6 Challenges Developed Countries Face

The developed world is made up of 80 rich nations. Many people around the world look at these countries as major successes and wish for their nations to become developed like them. Many people also aim to migrate from developing countries to developed ones. However, all is not perfect across the developed world. In fact, there are a number of major challenges that developed nations face, that many poorer countries don’t experience. Let us explain…

1. Aging Populations

A first challenge that developed countries face is that most have rapidly aging populations.

Of the 20 oldest countries in the world, all are developed nations. Low birth rates, combined with widespread quality healthcare, has meant that more and more people across the developed world are older.

Having an aging population poses a range of issues for developed countries. Generally, older people become less economically productive as they move into retirement. This is combined with them requiring more assistance from the state in both pensions and healthcare. In order to financially support the older members of a population, a country needs a large working age population to stimulate the economy and pay into the taxation system. The issue developed countries are facing is that there are not enough young people to do this.

The demographics of many developed countries is highly worrying. Almost all developed nations are going to face major challenges in the coming years, due to their aging populations.

2. Economic Stagnation

A second challenge that developed nations face is economic stagnation.

Many developed countries post low economic growth. In fact, for many years, most of the largest developed nations have had little, or no economic expansion. This differs greatly to many developing nations that can report rapid economic growth.

The economic stagnation across much of the developed world is a major issue. When economies don’t expand, essentially people don’t get any richer. It also means businesses don’t grow, which in-turn means new employment and investment opportunities are limited. Wages generally stagnate when economies stop growing, meaning that any increases in costs reduces people’s quality of life.

Across the developed world, many see economic stagnation as imbedded. Although most countries in the developed world are trying to spark economic growth, most achieve only as much as a few percentage points. The lack of economic growth in developed nations is not only a challenge in itself, but is also the root cause of many of the other issues facing developed countries.

3. Political Polarization

A third challenge being seen in almost all developed nations is political polarisation.

Political polarization is when more extreme political views, on both the left and right, become more mainstream, and the political center ground is vacated. In practice, this means people disagree more on political issues, and it is more likely for fringe political ideas to gain traction. Tensions within a society grow when politics becomes polarized and social cohesion can begin to fray.

Across the developed world there is a major issue with political polarization. Years of economic stagnation, and perceived failures by more moderate political leaders, has meant many have lost faith in the center left or right, and now are more drawn towards political parties further to the extremes. This has manifested itself in increased political representation, as well as election victories, for previously fringe parties in some developed countries.

Politics is less effective when it is highly polarized. It is harder for moderate and practical ideas to get heard, and for actual solutions to the nation’s problems to be enacted.

The fact that many countries in the developed world are suffering from extreme political polarization is major challenge.

4. Crumbling Infrastructure

Another issue developed nations face is the state of their infrastructure.

Infrastructure is the physical structures that allow a nation to function – roads, railways, airports, utilities and tele-communication networks. Developed countries have long had good quality infrastructure. This has allowed people, goods, and information to move throughout their territories, and internationally through trade. This is a key reason why these nations were able to become prosperous.

One challenge almost all developed nations are facing is that their infrastructure is outdated and needs maintenance. Across many developed countries, the infrastructure is decades, or even centuries old. Most developed countries have not invested enough over this time to ensure their infrastructure is fit for modern use. The issue is, the longer nations wait to update their infrastructure, the more difficult and costly it will be.

Although the infrastructure across the developed world is often far superior to that of developing nations, in many places it is physically crumbling. In others, it is outdated and does not have the capacity to fully meet the needs of a modern nation. How to fund, and carryout, infrastructure modernization is a major challenge many developed nations face.

5. International Disunity

One issue that developed countries face is international disunity.

The developed world encompasses 80 countries. Although there are many differences between these nations, for most there are key factors that connect them. This includes shared histories, liberal economic models and free and open democracies. For much of the last half-century, the developed world has generally been united around protecting, and promoting ideals such as these. However, in recent years, there has been more disunity among developed nations. This poses a major challenge.

Across the developed world, disagreements over issues such as climate change, the role of democracy, engagement with upcoming nations such as China, India and Russia, as well as economic policy and participation in international alliances, have all been challenged by members of the developed world.

As well as disagreements between developed nations, the rise of adversarial powers such as Russia and China have posed a direct threat to the hegemony of developed nations, especially the US and Western Europe. Disunity between developed nations has emboldened countries that wish to threaten the global economic and political status-quo. This is a major issue for the developed world.

6. Climate Change

A final challenge that every country in the world faces, including developed nations, is climate change.

Scientists almost uniformly agree that man-made climate change is going to have an enormous impact on humanity over the coming century. Everything from food supply to desertification, mass human migration and widespread animal extension are predicted if the world does not address the climate crisis.

Although climate change will impact every nation in the world, developed countries face a range of specific issues, many of which they are failing to address.

Firstly, developed countries are responsible for the majority of carbon emissions. If the worst of the climate catastrophe is to be avoided, developed nations must embrace the challenge of going green.

Secondly, as the developing world is less able to overcome the challenges posed by climate change, rich nations must provide assistance to allow them to decarbonate their economies. Developed countries are making efforts in this regard, but funding long-term support to poorer nations is still a major issue.

Lastly, developed countries must begin to plan for the impact climate change will have on the world. For example, climate change is likely to push hundreds of millions of people to migrate, many of whom will choose to move towards developed nations. So far, the developed world has been unable to manage the limited migration it sees. This is likely to be a major challenge for every developed nation in the coming years.

Global Affairs Explained

Global Affairs Explained is an ongoing project aiming to provide concise guides to world events. Focusing on international relations, history, and geo-politics, Global Affairs Explained uses original research and data to answer questions often not covered by traditional media.

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