notice an interesting detail. The pyramid is indeed massively swelling towards the base. However, just before the last step it stops doing it as the green step is not much bigger than the yellow one. You will soon know why.

Iran, 1995. Our guys climb up one step. The pyramid starts shrinking at its base. The new generation just below our guys, cyan color, actually shrinks to less than 4 million. It means that between 1990 and 1995 there were less births in Iran than between 1985 and 1990. The TFR is down, birth rates fall, the overall number of births is down. The demographic transition begins.

Over the next decade the demographic transition is accelerating driving fertility and birth rates down. The number of births is falling with each generation.

Source: Population Reference Bureau
(the outstanding feature of this table is a near total convergence between urban and rural areas in the end)

Iran, 2000. You can see that the base of pyramid keeps shrinking. The generation immediately following our green generation is about 3.5 million people. And the generation at the base of pyramid is about 3 million only.

However, it's time to explain what demographers mean when they say that it's coming to an end, it's over. Basically it's over. You can see the end of all this within the next few decades. Schools and kindergartens certainly find their facilities emptying. However, if you look at the distorted shape of the pyramid, a tremendous youth bulge squeezed into the age groups of 10-14 and 15-19 is obvious. This is our green generation. Now from the purely economical point of view, it's these groups that matter.

Basically people start looking for jobs and make families when they are about 20 years old. It's then when they hit the labor market and start shopping for a place of their own. You don't expect them to continue to live with their parents, do you? Now if you look at the pyramid you can clearly see that the pyramid may be shrinking at the base, but it's still expanding from the top all the way down to the age group of 10-14 and the situation with unemployment and other social stuff is already ugly. The storm is gathering. In 2000 a saying very popular with the better informed among the Iranians used to be, "It's coming, baby!"

2005 arrives. Iran on the eve of the Green Revolution. The green generation has now moved into the age groups of 15-19 and 20-24. The nation is reeling as the peak of the demographic explosion that happened about 15-20 years ago finally catches up with and crashes into the economy. This is a milestone in the demographic history of Iran with the green generation coming of age and making landfall on the labor market. The workforce swells. The unemployment shoots through the roof. The country is awash with young blood saturated with truckloads of testosterone.

Over the next few years Ahmadinejad makes a mess of the economy with his a la Hugo Chavez populist policies. Even the oil boom turns into a source of troubles. Many of Ahmadinejad's social programs do little to create badly needed jobs but a lot to fuel inflation. Meanwhile thousands of new job seekers of the green generation keep pouring onto the labor market. Unofficial estimates put unemployment at 25%, one out of every four Iranians of working age is unemployed. Inflation escalates to become the highest in the Middle East. The society is fraying. Finally, Ahmalala delivers a trigger that sets the demographic bomb off. He rigs elections and in response the green generation explodes with the Green Revolution...

But relief is just around the corner. Every next generation is smaller than the previous one. Iran is about to finally move past the peak of the demographic explosion.

Iran, 2020. This one belongs to the realm of fantasy and science fiction. This pyramid says nothing about whether the Supreme Leader is still around or democracy has finally triumphed in Iran. Maybe the country is ruled by some kind of collective military clerical leadership installed in power by the Revolutionary Guard and Baseej. The pyramid knows nothing about these things.

However, you can see that Iran is aging. The green generation is now in the age groups of 30-34 and 35-39. As the green generation was moving through its most fertile years, it has set off a secondary demographic mini-explosion visible at the base of the pyramid. This one has nothing to do with recovery in fertility rates. It's just that at some point after 2000 Iran's vastly distorted age pyramid had an abnormal concentration of women in age groups usually associated with child bearing. It's not that women started making more children per se. It's just that at that particularly moment of history many women happened to be young and of child bearing age.

Anyway, this echo-boom is indeed a mini-explosion. It's still a decade away from the labor market and of a limited scope and duration. Meanwhile the economy has been growing (I hope so) and so it can easily absorb any future temporary uptick in the workforce. The end of story. You will hear again about the green generation a few decades later. Have you heard about the babyboomers in the US and the general pensions crisis in the West? Well, it's nothing. Wait until this generation starts retiring.

. . .

. . .

And this is Tunisia's age pyramid in 2005. You may find similarity between Tunisia and Iran. The angles of this pyramid may be less extreme but the idea is the same.

Tunisia is a sort of economic superstar among non oil producing Arab countries. This country is run by a tough and uncompromising regime. This regime does not kill people by thousands, but it's tough and in the Middle East, when you are genuinely tough, everybody thinks twice before daring to start messing with you, so you don't have to kill anybody. In 1991 this regime was watching what the silly and delusional Economist has recently called "a promising experiment in free elections" in Algeria. And the regime decided that it does want any such "promising experiments" in its country and intensified the crack down on opposition even harder.

Two decades ago the autocrats running this country started switching the economy into free market mode. Ever since then Tunisia maintained steady economic growth. However, unemployment has barely bulged. Now, if you look at the pyramid you will know why. You will also see that if this regime holds out for another decade, it will see its country finally taking off.

And this is Lebanon in 2005. This is the age pyramid of a post demographic transition Arab country. Resembles what is expected in Iran in 2020.

You may not see the similarity at first because the pyramid misses a chunk on its left side, it's tilting to the right at some point. Some kind of gender imbalance, more women than men. And no, I don't think it's pretty. Neither have I ever claimed that civil wars are fun.

And now to the funny part. This is Syria in 1990. Very similar to Iran in 1990.

Now, when it comes to Syria, two things always impressed me most. First of all, for some reason, among all Arab bloggers Syrians are the most prone to call us and our glorious country Zionist entity and I take personal offense with this one. Ok, maybe the country is shit and we all suck, but, still, why entity? In fact, some say that it's Syria who deserves most the title of entity, and not Israel.

Another thing that stands out about Syria is the incredible ability of this country to get so many things going wrong at the same time. This country used to live by three things: oil, agriculture and remittances from its workers abroad, mostly in the Gulf. Oil production is down. Agriculture, and Syria is one of the few countries in the region that produces agricultural stuff on a significant scale, was laid waste to by the global warming. Syrian workers in the Gulf are hit by both the global crisis and a new round of the Saudi job nationalization campaign. This year Syria was reported to have become a net oil importer for the first time.

And now, please don't laugh, this is Syrian age pyramid in 2005.

Take a look at the pyramid and measure by eye the angle from the age group of 20-24 down to the base. In the Middle East this is one of the most important angles. For many countries in the region it's a decisive factor that will determine who is going to make it within the next 20 years and who is not. And when you look at this pyramid you see a perfect battle formation of Teutonic Knights ready to pierce the enemy lines. And you know who the enemy is. It's the economy, stupid. A Syrian minister recently said that when you have your workforce growing by 4% every year, it's a kinda difficult to fight unemployment under such circumstances. Never mind housing and such stuff. It's a shame the reporter has not inquired of what color, in the minister's opinion, the next revolution is going to be. Red maybe?

So what is the moral of this story? Children, I hate to break it to you, but all stories come with only one message - you should always try to be nice. You smile to the world and the world smiles back to you. So, before you go to sleep, you take a good look at the last pyramid. Here it is again for your convenience. And you don't forget to wish good luck to the Syrian entity.

Manowar - Lament of the Kings

(You should better switch this video to full screen.
No fans in the world are like Heavy Metal fans :D :D)

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Proclaimed un monstruooo muy monstruoso at 7:16 PM