Global fertility has collapsed, with profound economic consequences

Useful reminder that expanded immigration is unlikely to be a viable long-term strategy:

In the roughly 250 years since the Industrial Revolution the world’s population, like its wealth, has exploded. Before the end of this century, however, the number of people on the planet could shrink for the first time since the Black Death. The root cause is not a surge in deaths, but a slump in births. Across much of the world the fertility rate, the average number of births per woman, is collapsing. Although the trend may be familiar, its extent and its consequences are not. Even as artificial intelligence (ai) leads to surging optimism in some quarters, the baby bust hangs over the future of the world economy.Listen to this story.

In 2000 the world’s fertility rate was 2.7 births per woman, comfortably above the “replacement rate” of 2.1, at which a population is stable. Today it is 2.3 and falling. The largest 15 countries by gdp all have a fertility rate below the replacement rate. That includes America and much of the rich world, but also China and India, neither of which is rich but which together account for more than a third of the global population.

The result is that in much of the world the patter of tiny feet is being drowned out by the clatter of walking sticks. The prime examples of ageing countries are no longer just Japan and Italy but also include Brazil, Mexico and Thailand. By 2030 more than half the inhabitants of East and South-East Asia will be over 40. As the old die and are not fully replaced, populations are likely to shrink. Outside Africa, the world’s population is forecast to peak in the 2050s and end the century smaller than it is today. Even in Africa, the fertility rate is falling fast.

Whatever some environmentalists say, a shrinking population creates problems. The world is not close to full and the economic difficulties resulting from fewer young people are many. The obvious one is that it is getting harder to support the world’s pensioners. Retired folk draw on the output of the working-aged, either through the state, which levies taxes on workers to pay public pensions, or by cashing in savings to buy goods and services or because relatives provide care unpaid. But whereas the rich world currently has around three people between 20 and 64 years old for everyone over 65, by 2050 it will have less than two. The implications are higher taxes, later retirements, lower real returns for savers and, possibly, government budget crises. 

Low ratios of workers to pensioners are only one problem stemming from collapsing fertility. As we explain this week, younger people have more of what psychologists call “fluid intelligence”, the ability to think creatively so as to solve problems in entirely new ways . 

This youthful dynamism complements the accumulated knowledge of older workers. It also brings change. Patents filed by the youngest inventors are much more likely to cover breakthrough innovations. Older countries—and, it turns out, their young people—are less enterprising and less comfortable taking risks. Elderly electorates ossify politics, too. Because the old benefit less than the young when economies grow, they have proved less keen on pro-growth policies, especially housebuilding. Creative destruction is likely to be rarer in ageing societies, suppressing productivity growth in ways that compound into an enormous missed opportunity. 

All things considered, it is tempting to cast low fertility rates as a crisis to be solved. Many of its underlying causes, though, are in themselves welcome. As people have become richer they have tended to have fewer children. Today they face different trade-offs between work and family, and these are mostly better ones. The populist conservatives who claim low fertility is a sign of society’s failure and call for a return to traditional family values are wrong. More choice is a good thing, and no one owes it to others to bring up children. 

Liberals’ impulse to encourage more immigration is more noble. But it, too, is a misdiagnosis. Immigration in the rich world today is at a record high, helping individual countries tackle worker shortages. But the global nature of the fertility slump means that, by the middle of the century, the world is likely to face a dearth of young educated workers unless something changes.

What might that be? People often tell pollsters they want more children than they have. This gap between aspiration and reality could be in part because would-be parents—who, in effect, subsidise future childless pensioners—cannot afford to have more children, or because of other policy failures, such as housing shortages or inadequate fertility treatment. Yet even if these are fixed, economic development is still likely to lead to a fall in fertility below the replacement rate. Pro-family policies have a disappointing record. Singapore offers lavish grants, tax rebates and child-care subsidies—but has a fertility rate of 1.0. 

Unleashing the potential of the world’s poor would ease the shortage of educated young workers without more births. Two-thirds of Chinese children live in the countryside and attend mostly dreadful schools; the same fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds in India have not completed upper secondary education. Africa’s pool of young people will continue to grow for decades. Boosting their skills is desirable in itself, and might also cast more young migrants as innovators in otherwise-stagnant economies. Yet encouraging development is hard—and the sooner places get rich, the sooner they get old. 

