The Centre is a collaboration among the World Population Program of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (VID/ÖAW), the Demography Group and the Research Institute on Human Capital and Development of the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU). In late 2010, a letter of understanding was signed by these three pillar institutions defining the terms for this collaboration under a common roof.
The Centre combines the partners’ strengths in the fields of demography, human capital formation and analysis of the returns to education. It builds on a highly successful collaboration that has already generated significant scientific advances. “Human capital” refers to the human resource base in terms of the number of people and their changing structure by age, gender, location, education, health status, cognitive skills and other relevant characteristics. Our intent is to provide a sound scientific foundation for decision-making at various levels. Scientific advice and guidance are ensured by its International Scientific Advisory Board.
The Wittgenstein Centre aspires to be a world leader in the advancement of demographic methods and their application to the analysis of human capital and population dynamics. In assessing the effects of these forces on long-term human well-being, we combine scientific excellence in a multidisciplinary context with relevance to a global audience.
Founding Director's Address
"I founded the Wittgenstein Centre as the result of an exciting new vision that developed in my thinking over the past few years while working for the three pillar institutions: Use the enormous untapped power of multidimensional demographic methods to analyse and forecast broader socioeconomic changes.
Societies and economies change as a consequence of the evolving composition of their membership as captured by selected key characteristics of people. Conventionally, demography has focused primarily on the changing composition of a population by age and gender. At the Wittgenstein Centre we have now added educational attainment as a third demographic dimension that should routinely be taken into account. In addition, labour force participation, health status, place of residence and other measurable characteristics of people can be captured and modelled using the powerful tools of multidimensional population dynamics that were developed at IIASA during the 1970s. Making further progress in these directions is the core of our research agenda.
This more comprehensive approach has the potential to develop into a new social science paradigm, the theoretical foundations of which are detailed in the article “Demographic metabolism: A predictive theory of socioeconomic change” in the 2013 PDR supplement Population and Public Policy: Essays in Honor of Paul Demeny.
This approach also has immediate practical potential for dealing with key policy challenges of our rapidly changing world, along the way providing new and sometimes surprising answers to such questions as: What is the desirable level of fertility and how can it be measured and assessed? Will population ageing actually result in the often feared massive increase in disability? Can education help to slow cognitive ageing and what should be the priority investments for our ageing Western populations? What are the population and human capital futures in today’s developing countries and, in particular, what would be the best investments for enhancing the adaptive capacity for dealing with climate change? Researchers at the Wittgenstein Centre deal with many such questions in an innovative way.
The Centre was formally founded in January 2011 and combines ongoing research at its three pillar institutions in the Vienna area. The Centre was established by the 2010 Wittgenstein Prize (FWF Z171-G11), the highest Austrian science award, which was explicitly dedicated to the creation of this collaborative Centre and also gave the Centre its name. I am privileged to work with an enthusiastic, highly competent team of international researchers."