by Katherine Carter, Fund for Peace - Global Square Blog: http://blog.fundforpeace.org/blog-20140403-socialresilience
Failed States Index (FSI) uses political, economic, and economic
indicators to determine the relative stability of a nation state and its
resilience to potential unrest.
The FSI examines how successfully
states maintain legitimacy and cohesion in the face of internal or
external pressures, but does not speak to how social trends in
particular countries change in response to those pressures.
to national resilience, social resilience refers to a community’s
capacity to adapt and cope with significant adversity and to prepare for
As a ranking of states’ fragility, the indicators
used in the FSI enable us to track countries’ progress from year to
year, but do not easily convey the human cost of instability and how
societies cope with instability on an emotional level.
When the fortunes
of countries are discussed in a policy context, the real pain
experienced by real people during periods of national turmoil is often
While a nation state could emerge from a disaster or period
of upheaval politically stable and essentially unchanged, how does the
psyche of its population fare?
One such example of this is the social effects of the so-called
“Great Recession” of 2008 and the turmoil it has caused primarily in
European societies and those of other developed economies.
these we chose to examine how individuals in particular countries
reacted to the recession of 2008, in contrast to how their nation fared
as a political and economic entity.
Given the subjective nature of such
an analysis, allow us to begin with a necessary disclaimer: the effects
of the recession will continue for several years as countries recover,
and as yet we cannot substantiate any conclusions or determine how long
the social trends we are witnessing now will last.
trends discussed below - suicide rates, fertility rates, divorce rates,
and emigration - surfaced as the most commonly observed social effects,
but we welcome comments about other social effects not mentioned here.
While we recognize suicide is a very complex issue that can never be
attributed to a single factor, the correlation between the recent
recession and rising suicide rates merits discussion.
suicide rates during this recession speak not simply of the economic
hardships people faced, but the absence of social resources and support
Moreover, it can be difficult to verify statistical
accuracy because of issues associated with coroners’ reports and
national data collection. Most of the statistics currently available are
accurate to 2010 and other countries do not tally the numbers every
Across the world, countries with high youth unemployment rates are
demonstrating parallel spikes in youth suicide rates.
According to the
World Health Organization, suicide is the third leading cause of death
for 15-44 year olds and the second leading cause of death for 10-24 year
olds in many developed countries.
Suicide rates tend to be much higher
among males, up to four times the rate of female suicides in some
countries. Furthermore, recorded statistics do not include attempted
suicides, which some estimates place at 20 times more frequent than
According to the Center for Disease Control and
Prevention, in 2009 suicide became the tenth leading cause of death in
the U.S. Recent news articles published in New Zealand, Canada, the UK,
and India demonstrate rising fears of increasing suicide rates among
A 2005 Study by the New Zealand Ministry of Health found that in the 1990s,the country experienced economic decline and rocketing
suicide rates, especially in males between the ages of 15-24 and those
living in rural areas.
News articles have tended to focus on youth suicides, however suicide
rates across the board have increased in recent years.
The U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study, “Impact of
Business Cycles on U.S. Suicide Rates, 1928-2007,” in which it concluded
that suicide rates correlated to the business cycle.
The highest rates
of suicide were recorded during the Great Depression, and other spikes
occurred during the 1970s oil crisis, and it fell during profitable
periods such as during and after the Second World War and the 1990s.
That study also found the highest correlation between economic cycles
and people aged between 24 and 65.
Researchers at the University of
Cambridge, the University of Bristol and the University of Hong Kong
found that in 2009 alone, higher unemployment rates coincided with a
3.3% rise in global suicide rates .
The researchers also found the
recession specifically caused an increase in U.S. male suicide rates, in
particular in the 45-65 year old age group. In Europe, suicide rates
among men jumped significantly during the recession; in Greece, male
suicide rates rose 24% between 2007 and 2009.
In Europe, however, the
greatest increase in suicide rates occurred in the 15-24 year old age
group, coinciding with high youth unemployment in those countries. Small
business owners have been especially hard hit by the recession, a
correlation demonstrated in suicide statistics.
The 2008 recession is believed to have produced a short-term but
significant drop in fertility rates in developed countries.
A 2011 study
conducted by the Vienna Institute of Demography at the Austrian Academy
of Sciences concluded the global birthrate has been in decline since
2000, with some variation, and sharply declined between 2008 and 2011.
In general, developed nations tend to exhibit lower fertility rates than
the global average. One reason cited for this difference is easier
access to family planning resources, including contraception.
attributed decreased fertility rates during the recession to several
primary factors: high levels of unemployment and job instability,
trouble securing housing, and spending more time in education.
in fertility rates witnessed in Europe is expected to be temporary;
couples tend to postpone giving birth for more prosperous periods.
