Immigration: a different kind of challenge?

Understandably recent debates about immigration, both under Labour and now with the lively debates within the Coalition over an immigration cap (or colander, as the case may be) has focused in on the short-term perspective of what policy is appropriate for the next few years for the UK.

The wider context however is very striking:

Close to half of the world’s population now lives in countries with fertility rates below the replacement level, which, as a rough rule of thumb, is 2.1 births per woman. In these states – absent steady compensatory immigration – current childbearing patterns will lead to an eventual and indefinite depopulation. Almost all of the world’s developed countries have sub-replacement fertility, with overall birthrates more than 20 percent below the level required for long-term population stability. But developed countries account for less than a fifth of the world’s population; the great majority of the world’s populations with sub-replacement fertility in fact reside in low-income societies…

It is not known how long a society that has entered into sub-replacement-fertility mode will stay there: Japan, for example, began reporting sub-replacement fertility in the 1950s and has had uninterrupted sub-replacement fertility since the early 1970s. Demographers, it should be emphasized, still have no reliable techniques for making accurate long-term fertility forecasts. Nevertheless, some specialists argue that ultralow fertility rates may be but a harbinger of future – and currently unimaginable – fertility declines. (Nicholas Eberstadt, Foreign Affairs [£])

Although the article goes on to speculate on the global impact of these potential demographic changes, if they turn out to be even close to correct they suggest that over the next few decades the big immigration challenge for Western governments will not be about how to reduce or control immigration but about how to attract enough immigrants.

All the more reason for politicians in the west to learn how to make the case for immigration effectively.

One response to “Immigration: a different kind of challenge?”

  1. Currently, the population is growing or stagnant in these countries due to prosperity creating longer life spans (not due to immigration explosions or replacement births). The problem, as many have already tried to point out, is that immigrants pay taxes which keeps the pension system afloat (provided that there is employment available). In the short term, controlling immigration may keep a few otherwise unemployable people in jobs (let’s face it, if you can’t compete locally, how will you compete globally?), but in the long term, we desperately need that population growth to keep our pension and healthcare contributions to a reasonable level and to pay for the liability we currently have. Either that, or work ourselves to death and ban contraception.

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