Eventually, therefore, the world will have to make do with fewer youngsters—and perhaps with a shrinking population. With that in mind, recent advances in ai could not have come at a better time. An über-productive ai-infused economy might find it easy to support a greater number of retired people. Eventually ai may be able to generate ideas by itself, reducing the need for human intelligence. Combined with robotics, ai may also make caring for the elderly less labour-intensive. Such innovations will certainly be in high demand.

If technology does allow humanity to overcome the baby bust, it will fit the historical pattern. Unexpected productivity advances meant that demographic time-bombs, such as the mass starvation predicted by Thomas Malthus in the 18th century, failed to detonate. Fewer babies means less human genius. But that might be a problem human genius can fix. 

Source: Global fertility has collapsed, with profound economic consequences

“The Times They Are A-Changin’?” – Immigration debates and discussions

A few years ago, it was rare to find critiques of the government’s expanding levels of immigration, and the overall consensus among the provinces, business organizations and lobby groups, media and academics organizations in favour of this approach.

However, over the past year or so, there has been significant commentary questioning the approach given the impact on housing availability and affordability, healthcare and infrastructure. In addition to my 2021 Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast, former head of the British Columbia public service, Don Wright, wrote one of the stronger critiques, Will Trudeau make it impossible for Eby to succeed?

National unity and the demographic weight of Quebec in Canada has become a second major critique. A series of articles in Quebecor papers (LE QUÉBÉC PRIS AU PIÈGE PAR OTTAWA) highlighting an accelerating decline of Quebec’s population relative to the rest of Canada, reflecting different immigration rates has provoked considerable political debate and commentary in Quebec and English Canadian media.

While the Quebecor were written in an incendiary manner, the substance was correct. The approaches continue to diverge, there is, IMO, an unhealthy consensus in favour ot the current and projected levels of permanent and temporary migration among federal and provincial politicians, business organizations, academics among others.

Some of the commentary recognized that. Stuart Thompson the The Hub, A new era of immigration politics has started in Canada was one of the first to recognize the potential importance to immigration debates and discussions. Chris Selley chimed in, noting that Ottawa has no answer to Quebec’s anti-immigrant narrative. Campbell Clark stressed that Two solitudes emerging on immigration in Quebec, and noted the lame arguments on both sides of the debate. Formally, the Quebec government reject[ed] Trudeau’s immigration plan, fears decline of French.

The role of the Century Initiative received increased prominence given that these debates were happening around the time of one of its Globe and Mail sponsored conferences. Immigration Minister Fraser’s denial that the government had not adopted the 100 million population goal of the Century Initiative was met with understandable cynicism by Robert Dutrisac, Blanc bonnet, bonnet blanc, Konrad Yakabuski, L’«initiative du siècle» n’est pas l’idée du siècle among others, along with more reporting and analysis, Serons-nous vraiment 100 millions de Canadiens en 2100?.

English media commentary focussed more on the politics, with Chantal Hébert asking whether Hébert: Quebec’s separatists were searching for a way to revive their cause. Is this it? and Konrad Yakabuski, another rare journalist who writes in both English and French media, noting that François Legault’s anti-immigration crusade is coming back to bite him. Andrew Phillips in the Star dismissed Quebec concerns, framing it as a Panic attack in Quebec over immigration threat. Althia Raj, also in the Star, argued that: Pierre Poilievre is courting voters by capitalizing on immigration fears in Quebec, both discounting the substance of Quebec concerns and not questioning the federal government approach.

And of course most English language was focused on the less important issue of the passport redesign (not a fan, but my worry is that the controversy will make the government even more skittish about releasing the revised citizenship guide, Discover Canada, first promised in 2016).

Surprisingly, Andrew Coyne focussed more on Quebec, politics and demography, rather than contributing his usual economic take on issues. Almost a childish approach in 100 million Canadians by 2100 may not be federal policy, but it should be – even if it makes Quebec howl, largely ignoring the negative impacts on housing, healthcare and infrastructure and, more bizarrely, falling into the trap of overall GDP rather than productivity and per capita GDP (which most of his economic-related columns focus on).

