ICAEW chart of the week: Global military spending

While the UK commits to increasing its defence and security expenditure, our chart this week looks at military spending around the world, which has reached $2.4trn.

Column chart

Global military spending
ICAEW chart of the week

Column 1: NATO

USA $916bn
UK $75bn
Rest of NATO $360bn
Total $1,351bn

Column 2: SCO and CSTO

China $296bn
Russia $109bn
India and other $106bn
Total $511bn

Column 3: Rest of the world

Other US allies $304bn
Ukraine $65bn
Other countries $212bn
Total $581bn


25 April 2024.
Chart by Martin Wheatcroft FCA. Design by Sunday.

Source: SIPRI Military Expenditure Database. Excludes Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Yemen.

© ICAEW 2024

Our chart this week is based on the latter, with SIPRI reporting that global military expenditure has increased to $2,443bn in 2023, a 6.8% increase after adjusting for currency movements. SIPRI’s numbers are based on publicly available information, which means that some countries may be spending even more on their militaries that are included in the database. SIPRI was unable to obtain numbers for military spending by Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Laos.

Military spending is the news this week following the announcement by the UK government that it will commit to spending 2.5% of GDP on defence and security, the recent vote by the US Congress to provide $95bn in military aid to Ukraine ($61bn), Israel ($26bn) and Taiwan and others in the Indo-Pacific ($8bn), and the release of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Military Expenditure Database for 2023.

More than half of that spending is incurred by NATO, with total military spending of $1,351bn, comprising $916bn by the US, $75bn by the UK and $360bn by other NATO members. Of the latter, $307bn was spent by the 23 members of the EU that are also members of NATO (including $67bn by Germany, $61bn by France, $36bn by Italy, $32bn by Poland and $24bn by Spain), while $53bn was spent by the other seven members (including $27bn by Canada and $16bn by Türkiye).

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) are partially overlapping economic and military alliances convened by China and Russia respectively. China has the biggest military with $296bn spent in 2023, while Russia spent $109bn and other members spent $106bn (of which India spent $84bn).

We have categorised the rest of the world between other US allies which spent $304bn in 2023 (including $76bn by Saudi Arabia, $50bn by non-US members of the Rio Pact, $50bn by Japan, $48bn by South Korea, $32bn by Australia, $27bn by Israel and $17bn by Taiwan), Ukraine which spent $65bn, and $212bn spent by other countries for which SIPRI has data.

The numbers do not take account of the differences in purchasing power, particularly on salaries. That means China and India, for example, can employ many more soldiers, sailors and aircrew than NATO countries can for the same amount of money.

The Ukraine number also excludes $35bn in military spending funded by the US ($25bn) and other partners ($10bn) during 2023 that was not part of its national budget.

Global military spending is expected to increase further in 2024 as the international security situation deteriorates. This includes NATO members that plan to increase their defence and security spending to meet or exceed the 2% of GDP NATO minimum guideline set in 2014 to be achieved by 2024.

This includes the UK, which now plans to increase its spending on defence and security from 2.35% of GDP in 2023/24 to 2.5% of GDP by 2028/29, with suggestions from defence sources that setting a target of 3% of GDP may be necessary at some point in the next decade.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: IMF Fiscal Monitor

Our chart this week finds that the UK is ranking highly in the IMF’s latest five-year forecasts for general government net debt.

Bar chart

General government net debt/GDP: 2029 forecast

Emerging and developing economies (green bars)
World (purple bar)
Advanced economies (blue bar)
UK (red bar)

Kazakhstan (green) 8%
Canada (blue) 13%
Saudi Arabia (green) 22%
Iran (green) 23%
Australia (blue) 24%
South Korea (blue) 29%
Türkiye (green) 30%
Indonesia (green) 37%
Germany (blue) 43%
Netherlands (blue) 43%
Nigeria (green) 47%
Mexico (green) 51%
Poland (green) 55%
Egypt (green) 56%
Pakistan (green) 61%
Brazil (green) 70%
World (purple) 79%
South Africa (green) 84%
Spain (blue) 92%
UK (red) 98%
France (blue) 107%
US (blue) 108%
Italy (blue) 136%
Japan (blue) 153%


18 Apr 2024.
Chart by Martin Wheatcroft FCA. Design by Sunday.
Source: IMF Fiscal Monitor: 17 Apr 2024.

©️ ICAEW 2024

The International Money Fund (IMF) released its latest IMF Fiscal Monitor on 17 April 2024, highlighting how public debts and deficits are higher than before the pandemic and public debts are expected to remain high. The IMF says: “Amid mounting debt, now is the time to bring back sustainable public finances”, commenting that as prospects for a global economic soft landing have improved, it is time for action to bring government finances back under control. 

