Field of Study: Socio-Economic Demography
All advanced societies are fraught with the same problem today – ageing of the population. Demographic changes in Europe and fundamental changes in the demographic behaviour of the inhabitants of the Czech Republic and their economic consequences are so serious that they compel attention not only at the level of the national economy, but also in all areas of life. The current demographic structure of the population determines the future age structure for decades to come. Analysis and prognosis of the demographic evolution are necessary for preparation for the ramifications of these changes. Changes in the demographic behaviour of such nature that are taking place at present have never been chronicled in the period of past evolution of humankind and for this reason it is necessary to pay special attention to this issue.
Human resources and human capital are presently considered to be the greatest wealth of each state. People are a store of future workforce and taxpayers, and for manufacturers, potential consumers. Investment in reproduction of human resources and investment in human capital reproduction pay off handsomely for each state. All the possibilities for further development of society are derived from these. Reproduction of human resources and the associated reproduction of human capital is currently becoming the most important factor that affects and will affect the development of the national economy. Demographic developments affects the economy and in turn, the economy affects the demographic behaviour of the population.
Demography provides a body of information on population ageing and its consequences. The information is sometimes inadequate in a sense – not that it is not accurate, but it is somewhat simplified and thus leads to an incorrect interpretation. From here come the horror scenarios about struggling pensioners for whom no one will work.
The issue of human resources in the national economy must be approached comprehensively, at all levels of government and the private sector. This comprehensive view encompasses not only the demographic analysis and forecasting and statistical surveys and analyses, but also knowledge of the economic and social implications and consequences of the changes taking place in the demographic behaviour of the population.
Economy views the individual from a different perspective than demography. It perceives him as producer and consumer, and it is interested in human resources at his disposal that must be saturated. A view of the economic and demographic problems of the aging population is precisely what is currently lacking. There is a lack of professionals with economic education, which have a sufficiently wide knowledge of demography, statistics, informatics, social and economic policy.
At the University of Economics courses are taught in all these subjects. Although this is done in different faculties, the UE is atypical in that teaching faculties mingle – virtually all of the departments responsible for teaching their specialized subjects, not only for their own but also for all the other UE faculties. Therefore, we feel fully competent to institute study of human resources from the perspective of the national economy in our Department.
The need for a discipline thus specialized is confirmed by a statement of the Director of the Labour and Social Affairs Research Institute.
Bachelor’s degree at the University of Economics in Prague in all the faculties has a common ground in the compulsory subjects. They are the following: Mathematics for economists, law, computer science, economics, statistics, financial theory, policy and institutions, economic propedeutics, management, accounting, corporate finance, marketing and enterprise policy, international economics, first language, second language. By completing these courses students will acquire the basic knowledge needed for an economist, who continues to build on it according to his further specializations. These subjects therefore form the basis of the compulsory subjects in the proposed field.
In the field of socio-economic demography there are the following compulsory subjects: rudiments of demography, demographic practice for statistics, economic demography, regional demography, introduction to probability theory and mathematical statistics, statistical methods I, methods of statistical comparison, economic and social statistics, rudiments of economic politics, social policy, socio-economic geography, undergraduate seminar.
As optional subjects students can choose according to their interest some of these subjects: statistical methods 2, demographic seminar, labour market, social administration, health economics, social and health system, social capital and the family, rudiments of economics and politics for the environment. Within the university-wide elective courses students can choose any other additional subject.
As the name and the content suggest, it is a discipline dealing with complex human resources at the level of the entire national economy. The subject is therefore focused on demographic analyses and prognoses of population development and its implications for the economic and social policy. It is not about the issue of human resources management at the enterprise level or the issue of dealing with people, it is not human resources. For this reason, the programme excludes courses in human resource management.
In this structured field the students receive a sufficiently broad economic education and will have a very good base knowledge of statistical and demographic methods. They learn the methods of collecting and processing statistical and demographic data, and basic methods necessary for statistical and demographic analysis and forecasting. The emphasis is placed not only on the understanding and selection of appropriate indicators and methods needed for the analyses and forecasts, but also on the correct interpretation of the results and their applicability in practice. The students will also learn to correctly use basic statistical and demographic programs suitable for data analysis. They will be able to correctly apply the method in the analysis of smaller territorial units. They will learn to evaluate the link between the demographic situation of the region and its economic development. Emphasis is also placed on the interrelationships between population growth and economic growth.
Graduates in socio-economic demography are interdisciplinary educated professionals who will be able to adequately respond to the growing proportion of elderly people in society and the consequences of the ageing population. They find jobs in the central economic institutions, banks, insurance companies, investment funds, research institutes, and departments dealing with public opinion research. They will be employed, for example in public administration, education, health, and social services.
Graduates can extend their knowledge according to their interest in follow-up master’s courses in the Faculty of Informatics and Statistics in the field of Statistics and Insurance Engineering or in the national-economy faculty in one of the fields of the master’s programme Economics and Economic Administration, or continue their studies in demography in the Faculty of Life Sciences of Charles University. Because the study complies with the agreed common foundation courses for undergraduate courses at the University, students can go on to the master’s programme in these faculties without entrance exams.
In addition to the aforementioned bachelor’s degree we prepare in our faculty a follow-up master’s study, where more attention will be paid to the building and measurement of human capital and related issues in economics education and health care. We defer an application for accreditation of master’s degree for two reasons: first, we wanted to wait and see how successful the bachelor’s degree is, we are currently gaining new knowledge – in the Faculty of Informatics and Statistics there is a five-year project in progress, Reproduction of Hhuman Capital (funded by the Ministry of Education), which is now in its second year. For this reason we feel that we are the ones competent to teach about human resources in the national economy.
We are aware that this is a new unconventional discipline that might tempt one to experiment (perhaps the cliché ‘irresponsible experiments’ could be used), because the guarantors of the individual subjects are largely experienced people. On the other hand, precisely because it is an unconventional field – it will be necessary to constantly monitor the development of new knowledge and include the findings in the teaching. This is why every subject has in addition to the guarantor the guarantor’s deputy, who should ensure that the teaching of the subject will not get stuck at the current level. Naturally, he or she should assume the role of the guarantor in the future.
Members of the Department of Demography, in collaboration with some of the staff of the Department of Social and Economic Policy of the Faculty of National Economy of the University of Economics deal with this issue in the long term. For example, we present a joint grant from the Czech Science Foundation What are the economic implications of an aging population? successfully completed in 2004, and the research grant programme Graces The aging population and pension systems in the European Union, successfully completed in 2001. They participated in the research project Human Resources in ICT, Analysis of Supply and Demand for IT Professionals in the Czech Republic, whose first stage was successfully completed in 2007. All members of the Department of Demography also cooperate with practice. They undertake demographic studies primarily for educational purposes.
Currently, all members of the Department of Demography are involved in a long-term research project of the Ministry of Education, Reproduction of Human Capital.
In the Czech Republic there are already programmes that aim to develop human resources in the national economy. Let us mention, for example, the operational programme Human Resources and Employment managed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and co-financed from the European Social Fund, or the programme Human Resources Development Strategy for the Czech Republic, prepared jointly by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Czech Cabinet Office and a number of experts from all spheres of economic and social life.