For the purposes of this list, “crisis” shall refer to negative circumstances that could alter a nation’s economy. Most of the time, such a description would be fit by large-scale disasters like wars, epidemics, and famine. Sometimes, however, portents of doom might barely seem newsworthy.
Seemingly innocuous things like a low birth rate, a shortage of vultures, or just having too many cattle around are, for some countries, more dire than they appear. While the following situations seem unspectacular, they could lead to worse disasters.
1 South Korea’s Birth Crisis
South Korea’s birth crisis is so bad that the government is paying couples to have children. The nation’s fertility rate hit a record low in 2018. At the current rate, the population is expected to grow in the negative in just ten years. This means there will be more deaths than births. If the trend is allowed to continue, it is estimated that there will be nobody left in the country by 2750.
In just 13 years, the South Korean government has spent over $121 billion to encourage parents to have more children. These days, most parents are eligible to receive up to $270 a month from the government.
Starting in late 2019, parents with children below the age of eight will be allowed to work one hour less per day. The government is also building more kindergartens and day cares. Fathers will also given be a paid paternity leave of ten days—seven days more than the currently approved three days.
2 India’s Stray Cow Crisis
The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is currently experiencing a severe stray cow crisis. Cows are not eaten in India because they are considered sacred creatures. Some people do eat cows, but the state government and cow protection groups have been clamping down on them.
This has left farmers with fewer incentives to keep male calves and cows that no longer produce milk. Most farmers abandon these unproductive cattle on the streets because having them around costs money. In 2012, there were 1,009,436 stray cattle in the state of Uttar Pradesh. This year’s Live Stock Census is expected to show a much higher number.
The stray cattle have become a nuisance because they raid farmlands and eat crops. Some cows end up in cow shelters, which have quickly become overcrowded and underfunded. These days, farmers and community members lock the stray cattle in government buildings like schools and hospitals.
3 Venezuela’s Passport Crisis
Venezuela has been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the past few years. The oil-rich Latin American nation has suffered serious hyperinflation that has almost brought its economy to a standstill. And with two people claiming to be president, its many problems won’t be ending anytime soon.
Over 2.3 million people have fled Venezuela for neighboring Latin American nations since 2014. However, many more are still stuck because they do not have passports. The passport crisis is so bad that fellow Latin American nations are allowing Venezuelans in with expired passports. But Venezuelans without passports remain stuck in the nation.
Getting a passport or any government-issued document was an uphill task before the crisis. Now it’s worse. Workers at the passport office are known to deliberately delay passports unless passport-seekers pay bribes of $1,000 to $5,000. Today’s passport-seekers don’t have that kind of money. And the government itself isn’t too keen on allowing its citizens to leave.
4 Venezuela’s Health Care Crisis
Venezuela is also experiencing a severe health care crisis. At least 22,000 doctors have fled the country since the crisis began, causing a nationwide shortage of doctors. Several hospitals have either closed or operate irregularly. Those that remain open do not have enough supplies.
These days, patients are required to bring their own drugs, syringes, gloves, and even soap. This has seen Venezuelan hospitals go from places where people are cured to places where they get killed. It is normal for patients to contract deadly diseases while admitted for other ailments.
This is worsened by a shortage of drugs, which, coupled with severely malnourished patients, is the perfect recipe for disaster. Hospitals have also seen an increase in burn victims. Most are toddlers who got burned when they strayed into wood fires and kerosene lamps that have taken the place of heaters and light bulbs.
5 China’s Food Crisis
China has been experiencing a food crisis for a few years now, and the trade war with the US made it worse. Last year, the Chinese government introduced several tariffs to much-needed food imports like soybeans, sorghum, and corn in response to Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods.
Interestingly, the Chinese government-owned Sinograin, which keeps a stockpile of grain for the government, had to pay the tariffs. President Xi Jinping later toured areas of Northeast China, where most of China’s farms are based, and said that China should become more self-sufficient in food production.
Food production has always been a problem for China. China’s arable farmland amounts to less than a tenth of the world’s farmland, even though it has one fifth of the world’s population. On top of that, lots of its farmland is either occupied by industries or contaminated with heavy metals released by those industries.
The food crisis began decades ago, when an improved standard of living caused Chinese citizens to shift from carbohydrate- to protein-rich diets, and there isn’t enough farmland to grow vegetables and rear livestock. For now, China has been able to manage by importing food and leasing or buying farmland in Africa, Australia, and the Americas.
However, the trade war with the US has shown that importation could be unreliable. Besides, most countries harboring Chinese farms are expecting a population boom in a few decades and will be needing the farmland to feed their own citizens.