All this being said, the Quebec government took advantage of the controversy to announce changes to its immigration program Six éléments à retenir des annonces de Québec en immigration, including increased levels to 60,000 new permanent residents while allowing ongoing temporary resident growth. This slight-of-hand was of course noted by Michel David, Et la lumière fut and Plus d’immigrants pour éviter une « louisianisation » ici ? 

This modest increase will not, of course, make any significant change to the ongoing divergence in population growth between Quebec and the Rest of Canada and Quebec’s relative weight in the country.

A recent Statistics Canada study, Unemployment and job vacancies by education, 2016 to 2022, highlighting the disconnect between immigration policy, which favours university-educated immigrants, and immigrant employment, which favours lower-skilled immigrants, provides another example of how our immigration policies appear more to be “policy-driven evidence” rather than “evidence-based policy.”

Questions on immigration levels have broadened from housing, healthcare and infrastructure impacts to the impact on the Canadian federation given the imbalance between Quebec and the Rest of Canada. A potential sleeper issue, parallel to Quebec’s relative share of the population is with respect to Indigenous peoples, given that high immigration levels dwarf Indigenous growth (visible minorities increased by 26.5 percent, Indigenous peoples by 9.4 percent, 2021 compared to 2016).

As I have argued previously, we need to find a way to have more productive discussions on immigration rather than the various solitudes between the “more the merrier” and “great replacement” camps (where most Canadians are). The disconnect between Quebec and the Rest-of-Canada is a long-term threat to the federation.

A focus on the practicalities – housing, healthcare and infrastructure impacts – is likely the best way forward and may provide a means to reduce the divergence between the “two solitudes.”

Ideally, of course, some form of commission examining demographics, immigration, and these impacts would provide deeper analysis and recommendations than current IRCC consultations or any other internal review.

To end with a quote from another favourite musician of mine:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

With falling births, pensions will suffer, taxes will rise – but the alternative is worse

Of note:

Birth rates are falling throughout the world. Some countries are losing population now, and the global population is projected to decline some time later in the century.

Many people are alarmed by this: people in China, Russia, Western Europe and even Canada, where the population growth rate would be close to zero were it not for substantial immigration. They want to reverse the trend, to raise birth rates.

They are wrong. Low birth rates and falling populations do, to be sure, create significant problems that we must face. Retirement, health care and other end-of-life costs will soar. The French government is proposing an increase in the retirement age, an unpopular decision that will likely spread to other countries. We will also likely need higher tax rates.

But the alternative – high birth rates and growing populations – would be much worse. We should welcome the falling birth rates. Here is why.

If the human race is to survive – indeed, if any species is to survive – its growth rate will be zero. Why? Because if the growth rate is positive, eventually there will be standing room only, an obvious impossibility unless we venture into the science fiction realm of space colonies. How long until we get to that point? It depends on the rate of growth, but with any positive rate we will eventually get there. In 1964, demographer Ansley Coale estimated that with an annual human growth rate of 2 per cent, standing room only would occur in just 650 years.

On the other hand, if the growth rate is negative, eventually the population will disappear.

Therefore, in the long run, if our species is to survive, our growth rate will be zero. Not zero every year, or even every century, but over the long haul. Any positive rates will have to be balanced by negative rates.

How to get to zero population growth? Easy. The birth rate has to equal the death rate.

Given that we want long, healthy lives for ourselves and for those we love, we must have low birth rates to balance that out.

With high birth rates, we will not be able to maintain low death rates. The proponents of higher birth rates don’t mean to put it this way, but they are actually prescribing an early death sentence for us.

What about the problems created by low birth rates?

The essence of the age-distribution problem is that we will have fewer working people to support more retired people. With falling populations, the incentive for investment will likely also fall. It will be harder to bring new technologies to market, and it will be harder to maintain a full-employment level of overall production.

We will thus need to find ways that working people can be more productive, that they can create more goods, services and income, so that they can provide more adequately for their own old age, and also afford higher tax rates to provide the funds for health care and other services for the elderly.

