Too much of the wrong education and too little sex means Asia won't overtake us
My prediction is that the tiger economies are reaching their peak and future growth will become much less of a challenge to the West. There's too little innovation and too few babies
According to the latest OECD report, China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore are miles ahead of us in education. They are regularly in the top five of the PISA study in the ‘hard’ subjects - mathematics and sciences.
According to the doomsayers they will overtake the West, leaving us impoverished, with a failing economy and hordes of young people unemployable because they are innumerate and have a reading age of less than 15.
Well, up to appoint, Lord Copper. We already have too much experience of young Eastern Europeans taking British jobs because natives lack education to be complacent. But it is not going to end in tears for two reasons.
The education system is designed to churn out test-answers. It’s a test of memory, not intellect. It does not involve discussion, reasoning, or, indeed, teaching as we know it which relies on inter-communication. Innovation and inventiveness seem to form no part of the curriculum.
I remember an English engineering academic from a Chines University telling me that his students were immensely hard working, a pleasure to teach, and successful at exams. The downside was that they could do what they were taught to do but had absolutely no initiative or innovative skills.
Success in business relies on enterprise, innovation, inventiveness and the courage to take risks.
One likely outcome of the Asian system is that it will not turn out high-flyers but rather highly-knowledgeable, emotionally undeveloped zombies. The second reason is that the tiger economies are in danger of extinction like their jungle counterparts.
China is already becoming a mature economy. Its labour costs are rising at such a rate that it is outsourcing manufacturing to lower-cost countries like Indonesia. It is losing competitiveness, and there are limits to how long it can continue to rig the market with currency manipulation and theft of intellectual property. But the long-term problem is aging.
Its crazy one-child policy has inevitably led to a shortage of marriageable women, but the issue goes deeper.
The drive for education amongst the top five countries is led by the ‘tiger moms’. And to ensure that they can afford the best education, they are limiting their families to two.
For nearly thirty years, the fertility rate has been below the replacement rate of 2.1 babies. In some places the rate is only just over 1. In Japan and Singapore particularly ambitious women are simply refusing marriage altogether. The result is a rapidly aging population, a shrinking workforce, and the massive problem of how to support a population that is getting older as a proportion of the total but is also surviving much longer and so needing expensive care. Japan is amongst the highest for longevity.
My prediction is that the tiger economies are reaching their peak and future growth will become much less of a challenge to the West.
Unless the Asians get back to procreating, and with gusto, we can all stop worrying about the "Yellow Peril".
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