ECB’s Schnabel: Global population decline fuels long-term inflation

  • Falling populations worldwide will lead to labor shortages and increased inflation
  • Aging populations will burden governments with higher pension and healthcare costs
  • Economists should be more flexible in their perspectives and consider historical trends
  • Central bankers should reconsider their use of forward guidance and market-based measures


The global population decline is expected to have far-reaching consequences on the economy, including driving up labor costs and inflation, warns Isabel Schnabel, a member of the European Central Bank’s executive board. Schnabel’s remarks come in light of predictions made by economic historian Charles Goodhart in his 2020 book, ‘The Great Demographic Reversal: Ageing Societies, Waning Inequality, and an Inflation Revival’. In this article, we explore the implications of global population decline and Schnabel’s call for economists and central bankers to take a more flexible and long-term view.

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Falling Populations and Labor Shortages

Goodhart’s book argues that declining populations worldwide will lead to labor shortages, as there will be fewer workers available to meet the demands of various industries. This, in turn, will increase workers’ bargaining power, driving up labor costs. As companies face higher costs, they may pass them on to consumers, leading to a surge in inflation rates. Schnabel emphasizes the need for economists to consider this demographic shift and its impact on labor markets.

Aging Populations and Rising Costs

The aging of populations also poses significant challenges for governments. As the number of elderly individuals increases, governments will face higher pension and healthcare costs. Schnabel highlights the growing burden of cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which requires increased healthcare resources and support. These additional costs add pressure to government budgets and have the potential to further drive up inflation.

A Call for Flexibility and Historical Perspective

Schnabel criticizes the European Central Bank’s previous dismissal of Goodhart’s warnings, stating that economists were too focused on the idea that low inflation would persist. She emphasizes the importance of taking a longer-term view of history and recognizing that economic conditions can change rapidly. Schnabel urges economists and central bankers to be more flexible in their perspectives and adapt to changing circumstances.

Rethinking Forward Guidance and Market-Based Measures

Schnabel suggests that the ECB should reconsider its use of forward guidance, which provides indications of future monetary policy decisions. She argues that forward guidance should be conditional on economic data rather than being absolute, allowing for greater flexibility in responding to changing economic conditions. Additionally, Schnabel warns against relying too heavily on market-based measures, as they can create feedback loops and lead to misguided policy decisions.


As the global population declines, labor shortages and rising costs are expected to drive up inflation and impact the economy. Isabel Schnabel’s call for economists and central bankers to take a more flexible and historical perspective highlights the need to adapt to changing demographics and economic conditions. By reevaluating forward guidance and market-based measures, policymakers can better navigate the challenges posed by population decline and ensure sustainable economic growth.

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