Many measures facing stiff resistance, such as the French government’s raising of the retirement age, will have to be part of the response – all of these changes are difficult and some of them are deeply unpopular. But they will turn out to be less unpopular than the early death needed to balance out high birth rates.

There is reason to be optimistic about this, however. Over the decades we have seen remarkable increases in productivity, and governments have a lot of tools to encourage this to continue. We will face many problems that public policy must address and mitigate, if not completely avoid.

In any case, the current population puts so much pressure on our limited natural resources and on our ecology that the geological, biological and chemical basis of our civilization may collapse. We could deal with these issues more effectively if there were fewer of us. That births in many countries are below replacement level means that we may be moving naturally to a more sustainable size.

What the optimum population size should be is debatable. What is not debatable, at least in my opinion, is that we very much want low birth rates.

John Isbister is a professor of economics at Toronto Metropolitan University.

Source: With falling births, pensions will suffer, taxes will rise – but the alternative is worse

The Alternative, Optimistic Story of Population Decline

Of note. Perhaps instead of trying to delay the trend, more thought and preparation is needed to prepare and manage the decline:

The shoe has dropped. The big one. China, the most populous country on the planet for centuries, this month reported its first population decline in six decades, a trend that is almost certainly irreversible. By the end of the century China may have only around half of the 1.41 billion people it has now, according to U.N. projections, and may already have been overtaken by India.

The news has been met with gloom and doom, often framed as the start of China’s inexorable decline and, more broadly, the harbinger of a demographic and economic “time bomb” that will strain the world’s capacity to support aging populations.

There is no doubt that a shrinking global population — a trend expected to set in by the end of this century — poses unprecedented challenges for humanity. China is only the latest and largest major country to join a club that already includes Japan, South Korea, RussiaItaly and others. Germany would most likely be in decline too if not for immigration, and many others could begin shrinking in the years ahead. (The United States is expected to grow moderately in coming decades, largely because of immigration.) Median U.N. projections point to global population peaking in the mid-2080s at more than 10 billion, but if fertility rates continue to drop, the decline could begin decades earlier.

But the alarmist warnings are often simplistic and premature. The glass is at least half full. Shrinking populations are usually part of a natural, inevitable process, and rather than focus excessively on concerns like labor shortages and pension support, we need to look at the brighter spots for our world.

There is no need for panic; we’ve made that mistake before.

In the second half of the 20th century the world was panicking about unstoppable population growth. The number of people on the planet more than tripled in seven decades, from 2.5 billion in 1950 to around eight billion in 2022. Turns out, that was a transitory phase when mortality rates fell faster than fertility rates because of improved nutrition and public health, and relative peace.

But panic can lead to hasty policy and human tragedy. This reached its fullest form with China’s extreme birth-control campaigns launched in the late 1970s and which caused immense suffering, mostly for women, through forced abortions or fines and other penalties for breaking rules that restricted most couples to having only one child. Until those limits were scrapped beginning in 2015, hundreds of millions of Chinese women underwent sterilization procedures or had intrauterine devices inserted.

The population declines seen today in some countries have come about largely as a happy story of greater longevity and freedom. Fertility rates worldwide dropped from more than five births per woman in the early 1960s to 2.3 in 2020. Credit greater investment in child and maternal health everywhere: A mother who successfully brings her child to term and an infant who survives to childhood lower birthrates because parents often don’t feel the need to try again. Greater availability of free or affordable contraception has also reduced unwanted births.

China, South Korea and Japan are now all in population decline, but this is in part because of rapid increases in income, employment and education. The number of South Korean women who went on to postsecondary education rose from 6 percent in 1980 to more than 90 percent by 2020; China and Japan also have seen big gains. Lower birthrates stem in part from greater personal and reproductive freedom, such as the choice to stay unmarried, higher pay and more professional opportunities for women in these nations.

More women in the work force is a recipe for even greater productivity and prosperity and could help ease labor concerns among falling populations. More women than ever are rising to leadership positions in business, media and politics.

