La Fabrique de la Cité's Newsletter #83

#83 - 11 June 2021

Mid-sized cities facing demographic aging

A pronounced demographic aging is now affecting many developed countries, particularly in Asia and Europe (China, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Portugal...). With 18.8% of the population over the age of 65 as of January 1, 2016, France ranks 14th among the oldest European populations. This demographic aging is expected to continue: in 2060, the average age of the French population is expected to be 45 years, compared to 41.2 years in 2016, and there could be as many as 200,000 centenarians in the country.

But the effects of aging will not be felt equally across the country: some areas should experience a particularly pronounced form of the phenomenon. Where do mid-sized cities fit into this picture? Does the status of mid-sized city necessarily lead to a particular situation in terms of aging? Faced with this phenomenon, not all mid-sized cities are equal: some are faced with the departure of their youngest inhabitants, while others are particularly attractive to retired households and are therefore seeing their average age increase. 

In any case, adapting to demographic aging raises complex issues for the cities concerned, from adapting housing, public spaces and mobility to the needs of seniors to the challenge of connectivity and the development of 5G, which opens the way to the development of teleconsultations, particularly well-suited to the constraints of the elderly. Faced with what will be the main demographic challenge in France in the decades to come, public authorities must take responsibility for building and developing cities for these people and their specific needs. This is what cities with an elderly population, such as Singapore or certain Japanese cities, have been doing for a long time.

The latest note published by La Fabrique de la Cité examines the issues and challenges posed to mid-sized cities by their aging populations (in French)

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THE CLICK AND COLLECT BATTLE – The health crisis has led to a very strong growth in e-commerce, which for the moment does not seem to be reversing. However, behind this word lies a wide variety of logistic processes and commercial actors. For example, the way "click and collect" works is very different from an online platform like Amazon to a more traditional physical store. But contrary to many preconceived ideas, these stores could benefit from a stronger customer loyalty, an increased confidence in the quality of the product, or an easier return of the goods in case of non-satisfaction. However, making this organizational transition is very costly, and an almost Darwinian selection process will probably take place among salespeople.  (Harvard Business Review) – Arthur Wienhold, Research Assistant

A brief historical look at the period from the Great Plague of London in 1165 to the Spanish flu of 1918 shows that major epidemics have been followed by a sharp rise in inequalities. The Covid-19 pandemic is no exception: inequalities in the face of the disease are coupled with growing socio-economic inequalities leading, for the first time since 1998, to an increase in the global poverty rate. A brief look at history should also remind us not to underestimate the importance of these inequalities, even in the event of a strong economic recovery: not only do they tend to persist if measures are not taken to combat them, but they also weaken the social body and its capacity for resilience, like a gangrene, by nourishing resentment and resentment in a lasting way. (The Conversation, World Bank) – Chloë Voisin-Bormuth, Director of Research

CHINA’S CONCRETE JUNGLE – China wants to compete with New York and Central Park by building more urban parks to improve the daily quality of life of its citizens. As China's population becomes increasingly educated, citizens' expectations are no longer limited to high wages, but also demand a better quality of life. In response to this new societal trend, Chinese municipalities can force the removal of neighborhoods to make room for green spaces. Compensating property owners and building parks requires large investments, but for many citizens it brings long-term benefits as social needs have changed since the pandemic. (The Business Times) – Emilie Li, Research Assistant

– Many U.S. cities waived bus fares during the pandemic, including New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles—where buses are still free and will remain so until the pilot begins. But as some officials say "the cost of taking transit for low-income people is not just the fare", for most people, efficiency and reliability were bigger concerns than affordability. Should we choose between better services and cheaper services? (Slate) – Yamina Saydi, Communications Officer

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