The best policy for any aspiring dictator is birth control. If you aspire to be the father of a nation, you might want to limit the number of mouths to feed. If you don’t, there’s a high probability of revolt. If you look at the map above, youth (under 25) make up around 50% of many countries. Those countries are also prone to revolt. If you think about it, young people are strong, they can stay up all night and they have little to lose. If they don’t have numbers it’s possible to suppress them, but if they have more than 50%, resisting change will be tough. It’s a common idiom that change only comes when old people die. You could add that change also comes if there are enough young people to retire them.
Let’s take Sri Lanka as an example. The country saw major internal conflicts from the late 70s to 2009, along both racial and ideological lines. People have many theories as to why the conflicts began or ended, but a major reason is demographic.
In the 1980s we had a huge youth population and the Bandaranaike family actively pissed them off. First, SWRD Bandaranaike shut Tamils out of a lot of government jobs, pissing them off. Then his widow tried a crippling socialist experiment, pissing everyone off. There were a lot of young people with not much to do, no faith in the current system and revolution in the air. So Sri Lanka saw multiple revolts, from the Sinhala youth in the south and the Tamil youth in the North.
Fast forward to 2010, or 2008 let’s say. The Sinhala revolt in the south has been brutally crushed and that party is now led by old people. The Tamil youth that weren’t crushed by the state were crushed by the LTTE which setup a quasi-dictatorship of its own. Those rebel leaders, however, were old, married and had kids. They no longer spoke to the aspirations of youth, nor did they have adequate numbers of youth behind them. The struggle had burnt out demographically and was crushed by a conventional military. Sri Lanka’s demographics are discussed further in this LBO article by my dad.
Now let’s look at Egypt.
These countries have huge youth populations. With proper governance (education and jobs) that could be a recipe for economic growth. With bad governance, it’s a recipe for new government.
China, however, is under less pressure.
They have a population which is further from fighting age and which is largely pacified with economic gains. Also, in hindsight, their one-child policy was genius. China effectively aborted the backbone of any modern revolution. I bet Mubarak and Gaddafi wish they could go back and do the same.
Population pyramids here are screenshots from the apt and aptly named site Population Pyramids Of The World