Our chart this week illustrates how the UK is one of the ‘leading’ nations in government borrowing, with general government net debt projected by the IMF to reach 98% of GDP by 2029, compared with 92.5% in 2023. (Note: general government net debt is different to the public sector net debt measure used in the UK public finances – the latter includes the Bank of England and other public corporations.)

The chart illustrates how the major countries with the largest debt burdens tend to be advanced economies, with Spain (92% of GDP), the UK (98%), France (107%), US (108%), Italy (136%) and Japan (153%) having debt levels close to, or exceeding, the sizes of their economies.

Some countries are in much better fiscal positions, with Germany expected to bring its general government net debt down to 43% of GDP by 2029, while the Netherlands (43%), South Korea (29%), Australia (24%) and Canada (13%) also have relatively low levels of public debt compared with other advanced economies.

Emerging market ‘middle-income’ and ‘low-income’ developing countries often have much lower levels of public debt than advanced countries, often simply because it is more difficult for them to borrow to the same extent as well as not having the same scale of welfare provision as richer countries to finance. Examples include Kazakhstan (projected to have a general government debt of 8% of GDP in 2029), Saudi Arabia (22%), Iran (23%), Türkiye (30%) and Indonesia (37%). However, that does not stop some emerging and developing countries borrowing more, such as Nigeria (47%), Mexico (51%), Poland (55%), Egypt (56%), Pakistan (61%), Brazil (70%) and South Africa (84%).

Not shown in the chart are China and India for which no net debt numbers are available. The IMF projects them to have general government gross debt in 2029 of 110% and 78% of GDP respectively, indicating how their public debts have grown substantially in recent years. However, without knowing their levels of cash holdings it is less clear where they stand in the rankings.

Also not shown is Norway, the only country with negative general government net debt reported by the IMF. Norway’s general government net cash is projected to reach 139% of GDP in 2029, up from 99% in 2023.

As with all metrics, there are some issues in comparing the circumstances of individual countries. Many countries will also have investments, other public assets, or natural resource rights that are not netted off against debt, while many will also have other liabilities or financial commitments that aren’t counted within debt. For example, the UK has significant liabilities for unfunded public sector pensions as well as even larger financial commitments to the state pension, either of which, if included, would move the UK above the US in the rankings.

The IMF believes that as the world recovers from the pandemic and inflation is brought under control, it is important for countries to start tackling the deficits in the public finances and start bringing down the level of public debt. 

This may be difficult for countries such as the UK where significant pressures on the public finances mean public debt is expected to increase over the medium term rather than fall.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: IMF World Economic Outlook Update

My chart for ICAEW this week illustrates how countries rank in the IMF’s latest forecasts for economic growth over 2024 and 2025.

IMF World Economic Outlook Update
ICAEW chart of the week

(Horizontal bar chart)

Legend:

Emerging markets and developing economies (green)
World (purple)
Advanced economies (blue)
UK (red)

Projected annualised real GDP growth 2024 and 2025

Bars in green except where noted.

India: +6.5%
Philippines: +6.0%
Indonesia: +5.0%
Kazakhstan: +4.4%
China: +4.3%
Malaysia: +4.3%
Saudi Arabia: +4.3%
Egypt: +3.8%
Iran: +3.4%
Thailand: +3.2%
Türkiye: +3.1%
World Output: +3.1% (purple)
Nigeria: +3.0%
Poland: +3.0%
Pakistan: +2.7%
World Growth: +2.6% (purple)
South Korea: +2.3% (blue)
Mexico: +2.1%
United States: +1.9% (blue)
Canada: +1.8% (blue)
Russia: +1.8%
Brazil: +1.8%
Spain: +1.8% (blue)
Australia: +1.7% (blue)
France: +1.3% (blue)
South Africa: +1.1%
United Kingdom: +1.1% (red)
Germany: +1.0% (blue)
Argentina: +1.0%
Netherlands: +1.0% (blue)
Italy: +0.9% (blue)
Japan: +0.8% (blue)


8 Feb 2024.
Chart by Martin Wheatcroft FCA. Design by Sunday.
Source: IMF World Economic Outlook Update, 30 Jan 2024.

(c) ICAEW 2024

Each January, the International Money Fund (IMF) traditionally releases an update to its World Economic Outlook forecasts for the global economy. This year it says that it expects the global economy to grow by an average of 2.6% over the course of 2024 and 2025 at market exchange rates, or by 3.1% when using the economists-preferred method of converting currencies at purchasing power parity (PPP).

