Why China and Hong Kong must heed America’s immigration debate

Interesting commentary on the demographic challenges facing some Asian countries and the consequent need for more thought regarding their immigration policies.

Noticing that there seems to be more interest among some Asian countries in talking to countries like Canada (and likely Australia) as part of their policy makers efforts to develop or update their immigration-related policies:

…The main reason is demographic. The World Bank says East Asia is ageing faster than any other region.

China is growing older faster than almost any other country, and its low birth rate and longer lifespans means that by 2050, a quarter of the population will be over 65, with fewer and fewer young people working to support them.

Japan’s demographic crisis is well known; the population is likely to drop below 100 million before 2050, and soon after some 40 per cent of its people will be senior citizens. And Hong Kong, with its low fertility rate, has its own demographic time bomb, with its over-65 population expected to hit 24 per cent in just seven years, and a third over-65 by 2041.

They are trying to solve the problem with band-aids. China scrapped its Mao-era “one child policy” in favour of a two-child policy – and is likely to soon scrap centralised family planning altogether. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to put more women and elderly into the workforce to deal with the manpower shortage.

The real answer to the demographic challenge is immigration. New immigrants could fill the pending labour shortages, replenish the dwindling birth rates and also provide health care and home care for the growing elderly populations. But Asian countries in general, and China and Japan in particular, are not known to be hospitable to immigrants.

Accepting more immigrants would mean a cultural sea change for China, Japan and even Hong Kong, a city of immigrants. The notion of “nationhood” could no longer be predicated solely on sharing the same history, heritage and mother tongue.

In other words, Asians may have to start having the same debate currently roiling the United States – what their counties are, and what they should look like in the future.

The debate in Asia, without a history of immigration, is likely to be even more wrenching and more rancorous than the one underway in the US. But it is no less vital, if the future crisis is going to be averted.

Source: Why China and Hong Kong must heed America’s immigration debate

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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