I am at present engaging, or at last commencing, in PhD research at UL. The thesis point at which I start is that the nature of the housing that we design has a significant effect on demographic trends.
I believe that declining demography, as in declining birth rates, (in all developed European countries now below replacement level), is probably the most pressing issue that these countries will face over the remainder of the century. It is exacerbated to some extent by the decline in cultural confidence which is a mark of the modern "west", that area of the world formerly defined by Christendom and later by the "enlightenment".
I am in the process of looking at the decline in those countries which first exhibited the phenomenon of hyper aging, which is defined as having a proportion of the over 65's in the population greater than 30%. The three countries which are at or imminently approaching this level are Germany, Italy and Japan, three very different cultures but oddly enough all members of the Axis Powers of the second world war. These countries were merely the first to exhibit the phenomenon, but every other western country is following suit and is likely to fall over the tipping point of approaching hyper aging within the next two decades. 
The problems of hyper aging relate to an inability of a decreasing population of working age to support an increasing population of aged people. This has become critical in Japan. Most countries, with the exception of Japan attempt to solve the problem in the first instance with allowing mass immigration, but this has proved hugely problematic from a cultural point of view. A marked feature of the phenomenon is the extent to which governing authorities have been slow to react. The phenomenon of dramatically declining birth rates was first noted in the early sixties and the concomitant problems identified, but because the problems were at that time far in the future governments tended not to react. In Japan, the issue only became one of popular and political concern after the extremely low birth year of 1989, despite the fact that birth rates had been dramatically declining since 1950. Another marked phenomenon is the marked inability of government planners to be able to reverse declining birth rates. This may be because of an exaggerated sensitivity in entering the domain of what is seen in the west as sexual politics.

Those who plan for housing tend to do so having regard to the latest trends in population figures and family sizes. This may be causing a self fulfilling tendency however in that inadequate family house size may be in part responsible for low birth rates, as parents are reluctant to plan for larger families if suitable housing will not be available to them. It is this area that the thesis is attempting to examine.
Tendencies in planning for housing in most western states is to place much greater emphasis on higher density housing. This is in large measure a response to the environmental crisis, as higher densities are seen as a means of facilitating public transport and thus reducing reliance on the automobile and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
In following this process we may however be creating a crisis of a far greater proportion.
I would welcome any comments and guidance on how this thesis could be expanded.


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