The chart shows how the 30 countries tracked by the IMF fit between emerging market and developing economies, most of which are growing faster than the global averages, and advanced economies, which tend to grow less quickly. 

The biggest drivers of the global forecast are the US, China and the EU, with both the US and China expected by the IMF to grow less strongly on average over the next two years than in 2023. This contrasts with an improvement over 2023 (which involved a shrinking economy in Germany) by the advanced national economies in the EU over the next two years – apart from Spain, which is expected to fall back from a strong recovery in 2023. 

Growth in emerging and developing countries is expected to average 4.1% over the two years, led by India (now the world’s fifth largest national economy after the US, China, Germany and Japan), followed by the Philippines, Indonesia, Kazakhstan growing faster than China, followed by Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Thailand and Türkiye. 

Nigeria, Poland and Pakistan are expected to grow slightly less than world economic output, followed by Mexico. 

Russia, Brazil and South Africa are expected to grow less strongly, while Argentina is expected to grow the least, with a forecast contraction in 2024 expected to be followed by a strong recovery in 2025.

The strongest-growing of the advanced economies in the IMF analysis continues to be South Korea, followed by the US, Canada, Spain, Australia, France, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, with Japan expected to have the lowest average growth. Overall, the advanced economies are expected to grow by an average of 1.6% over the next two years.

For the UK, forecast average growth of 1.0% over the next two years is expected to be faster than the 0.5% estimated for 2023, but at 0.6% in 2024 and 1.6% in 2025 we may not feel that much better off in the current year.

Of course, forecasts are forecasts, which means they are almost certainly wrong. However, they do provide some insight into the state of the world economy and how it appears to be recovering the pandemic.

For further information, read the IMF World Economic Outlook Update.

More data

Not shown in the chart are the estimate for 2023 and the breakdown in 2024 and 2025, so for those who are interested, the forecast percentage growth numbers are as follows:

Emerging market and developing countries:

CountryAverage over
2024 and 2025
2023
Estimate
2024
Forecast
2025
Forecast
India6.5%6.7%6.5%6.5%
Philippines6.0%5.3%6.0%6.1%
Indonesia5.0%5.0%5.0%5.0%
Kazakhstan4.4%4.8%3.1%5.7%
China4.3%5.2%4.6%4.1%
Malaysia4.3%4.0%4.3%4.4%
Saudi Arabia4.1%-1.1%2.7%5.5%
Egypt3.8%3.8%3.0%4.7%
Iran3.4%5.4%3.7%3.2%
Thailand3.2%2.5%4.4%2.0%
Türkiye3.1%4.0%3.1%3.2%
Nigeria3.0%2.8%3.0%3.1%
Poland3.0%0.6%2.8%3.2%
Pakistan2.7%-0.2%2.0%3.5%
Mexico2.1%3.4%2.7%1.5%
Russia1.8%3.0%2.6%1.1%
Brazil1.8%3.0%2.6%1.1%
South Africa1.1%0.6%1.0%1.3%
Argentina1.0%-1.1%-2.8%5.0%

Advanced economies (including the UK): 

CountryAverage over
2024 and 2025
2023
Estimate
2024
Forecast
2025
Forecast
South Korea2.3%1.4%2.3%2.3%
USA1.9%2.5%2.1%1.7%
Canada1.8%1.1%1.4%2.3%
Spain1.8%1.1%1.4%2.3%
Australia1.7%1.8%1.4%2.1%
France1.3%0.8%1.0%1.7%
UK1.1%0.5%0.6%1.6%
Germany1.0%-0.3%0.5%1.6%
Netherlands1.0%0.2%0.7%1.3%
Italy0.9%0.7%0.7%1.1%
Japan0.8%1.9%0.9%0.8%

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: Sterling exchange rates 2023

My chart for ICAEW this week looks at how the pound appreciated in value against the euro, US dollar, yuan and yen respectively during 2023.

4 x step charts titled 'Sterling exchange rates 2023'


Euro

30 Dec 2022: €1.128 = £1.00
Change: +2%
29 Dec 2023: €1.154 = £1.00


US dollar

30 Dec 2022: $1.204 = £1.00
Change: +6%
29 Dec 2023: $1.275 = £1.00


Chinese yuan

30 Dec 2022: ¥8.31 = £1.00
Change: +9%
29 Dec 2023: ¥9.08 = £1.00


Japanese yen

30 Dec 2022: ¥159 = £1.00
Change: +13%
29 Dec 2023: ¥180 = £1.00


4 Jan 2024.
Chart by Martin Wheatcroft FCA. Design by Sunday.

Source: Bank of England, 'Daily spot exchange rates against sterling'.

