Population as a Source of Long−Term Growth: From Malthus to Japan’s Postmodern Regime


This paper introduces a simple macroeconomic time series model incorporating a key concept of  GDP elasticity with respect to population (population elasticity). Using this model, we conducted empirical analyses of 158 countries each covering 25 to 180 years of history. As a result, we found first that the estimated population elasticity demarcated the countries according to regime, showing clearly whether a country was in the ‘Malthusian regime’, in the ‘modern growth regime’ or in the ‘postmodern regime’. We found that the poorest countries as well as some oil-rich countries were in the Malthusian regime. The modern growth regime prevailed in most European, Asian and American countries in the 20th century. We then predicted long-term real GDP for each country while they stayed in modern growth regimes. Third, we observed that both Germany and Japan went into a postmodern regime after a demographic transformation. Focusing on Japan, we argued that if the nation remained in the modern growth regime, it would face a precipitous decline in GDP. We suggested that Japan must reduce dependence on population as a source of growth in the postmodern era. This lesson might be important for the two thirds of countries in the world that are expected to enter a postmodern regime around the middle of this century.

Related papers

HAYASHI, Toshihiko
Discussion Paper

Is It Abenomics or Post-Disaster Recovery? A Counterfactual Analysis

[ Discussion Paper ] AUTHORHAYASHI, Toshihiko DATE2013-06


TIUSONCO, Jose II Opalalic
Discussion Paper

The Philippines – Improving institutions,

[ Discussion Paper ] AUTHORTIUSONCO, Jose II Opalalic / HAYASHI, Toshihiko DATE2014-08



Saddled with internal problems and external shocks the past three decades (1980 to 2010), the Philippines is back on its feet and getting ready to be fully integrated into Asia’s regional economy with better institutional and governance quality, focused public sector investments in infrastructure and human capital development, and armed with sustainable and dynamic labor force. It has achieved positive changes – significant progress – in governance and economic performance in recent years. It appears to be on track in addressing the critical development constraints to growth and poverty reduction through its inclusive growth agenda. Noted for its English-speaking, young and mobile human capital, the Philippines has been a services- and consumption-driven economy with significant contributions from remittances of overseas Filipino workers and the information technology-business process management (IT-BPM). However, its economy-wide productivity growth lagged and foreign investments stagnated for about three decades – between 1980 and 2009. Human capital is seen as among the strongest assets of the Philippines. Bringing in foreign –and domestic – capital investments are necessary in transforming human capital into productive labor, thereby creating an enduring economic growth structure and poverty reduction. Private investments are critical in addressing key challenges and opportunities on i) persistent problem of unemployment and underemployment, ii) reviving the manufacturing sub-sector, and iii) improving technological innovation and production capability. Sustaining and scaling-up institutional reforms are necessary in getting out of the “middle income trap” and ultimately achieving prosperity. This is not going to be easy; and, yes, leadership and good governance are key factors towards this end.