Compared with a half-century ago, people in many countries are richer, healthier and better educated and women are more empowered. China’s population, for example, is shrinking and aging, but its people are more educated and have a longer life expectancy than at any time in the country’s history. Expanded educational opportunities guarantee a spot in a university for almost every person born today in China, including more women than men.

Average world life expectancy has increased from 51 years in 1960 to 73 in 2019, and even more so in China, from 51 in 1962 to 78 in 2019. Increases of that magnitude reshape lives and open up opportunities unimaginable when life spans were shorter, such as workers remaining productive later in life and growing markets for older consumers in areas like tourism, nutritional supplements and medical devices, among others.

Fewer people on the planet, of course, may reduce humanity’s ecological footprint and competition for finite resources. There could even be greater peace as governments are forced to choose between spending on military equipment or on pensions. And as rich nations come to rely more on immigrants from poorer countries, those migrants gain greater access to the global prosperity currently concentrated in the developed world.

This new demography brings new challenges, including the need to offer quality and affordable child care, make college education more affordable and equitable, provide guaranteed minimum income and make societies more gender equal. Governments should abandon the mindless pursuit of economic growth in favor of well-being for citizens.

There is no reason the world’s population must keep growing or even remain level. And just as earlier panic led to harmful policies in China and elsewhere, efforts to raise fertility — which may prove futile — risk viewing women once again as birth machines.

Global population will inevitably decline. Rather than trying to reverse that, we need to embrace it and adapt.

Source: The Alternative, Optimistic Story of Population Decline

Mohamed: The Line’s Naughty List: The demographic crisis isn’t going away

Another article on the limits of immigration to address weak economic growth although ignoring the productivity issue. But just like increasing immigration is unlikely to significantly counter demographic trends of an aging population, a focus on increasing fertility is, given experience in other jurisdictions, unlikely to move the needle significantly.

Governments and policy makers need to consider alternative scenarios of how to manage an aging population rather than just focussing on semi-effective measures to slow down the trend:

The nearly concluded year of 2022 may well be remembered as the year generational politics finally arrived in Canada, even if nobody wants to talk about the root of our demographic dilemma. 

Saddled for over a decade with stagnating wages, escalating day-to-day living costs, and one of the world’s least-affordable housing markets, Canadians under the age of 40 finally said “enough” in 2022; making generational inequality, for the first time, a major nationwide political issue

Some of Canada’s pissed off young adults have found their messiah in 43-year-old Conservative party leader Pierre Poilievre, a rather cantankerous fellow himself. Poilievre has masterfully used Canada’s housing affordability crisis to tap into a groundswell of support among younger Canadians — recent polling show Poilievre’s Conservative party holding a double-digit leadamong voters between the ages of 18 and 34.

But even if their voices are finally being heard, young Canadians have precious little to look forward to as they start their working lives in earnest. The OECD projects that Canada’s economic growth will be dead last among advanced countries over the next decade. This means that young Canadians entering the workforce in the 2020s can expect the same grim job prospects, stagnant real incomes, and diminished purchasing power as their older cohorts who graduated into the Great Recession (insert James Franco “First time?” meme here). 

Barring a miraculous change of course, Millennial and Gen-Z Canadians will not only be worse off than their parents but will also see their standards of living deteriorate relative to people the same age in other countries. 

Yet for all his bluster and this real opportunity for a political breakthrough, Mr. Poilievre has offered no genuine solutions to this generational slide. 

So what can be done to reverse Canada’s great inter-generational stagnation? For one thing, we can attack the demographic underpinnings of our dismal growth projections.

The biggest challenge will be to mitigate the effect of our aging population on our labour markets. A record 307,000 Canadians retired last year and a further one-in-five workers are nearing retirement age. Retirements are pushing job vacancies to record levels and leaving behind a shrinking workforce to pick up the slack. By 2027, there will be just three working-agedCanadians for each senior citizen.

Policymakers in Ottawa are acutely aware of this problem and are banking on an already overburdened immigration system to provide an easy fix to our labour market woes. Last month, the Trudeau government unveiled an ambitious plan to bring in 500,000 immigrants per year by 2025 (an increase of nearly two-thirds from average annual admissions between 2015 and 2019). Since this announcement, even progressive outlets have voiced concerns about our capacity to absorb such a sharp influx of new Canadians.