Historically, these swings last between two and five years, so it is
possible a spike in fertility rates will occur in the next few years if
the global economy recovers.
The 2008 recession hit young job seekers hardest, thus decreases in
fertility rates were most pronounced in couples under 28 years of age.
In the European Union, 14 countries demonstrated a decline in birth
rates in 2009 and overall birthrates decreased. Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech
Republic, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Romania, and Switzerland
all showed a steady decline in birth rates.
German birthrates are
usually one of the lowest birth rates in the EU, averaging around 8.2
births per 1,000 people over the last five years. It actually increased
slightly in 2012, however, after dips in 2008 and 2009.
Kingdom witnessed a significant increase in birthrates between 2009 and
2010, jumping from 10.65 to 12.34 births per 1,000 people. On the other
hand, Greek birthrates have been steadily declining over the past
decade, falling to a low of 9.08 in 2012.
In the United States,
fertility rates dropped significantly between 2008 and 2009, from 14.18
births per 1,000 people to 13.8 and have continued to fall. In 2012, the
U.S. experienced its lowest fertility rate on record, sinking to 13.6.
In Australia, birthrates have been in gradual decline since the
recession, following a slight rise between 2007 and 2008, to a low of
12.2 in 2012. It is certainly telling that the most dramatic fall in
birthrates occurred in the youngest demographic.
Young parents appear to
be the quickest to postpone baby plans when the economy recedes,
perhaps as they, in general, have the luxury of more time to wait to
have a family.
Changes in divorce rates as a direct consequence of the global
recession have proven harder to corroborate than other social trends in
Some countries have witnessed rising divorce rates, which
experts attributed to increasing debts compounding already stressed
marriages, while other countries have not demonstrated significant
In 2010, the U.K. saw a 5% increase in divorce rates. Divorce
rates declined by about 7% in the U.S. between 2007 and 2009, but began
to increase in 2011 as improving markets enabled couples to pay for
legal costs and sell their homes.
Some experts have discussed a ‘delayed
impact’ of the recession, in which couples stayed together or separated
but did not divorce during the recession due to financial constraints.
Several countries in Europe reported an upturn in divorce rates during
2010; a result that could be interpreted as consistent with the ‘delayed
Emigration and Immigration
Immigration rates in the European Union over the past couple of years
reflected the perceived stability of particular countries. Immigration
within the EU increased, as workers from countries with higher
unemployment rates sought to move to more stable economies.
reported the highest immigration rates by far, with approximately
420,000 people settling between 2011 and 2012. France and Germany held
the next highest immigration rates, with about 320,000 and 166,000
By the same token, Greece reported higher levels of
emigration, with many university-educated Greeks heading elsewhere in
the EU in search of work, especially newly qualified medical
Approximately 370,000 people emigrated from Spain last
year; most were immigrants from Latin America returning home, while
about 50,000 were native Spaniards in search of work.
A slightly different trend emerged in the United States, where few
U.S. citizens chose to emigrate during the recession, but immigration to
the U.S. dropped and more immigrants chose to leave. After a peak in
2006, the U.S. immigration rate has fallen steadily.
A 2010 study
conducted at the Migration Policy Institute at the University of
California, Davis, demonstrated that immigrants react more quickly in
times of economic recession and job loss, tending to be among the first
to leave a country or state.
Between 2007 and 2009, the estimated number
of unauthorized immigrants in the United States fell from 12.2 million
to 11.3 million.
While the full psychological and societal effects of the global
recession of 2008 have yet to fully manifest, it is clear very few of
them will be positive.
Rises in suicide along with declines in global
birthrates will most likely not remain at their current levels, but they
illustrate how bleakly many young workers envision their futures in
current conditions. Whether we will see a delayed effect in regards to
divorce rates is uncertain.
Some psychologists believe couples tend to
stay together more fiercely during hard times to protect whatever
financial security they might have, while others think the added stress
of a recession can easily push a tenuous relationship over the edge.
Recovery from increased emigration/ immigration is perhaps the most
difficult social trend to predict, and possibly more permanent. The
point at which workers will feel secure to return home or at which
immigration rates will return to previous levels depends both on renewed
economic prosperity and on perceptions of economic security.
while it appears many developed governments weathered the recession in
terms of their FSI rankings and relative national security, the health
and well-being of their people may not have fared so well.
1. URL located at http://articles.latimes.com/2013/sep/18/science/la-sci-sn-great-recessio...