Drivers & Consequences (Theme D)

This fourth research theme embeds the above described demographic and human capital trends in the broader analysis of global change. Because these trends do not happen in isolation, it is important to understand how they influence and are in turn influenced by their socioeconomic and natural environments.

WIC Research Group 9 works on Population Economics and comprehensively studies the economic life cycle with a focus on investments in health and education and its interrelationship with the labour market and longevity. At the macro level the change of population structures as it relates to changes in intergenerational transfers and the role of health care is analysed. Methodologically this group combines economic approaches with mathematical demography. To allow for heterogeneous, interacting agents, methods of agent-based modelling are applied. Part of the research is closely linked to the application of National Transfer Accounts (NTA) for explaining and projecting trends in public finances in a European comparative perspective.

Staff working on Population, Environment and Sustainable Development (WIC Research Group 10) applies the understanding of human capital dynamics gained from the other projects to address one of the greatest open issues with respect to the question of how dangerous climate change is likely to be for future human well-being, namely that of the drivers and priorities of future adaptive capacity. In particular, this research focuses on forecasting societies’ adaptive capacities to climate change. Ongoing work also looks at assessing demographic differential vulnerability to climate change. A new project will study the demography of sustainable human well-being and develop an indicator labelled ELY (Empowered Life Years) based on life table methods in which person years are weighted with empowerment dimensions such as being able to read and write, being out of poverty, being healthy and being happy. The project will assess the appropriateness of ELY as a sustainability criterion, in the sense that its level should not decline for any sub-population over time, even when feedbacks from environmental change to mortality and human well-being are factored in. Several collaborations with high-level UN networks including the Independent Group of Experts to produce the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report exist and there is close interaction with the Asian MetaCentre for Population and Sustainable Development Analysis.

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. It is a collaboration among the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the University of Vienna.