The demographic future and labour

“According to US Center for Disease Control and Prevention data, more than 100,000 Americans died of overdose in 2021, representing a fivefold increase over the last 20 years. That figure is now on a par with diabetes-linked deaths, which are up “just” 43% over the same period.

The US has long suffered an opioid epidemic. This used to account for around half of all overdoses – mostly from prescribed painkillers and drugs like heroin and methadone. But since 2014 the death toll from synthetic opioids, mainly Fentanyl, has gone through the roof. In 2021, they played a role in two-thirds of all overdose fatalities. On current trends it won’t be long before Fentanyl alone claims more victims than diabetes. The difference for life expectancy being that whereas Covid and diabetes generally kill the old, Fentanyl disproportionately affects the young (around 60% of opioid deaths are in those under the age of 45).”

Michael Roberts Blog

Meeting the social needs of the world’s population through the production of goods and services depends on the amount of labour employed (in numbers and hours) and on the productivity of those of employed.  Under capitalism, of course, what matters more is the profitability to the owners of the means of production from employing workers and in investing in productivity-enhancing technology.  It is a fundamental contradiction of the capitalist mode of production that the required profitability of those owning the means of production becomes an obstacle to the required production to meet the social needs of the billions of humanity (and, for that matter, to sustain the health of the planet and other species).

About three years ago I posted some thoughts on the global decline in population growth and the future size of the global workforce available for capital to exploit.  It’s worth updating the story.  It took until…

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