My first chart of the week of 2024 for ICAEW looks back at 2023 and how sterling strengthened against the euro, US dollar, yuan and yen – the currencies of the four largest economies in the world – based on exchange rates reported by the Bank of England.

The smallest increase was against the principal currency of the European Union, our largest trading partner, with the sterling to euro exchange rate up by just over 2% from £1:00:€1.128 to £1.00:€1.154 between 30 December 2022 and 29 December 2023. 

This contrasted with a 6% rise in sterling against the US dollar during 2023 from £1.00:$1.204 at the end of 2022 to £1.00:$1.275 at the end of 2023, a 9% rise against the Chinese yuan renminbi from £1.00:¥8.31 to £1.00: ¥9.08. Sterling increased, and a 13% increase against the Japanese yen from £1.00:¥159 to £1.00:¥180.

Exchange rate movements can be attributed to multiple factors, including relative rates of inflation and economic growth, interest rates, trade and investment flows, and fiscal credibility among others – both actuals and sentiment about prospects for the future. In sterling’s case, expectations that interest rates in the UK are likely to stay higher for longer than in other major economies is a key contributor to the rise in sterling over 2023, although this is only part of the story.

While sterling has appreciated over the last year against these and many other currencies, the pound is still much lower in value than 10 years ago, being down 4% against the euro compared with £1.00:€1.200 at the end of 2013, down 23% against the US dollar from £1.00:$1.653, and down 9% against the Chinese yuan from £1.00:¥10.01. The exception is the Japanese yen, where the rise this year has more than offset falls over the previous decade to leave sterling 4% higher against the yen than the exchange rate £1.00:¥173 on 31 December 2013.

Time to book that holiday to China or Japan?

ICAEW chart of the week: Coronavirus

My chart this week looks at one of the big questions being looked at by the UK COVID-19 Inquiry: why did the UK experience one of the highest death rates in the developed world?

Coronavirus

Column chart showing deaths per million population, with each column broken into 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 (to 2 Nov) components.

Year components only labelled for the UK 

Japan - 603 (28 in 2020, 120 in 2021, 316 in 2022, 139 in 2023 up to 2 Nov) 
Australia - 893 (35, 58, 587, 212)
Canada - 1,395 (397, 382, 498, 118)
Ireland - 1,848 (451, 761, 480, 156)
Germany - 2,099 (564, 848, 576, 111)
France - 2,599 (983, 938, 580, 98)
Italy - 3,259 (1,247, 1,078, 805, 129)
USA - 3,365 (1,041, 1,381, 786, 157)
UK - 3,421 (1,382, 1237, 583, 219)
Greece - 3,635 (451, 1,524, 1,393, 267)


9 Nov 2023.
Chart by Martin Wheatcroft FCA. Design by Sunday.

Source: Our World In Data, ‘COVID-19 data explorer’ / WHO, ‘Covid-19 dashboard’.

My chart for ICAEW this week is on the coronavirus pandemic and how, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data as summarised by Our World in Data’s Covid-19 Data Explorer, the UK suffered one of the highest death rates in the developed world.

According to the official statistics, there were 3,421 deaths per million population attributed to COVID-19 in the UK between 1 January 2020 and 2 November 2023. This compares with 603 deaths per million in Japan, 893 in Australia, 1,395 in Canada, 1,848 in Ireland, 2,099 in Germany, 2,599 in France, 3,259 in Italy, 3,365 in the US and 3,635 in Greece.

Not shown in the chart are the total number of cumulative deaths attributed to COVID-19 (ie before dividing by the population) of 74,694 in Japan, 23,289 in Australia, 53,297 in Canada, 9,281 in Ireland, 174,979 in Germany, 167,985 in France, 192,406 in Italy, 1.14m in the USA, 230,974 in the UK, and 37,738 in Greece.

Both Our World In Data and the WHO give warnings about the data, especially given difficulties in identifying which deaths were caused by the coronavirus (especially in 2020 before testing was widely available), whether deaths are recorded when they happened or when they were reported, and differences in how countries attribute deaths to causes. 

Despite those factors, these statistics give an overall impression of how badly the coronavirus affected different countries, especially when combined with other data, such as excess mortality (also not shown in the chart). According to Our World In Data, the cumulative difference between total deaths reported from all causes and projected deaths (based on an extrapolation from the years prior to the pandemic) changes the rankings for the countries in our chart, improving the UK’s position to an extent with the US has more excess deaths proportionately than the UK, and Italy more than Greece. Australia has the lowest level of excess deaths for these countries, below Japan, while France is between Canada and Ireland.

