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No matter how you crunch it

Even a brief analysis of the demographic structure of Bermuda’s population over the 20 years from 1980 to 2000, reveals very interesting facts. In this article, we take a look at some of the stronger trends, in terms of selected age groups. We would have liked to make similar observations of the population by nativity but were unable to obtain distributions of the foreign-born population for both 1980 and 2000. However we were able to obtain tabulations for the Bermudian and Non-Bermudian populations for 2000 and we noted the extent to which this group has impacted on the total resident population.

Census 2000 measured the resident Bermudian population at 62,000. Women comprised the greater part of this total with 32,000 or 52 percent. Men accounted for 30,000. The population total grew by 15 percent over the 20-year period. This growth rate differed very little between men and women.

When the population totals are viewed in terms of selected age groups, the differences are quite substantial. The age groups chosen for analysis are those for which there are substantial differences in characteristics. The age groups are from zero to four years — the preschool population; from five to 14 — the bulk of the school age population; from 15 to 24 — the group entering the work-force and also seeking higher education and job training; the group aged 25 to 64 which contains the mature work-force; and finally the group aged 65 and over, the retired population.

Since it is obvious that these selected age groups have fairly unique characteristics, an analysis of their rate of growth and distribution, is usually very instructive. For this reason, we have summarised the key characteristics of growth and distribution by selected age group, in the table below. The table indicates that some age groups have decreased in size <$>since 1980. These are the school age group (five-14 years) and the new entrants to the workforce (15-24 years). The remaining age groups show increases of seven percent for the pre-school group; 32 percent for the mature workforce; and 50 percent for the retirees.

It is worth noting that while the pre-school group showed an increase that this should not be taken to mean that we can expect significant numbers emerging from this group in the near future. Actually, the increase over the 20 year period reflects the fact that some 800 non-Bermudian children were included in the pre-school group in 2000. Even in the absence of comparative figures for 1980, it is likely that without the inclusion of the Non-Bermudian children, the pre-school group would have declined.

The school population did in fact decline by eight percent when the year 2000 is compared with 1980, despite the existence of over 1,200 non-Bermudian children in that group. These findings suggest strongly that the number of children in attendance at the primary and secondary school system in the future will be dependent rather strongly upon the size of the non-Bermudian population.

Given the trends revealed by the analysis of the population aged 14 or younger, it will come as no surprise that the group entering the workforce and who are obtaining higher education and training have decreased by 2,700 or 19 percent since 1980. Further, this trend is not likely to be reversed any time soon, given the historic low and declining fertility rates of Bermudian women.

When one considers the decline in the new entrants to the workforce, it may come as a surprise to find that the mature workforce has increased by 8,900 since 1980. To some extent this increase reflects the impact of the high birth rates existed prior to the downturn in annual total of births that occurred during the sixties.

However, a much more important factor contributing to the marked growth is the strong rise in the total of non-Bermudians. In the year 2000, non-Bermudians numbered 9,900 or 27 percent of the mature workforce of 36,700. Bermuda experienced an enormous increase of 50 percent in the numbers of persons aged 65 years or older in the year 2000. This is the fastest growing age-group and Bermudians make up 93 percent of this total. The overwhelming majority of Bermudians reaching retirement age will place increasing pressure on government to improve health-care and housing for the aged.

What are the policy implications of the drastically changing structure of Bermuda’s resident population? Generally, there can be no doubt that the younger Bermudian population is shrinking rapidly and that this state of affairs will increase for the foreseeable future. This means that the Bermuda Public School system can raise the quality of education in Bermuda without having to worry about funding. It also follows that the greatly increased need to train Bermudians should be offset by the fact that fewer and fewer Bermudians will be requiring this increased training and education.

The increase in the pre-school age group will no doubt eventually impact the primary, middle and senior school populations but there is no evidence that this occurrence will create a need for greater school plant over the next 20 years. If this turns out to be the case, than Bermuda should at this moment be in an excellent position to increase vastly the quality of Government-sponsored education.

The age group containing the new entrants to the workforce is in marked decline as a result of the marked fall in birth rates from 1960 to 1980. The socio-economic implications of this are that for some time Bermuda will have to import substantial numbers of foreign workers just to keep the workforce at the same level from year-to-year. The good news is that decreasing numbers of Bermudians into the workforce means that there are more resources available for the training of Bermudians. This advantage should be exploited to the fullest extent possible.

We have noted that the mature workforce increased in size by 8,900 or 32 percent over the period in question. The increase in numbers has been made possible by substantial increases of foreign workers. In fact, in the year 2000, some 27 percent of the population in this group were non-Bermudians. The sheer size of the numbers in this group may result in conflict with Bermudians with respect to wages and housing unless policies are put into effect which makes this outcome far less likely. If this is not done, then the risk of conflict between Bermudians and non-Bermudians will increase markedly and place our economic growth in serious jeopardy.

Finally, the retirees group aged 65 or older will continue to grow as the “baby boomers” start to enter that group in increasingly large numbers. This has serious implications for health care, housing and care of the aged and ageing. However, there are possibilities here for easing the pressure for importing workers since policies can be put into effect that enable retirees to continue longer in the workforce.

There is a need for a demographic study of the Bermudian population in order to deal with the implications of a rapidly expanding economy which is requiring an influx of foreign workers that may result in increasing conflict between Bermudian and non-Bermudian workers. However, the resolution of this problem should be relatively easy in Bermuda because there is no significant body of unemployed workers.calvin[AT]northrock.bm