Last week's Economist had another interesting article about the impact of populations shrinking and aging around the world. The main article was analysis on Japan, but the leader gives some interesting facts and figures about different global impacts...then goes on to place the onus for solving the issue squarely on the shoulders of governments:

The best way to ease the transition towards a smaller population would be to encourage people to work for longer, and remove the barriers that prevent them from doing so. State pension ages need raising. Mandatory retirement ages need to go. They're bad not just for society, which has to pay the pensions of perfectly capable people who have been put out to grass, but also for companies, which would do better to use performance, rather than age, as a criterion for employing people. Rigid salary structures in which pay rises with seniority (as in Japan) should also be replaced with more flexible ones. More immigration would ease labour shortages, though it would not stop the ageing of societies because the numbers required would be too vast. Policies to encourage women into the workplace, through better provisions for child care and parental leave, can also help redress the balance between workers and retirees.
But what smart global organization should wait for government to deal with these issues? And in the age of globalization, are the solutions which are most effective for government (ie the ones that best serve individual countries) the same as the solutions which are most effective for global and multi-national companies? Yes, many governments are doing a lot to tackle the issues of demographic change, but individual organizations need to take their own view of the trends - and determine the most effective way to address the impact these trends may have on them.

And an important contributor to that is to be informed about demographic change and any impact it might have. If you are employing in Japan (or other demographically challenged geographies), these kinds of articles are an important part of your environment scan.

And like this one, they are often also entertaining. After starting with the suggestion that the human population curve might be tracking that of a bacterial population (anyone feel like a bug in a petri dish?), this article ends on a point where employers very well might be able to learn something from government:
America and north-western Europe once also faced demographic decline, but are growing again, and not just because of immigration. All sorts of factors may be involved; but one obvious candidate is the efforts those countries have made to ease the business of being a working parent. Most of the changes had nothing to do with population policy: they were carried out to make labour markets efficient or advance sexual equality. But they had the effect of increasing fertility.

How effective is your organization at easing "the business of being a working parent"?