The chart also illustrates the deaths per million of population by year, highlighting how for the UK this was 1,382 in 2020, 1,237 in 2021, 583 in 2022, and 219 in 2023, up to 2 November 2023.

The UK COVID-19 Inquiry is looking at much more than the number of deaths as it considers how coronavirus affected all of us over the past few years, how people were affected, including short- and long-term impacts on health and how people died, as well as the impact on the economy and our lives more generally of COVID-19 – and the UK Government’s response to it.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: BRICS+

The ICAEW chart of the week returns from its summer holidays to look at the planned expansion of BRICS from five to 11 countries.

Venn diagram showing the G20, G7, BRICS, and BRICS+:

G20 in green, encompassing G7 in teal with USA, Japan, Canada and UK plus in blue with dotted line around Germany, France, Italy and the European Union (the EU members of the G7).

Then five countries in G20, but not in the G7, BRICS or BRICS+, being Korea, Australia, Mexico, Indonesia and Türkiye.

Tne BRICS+ in purple with Argentina and Saudi Arabia followed by BRICS in orange with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Still in the BRICS+ purple, but outside the G20 green are Ethiopia, Iran, Egypt and UAE.

Sources: G20, G7, BRICS.

Footnote gives share of global GDP: G20 86%. G7 52% (USA 26%, EU 17%), KAMIT 7%, BRICS 25%, BRICS+ 28%.

“The BRICs” was originally coined by Jim O’Neill in 2001 as an abbreviation for Brazil, Russia, India and China, four fast-growing economies that he predicted would come to dominate the world economy.

This investment shorthand evolved into something more substantive in 2006 when ministers from the four countries got together on the sidelines of a meeting at the UN. Leader summits started in 2009, followed by the addition of South Africa in 2011, which resulted in the capitalisation of the final ‘s’ to form BRICS. 

BRICS has developed over time to become a counterweight to the G7, providing an alternative forum for leaders of these five major nations to discuss common concerns such as economic development, currency stability, climate change, and tackling drug trafficking and organised crime. BRICS has been increasingly important to Russia since its ejection from the G7 (then the G8) following its invasion of Crimea in 2014 and to China as relations with the G7 have deteriorated over the last decade.

The most recent summit (the 15th) was on 22-24 August 2023, at which it was announced that six additional countries would be joining on 1 January 2024 to bring the number of members to 11.

Our chart this week takes the form a Venn diagram to illustrate how BRICS, and the expanded “BRICS+” grouping (pending a new official name), fit with two other major intergovernmental organisations where leaders meet on a regular basis – the G7 and the G20.

It starts with the G20, a grouping of 19 nations and the European Union that together represent 86% of the global economy. Within this sit the eight members of the G7 group of advanced economies, representing 52% of the global economy: the USA (26%), Japan (4%), the UK (3%), Canada (2%), Germany (4%), France (3%), Italy (2%) and the European Union (17% including Germany, France and Italy). The five BRICS nations represent 25% of the global economy comprising: Brazil (2%), Russia (1.7%), India (4%), China (17%) and South Africa (0.4%).

The diagram is complicated by the expanded BRICS+ as although invitees Argentina (0.6%) and Saudi Arabia (1.0%) are also members of the G20, the other four new members – Ethiopia (0.2%), Iran (0.3%), Egypt (0.3%) and the United Arab Emirates (0.5%) – are outside the G20. These new members together represent 3% of the global economy, taking the expanded BRICS+ to 28%.

Squeezed between the G7 and BRICS+ are five G20 members that together make up around 7% of the global economy that are not in either grouping, being (South) Korea (1.6%), Australia (1.6%), Mexico (1.8%), Indonesia (1.4%) and Türkiye (0.8%). As yet there is no sign of an intergovernmental organisation for these “KAMIT” nations to complement the G7 and BRICS, although in practice they are often invited as guests to G7 summits in addition to their participation in meetings of the G20.

The attraction of intergovernmental forums such as the G7, BRICS and the G20 is that they enable national leaders to engage directly with their counterparts on a wide range of topics, in contrast to the often narrower focus and more formal diplomatic structures of treaty-based international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation Development (OECD), the World Bank or the Organisation of American States (OAS) for example.

Their informal nature gives national leaders more flexibility to (for example) change their memberships without lengthy treaty negotiations or to work together on pressing issues of mutual concern. However, that informality also makes it difficult to create binding resolutions, which is perhaps why the global alternative reserve currency proposed at the first BRICS summit in 2009 had still not been implemented by the time of the 15th summit this August. 

