The Future of South Asia: Population Dynamics, Economic Prospects, and Regional Coherence
What do we foresee for South Asia in 2060, in light of the significant changes it has undergone in the past few decades? India has experienced rapid economic growth, but continues to suffer widespread, extreme poverty as well. Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka have seen major conflicts, with Pakistan always seeming on the verge of a major eruption. Nepal and Sri Lanka finally seem to have moved toward peace. As elsewhere, the region's many developments and crosscurrents make reliable predictions difficult, but one relatively neglected set of factors – demographic change – may shed some light on the region's future. Throughout the world, falling mortality rates and declining birth rates have been predictive of growing per-capita incomes, and theoretical reasoning and related evidence are sufficiently compelling to think that the links may indeed be causal. In this vein, this essay explores South Asia's economic prospects through a demographic lens. In addition, as we will see, there are some similar demographic trends across the countries of South Asia, but there are also a number of extreme differences. Regional heterogeneity bears on the question, "to what extent is South Asia a coherent region?"
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