Read more: G20G7BRICS.

ICAEW chart of the week: South Korea

My chart this week looks at the economic success story of South Korea over the last 30 years or so, using Japan as a comparator.

Line chart showing GDP per capita in current US$ between 1990 and 2023.

Japan $2,158 in 1990, steady up to 1995 then zigzags ups and down and up and down and up to a peak in 2012 before falling to 2015 then up then flattish then down and then up to $2,949 in 2023.

South Korea $551 in 1990, steady up to 1996, then down to 1998 then up then down then steady up to 2007, then down to 2009, then zig zag up to 2021, then down, then up to $2,783 in 2023.

The news that South Korea, to align with most of the rest of the world, is cutting the age of its citizens by a year or two – it used to deem a baby one year old at birth, and add a year on 1 January – prompted us to take a look at this peninsula nation and its amazing economic success story.

As my chart this week illustrates, GDP per capita in 1990 in South Korea was $551 per month in then current US$, approximately one quarter of its neighbour Japan’s GDP per capita per month at that time of $2,158

South Korea has seen its economy grow pretty strongly over the last three decades to reach a forecast GDP of $2,783 per person per month for the current year according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This is only a little below the economic activity of $2,949 per person per month anticipated to be generated by Japan in 2023. 

South Korea has made steady economic progress since 1990. Outside of recessions and pandemics there have been continual improvements in economic activity and in living standards, resulting in the country moving from the developing nation category to an advanced economy.

This compares with the economic performance of neighbouring Japan, which has been on an economic rollercoaster since the end of the economic boom in the mid-1990s. While a strong currency in the run-up to the global financial crisis boosted the size of its economy in US dollar terms, Japan has subsequently underperformed as its ageing population and lack of immigration has caused its economy to slow and the Yen to fall.

Not shown in the chart is the progress made in purchasing power parity (PPP) international dollars, the measure that economists prefer to use when comparing economic performance between countries as it takes account of differences in living costs. This would show a narrower difference in 1990, when South Korean and Japanese GDP per capita per month were 629 and 1,692 international dollars respectively, and would also show South Korea outgrowing Japan with GDP per capita per month in 2023 of 4,725 international dollars, compared with 4,317 international dollars for Japan.

Many South Koreans waking up on Wednesday 28 June 2023 will have been pretty happy to discover they are now a year or two younger than they were the day before. They may be less likely to reflect on the economic miracle that has taken their country from the depths of extreme poverty in the early 1950s, following the Korean War, to becoming the prosperous nation that South Korea is today. 

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: Japan demographics

We look at how Japan’s population is ageing and falling fast, presenting some major challenges for the public finances of the third largest national economy in the world.

Column chart showing Japan's population at twenty-year intervals from 1963 to 2063, analysed into five age groups: Ages 0-19, Ages 20-39, Ages 40-59, Ages 60-79, Ages 80+.

1963 – 36m, 32m, 19m, 8m and 1m – 96m total
1983 – 35m, 36m, 31m, 15m and 2m – 119m total
2003 – 25m, 35m, 35m, 27m and 5m – 127m total
2023 – 20m, 26m, 35m, 31m and 12m – 124m total
2043 – 15m, 22m, 26m, 31m and 16m – 110m total
2063 – 12m, 17m, 22m, 24m and 18m – 93m total

Our chart this week is on the demographics of Japan, looking at how its population grew rapidly from 96m in 1963 to 119m in 1983 and then 127m in 2003, before falling to 124m this year, to a projected 110m in 20 years’ time, and to 93m in 40 years’ time.

Our analysis starts with the 96m people who lived in Japan in 1963 and shows how increased longevity saw the population increase to 119m in 1983 (an increase of 24m from 36m births and 2m migrants less 14m deaths), before increasing to 127m in 2003 (a further 8m increase from 25m births less 17m deaths). 

The population has been relatively stable since then, peaking at 128m in 2010 (not shown in the chart), before dropping to 124m this year as the number of births (20m over the last 20 years) fell below the number of deaths (25m). This was offset by a small amount of net inward migration, with the non-Japanese component of the population amounting to 3m in 2023.

Fewer younger people means that the number of births is expected to be even smaller over the next 20 years to 2043 at around 15m, at the same time as deaths are expected to increase in line with an older population. According to the latest medium-variant projections of Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, the population is projected to drop by 14m to 110m in 2043 (15m births + 3m migrants – 32m deaths) before falling by a further 17m to 93m in 2063 (12m births + 3m migrants – 32m deaths).

The primary purpose of the chart is to illustrate how the age profile has shifted and continues to change as Japan gets older. Grouped into five age segments: 0-19, 20-39, 40-59, 60-79 and 80+, the population was, is, and is projected to be as follows:

1963 – 36m, 32m, 19m, 8m and 1m – 96m total
1983 – 35m, 36m, 31m, 15m and 2m – 119m total
2003 – 25m, 35m, 35m, 27m and 5m – 127m total
2023 – 20m, 26m, 35m, 31m and 12m – 124m total
2043 – 15m, 22m, 26m, 31m and 16m – 110m total
2063 – 12m, 17m, 22m, 24m and 18m – 93m total

The contrast in the age profile in the 20th century compared with 21st century Japan is dramatic, with the proportion of population aged 60 or over increasing from 9% in 1963 to 35% today and to a projected 45% in 2063, at the same time as the share aged under 40 has fallen from 72% in 1963 to 37% in 2023 and to a projected 31% in 2063.

Also not shown in the chart is Japan’s median age, which was 26 in 1963, 33 in 1983, 42 in 2003 and 49 this year, before being projected to reach 53 in 2043 and 56 in 2063 – more than double that of a century earlier.

These demographic shifts have and will continue to present a major fiscal challenge for the Japanese government. The continued growth in size of older generations (who typically consume the most in public services and welfare), accompanied by a shrinking working-age population (the group that typically pays most of the taxes that fund public services and welfare), will not be an easy dynamic to manage. At the same time, Japan already has one of the largest national debts of any country at in excess of 250% of its GDP.

One action Japan could take is to increase the pace of net inward migration even more than it already has, given it is currently at a much lower level than in many other developed countries such as the UK. This would have the benefit of bringing in more tax-paying individuals of working age and potentially assist in driving up the birth rate, slowing the rate of fall in the size of the population. However, there would be significant political challenges to overcome for such a route to be successful.

The good news for Japan is that it can still borrow at very low interest rates, with the effective interest rate payable on 10-year government bonds currently at 0.4%, much lower than in many comparable countries with much lower levels of external debt. This is both a threat, in that interest rates could go up significantly in the future, but also an opportunity in that the Japanese government is able to invest in adapting itself for a very different future.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: Inflation around the world

This week we look at how inflation is racing upwards across the world, with the UK reporting in April one of the highest rates of increase among developed countries.

Bar chart showing inflation rates by G20 country: Russia 17.8%, Nigeria 16.8%, Poland 12.4%, Brazil 12.1%, Netherlands 9.6%, UK 9.0%, Spain 8.3%, USA 8.3%, India 7.8%, Mexico 7.7%, German 7.4%, Canada 6.8%, Italy 6.0%, South Africa 5.9%, France 4.8%, South Korea 4.8%, Indonesia 3.5%, Switzerland 2.5%, Japan 2.4%, Saudia Arabia 2.3%, China 2.1%.

Inflation has increased rapidly over the last year as the world has emerged from the pandemic. A recovery in demand combined with constraints in supply and transportation has driven prices, with myriad factors at play. These include the effects of lockdowns in China (the world’s largest supplier of goods), the devastation caused by the Russian invasion in Ukraine (a major food exporter to Europe, the Middle East and Africa), and the economic sanctions imposed on Russia (one of the world’s largest suppliers of oil and gas).

As the chart shows, the UK currently has – at 9% – the highest reported rate of consumer price inflation in the G7, as measured by the annual change in the consumer prices index (CPI) between April 2021 and April 2022. This compares with 8.3% in the USA, 7.4% in Germany, 6.8% in Canada, 6.0% in Italy, 4.8% in France and 2.4% in Japan. 

The UK’s relatively higher rate partly reflects the big jump in energy prices in April from the rise in the domestic energy price cap, which contrasts with France, for example, where domestic energy price rises have been much lower (thanks in part to state subsidies). The UK inflation rate also hasn’t been helped by falls in the value of sterling, making imported goods and food more expensive.

Other countries shown in the chart include Russia at 17.8%, Nigeria at 16.8%, Poland at 12.4%, Brazil at 12.1%, Netherlands at 9.6%, Spain at 8.3%, India at 7.8%, Mexico at 7.7%, South Africa 5.9%, South Korea at 4.8%, Indonesia at 3.5%, Switzerland at 2.5%, Saudi Arabia at 2.3% and China at 2.1%. For most countries, the rate of inflation is substantially higher than it has been for many years, reflecting just how major a change there has been in a global economy that had become accustomed to relatively stable prices in recent years. 

This is not the case for every country, and the chart excludes three hyperinflationary countries that already had problems with inflation even before the pandemic, led by Venezuela with an inflation rate of 222.3% in April, Turkey with a rate of 70%, and Argentina at 58%.

Policymakers have been alarmed at the prospect of an inflationary cycle as higher prices start to drive higher wages, which in turn will drive even higher prices. For central banks that has meant increasing interest rates to try and dampen demand, while finance ministries have been looking to see how they can protect households from the effect of rising prices, particular on energy, whether that be by intervention to constrain prices, through temporary tax cuts, or through direct or indirect financial support to struggling households.

Here in the UK, both the Bank of England and HM Treasury have been calling for restraint in wage settlements as they seek to head off a further ramp-up in inflation. They hope that inflation will start to moderate later in the year as price rises in the last six months start to drop out of the year-on-year comparison and supply constraints start to ease, for example as oil and gas production is ramped up in the USA, the Middle East and elsewhere to replace Russia as an energy supplier, and as China emerges from its lockdowns.

Despite that, prices are likely to rise further, especially in October when the energy price cap is expected to increase by 40%, following a 54% rise in April. This is likely to force many to make difficult choices as household budgets come under increasing strain.

After all, inflation is much more than the rate of change in an arbitrary index; it has an impact in the real world of diminishing spending power and in eroding the value of savings. 

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: Global population

The ICAEW chart of the week looks at how the estimated global population of almost 8bn people is distributed around the world.

Bubble chart showing estimated global population of 7,995m in 2022: South Asia 1,894m, East Asia 1,671m, South East Asia 682m, Pacific 43m, Africa 1,419, Europe 592m, Middle East 357m, Eurasia 246m, North America 511m, South America 443m and Central America & Caribbean 97m.

UN projections show that the planetary population will reach approximately 7,955m in June this year, a 1.0% increase over the 7,875m estimate for June 2021.

The largest region on our chart is South Asia, which has 1,894m inhabitants, including 1,411m in India, 216m in Pakistan, 173m in Bangladesh, 40m in Afghanistan and 31m in Nepal. This is followed in size by the 1,671m people living in East Asia, including 1,432m in mainland China (currently the most populous country in the world), 126m in Japan, 52m in South Korea and 26m in North Korea.

Africa is the third largest region with 1,419m inhabitants, with 482m living in Eastern Africa (including Ethiopia 118m, Tanzania 67m, Kenya 56m, Uganda 50m, Mozambique 34m and Madagascar 29m), 424m in Western Africa (including Nigeria 217m, Ghana 32m, Côte d’Ivoire 27m and Niger 26m), 254m in Northern Africa (including Egypt 106m, Sudan 46m, Algeria 45m and Morocco 38m), 190m in Middle Africa (including the Democratic Republic of the Congo 95m, Angola 35m and Cameroon 27m), and 69m in Southern Africa (of which 60m are in South Africa).

Excluding Russia and Belarus, Europe has 592m people, including 444m in the 27 countries of the EU (including Germany 83m, France 66m, Italy 59m, Spain 46m and Poland 38m), 68m in the UK and 43m in Ukraine, although these numbers are all before taking account of the several million Ukrainians who have been forced to flee the war and are living temporarily in other countries. 

Eurasia, comprising the Commonwealth of Independent States of Russia, Belarus and the ‘stans’ of central Asia, has 246m inhabitants (including Russia 143m and Uzbekistan 34m), while the Middle East has an estimated 357m people (including Turkey 85m, Iran 85m, Iraq 44m, Saudi Arabia 36m and Yemen 32m.

North America has 511m inhabitants (USA 336m, Mexico 137m, Canada 38m), while 97m live in Central America (52m) and the Caribbean (45m), and 443m live in South America (including Brazil 217m, Colombia 51m, Argentina 46m, Peru 34m and Venezuela 34m).

South East Asia has 682m inhabitants, including 277m in Indonesia, 113m in the Philippines, 100m in Vietnam, 70m in Thailand, 56m in Myanmar and 34m in Malaysia. A further 43m people live in the Pacific region, of which 26m are in Australia. 

Although the rate of global population growth was projected to slow significantly in recent years, from 1.3% a year in 2000 when the population was 6.1bn, to 1.0% a year currently and to a forecast of around 0.7% in 20 years’ time, that still means that the number of people on the planet is expected to grow to around 9.8bn in 2050, placing even greater demands on natural resources than today. 

This highlights just how important achieving net zero and environmental sustainability is to the lives and wellbeing of future generations.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.