As Andrew Potter recently wrote in The Line, the new immigration target places Canada’s fragile pro-immigration consensus at risk. New Canadians may well bear the brunt of intensifying populist anger if they’re seen as contributing to the country’s health-care and housing-affordability crises. (Chinese immigrants, for example, have already incurred a racial backlash for their alleged role in driving up housing prices in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.)

But even under ideal conditions, immigration would not be a silver-bullet solution to the labour-market challenges created by an aging native-born population. The average Canadian immigrant arrives in their late 20s and may need years to become licensed to work in their chosen occupation. Further, working immigrants often bring both non-working spouses and elderly relatives with them. These are just a few of the frictions that make the economic benefit of large-scale immigration subject to the law of diminishing returns

We also need to weigh the potential economic gains of increased immigration against the challenge some new immigrant communities may pose to our political climate by “importing” combustible ethno-cultural grievances. As I wrote in The Line earlier this year, diaspora politics is becoming increasingly visible in Canada and played a central role in Patrick Brown’s Conservative party leadership campaign.

Large-scale immigration has been a massive economic and cultural boon to Canada over the past half-century but it’s becoming increasingly evident that we’re fast approaching an inflection point. Future increases to immigration are likely to generate diminishing economic returns and escalating political costs. 

This leaves us with a rather simple equation. To reverse our forecasted economic slide, we must increase the supply of young Canadians relative to the number of older ones. To do this, we must find ways to encourage reproductive-aged Canadians to have more children. The arithmetic could not be more straightforward.

Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what’s happening. As I wrote back in August, Canada’s birth rate, which has long been the lowest in the Anglosphere, hit a record-low of 1.4 births-per-woman (bpw) during the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020. While it bounced back slightly last year, it still falls well below the OECD average of 1.7 bpw

A quick glance at the average price of a single-family home or daycare space in any major Canadian city should explain why cash-strapped millennials aren’t rushing to bring more children into the world. Indeed, beyond tackling our broader affordability crisis, all orders of government could be doing more to make starting families more affordable for young Canadians — Canada’s level of public spending on family benefits falls well below the average among OECD countries

The Trudeau government’s recently concluded bilateral agreements mark the third attempt at Canada-wide child care. Yet fewer than nine months after the last deal was inked, political will already appears to be faltering.

Part of the problem is that the bilateral agreements were pitched as a mechanism to guide Canada out of the “she-cession” created during the first year of the pandemic. This rationale rings hollow now that women’s labour force participation has bounced back to (and exceeded) pre-pandemic levels. 

Tying new family policies to Canada’s longstanding fertility crisis and, by extension, our future economic vitality, could give these initiatives more staying power.

One thing’s clear: the “f-word” (fertility) can no longer be a forbidden term in Canada’s political lexicon. Until we get serious about that, our demographic and political challenges will only get worse. 

Rahim Mohamed is a master’s student at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. His writing has appeared in The Hub, the National Post, and CBC News Calgary.

Source: The Line’s Naughty List: The demographic crisis isn’t going away 

Le Devoir editorial: Impasse fédérale en immigration

Of interest, Le Devoir’s take on the positions of Quebec parties on immigration, ending with the understandable (and traditional) concern that Quebec will have less demographic weight in Canada given its more restrictive policies.

While the Liberal government has embraced increasing immigration, rightly or wrongly there is a general consensus among the major federal parties and provinces other than Quebec in favour of increased immigration:

Pour la plus grande partie de la campagne électorale, le débat sur l’immigration s’est limité à une affaire de seuils dans l’accueil des nouveaux arrivants. Les propos malencontreux du chef caquiste, François Legault, qui a présenté l’immigration comme une menace à la paix sociale, avant de s’excuser, ont inutilement teinté les discussions.

Pour le premier ministre sortant, il aurait été si simple de s’élever au-dessus de la mêlée et de rappeler, sans sacrifier la protection de la nation québécoise, que le Québec est une terre d’accueil riche de sa diversité et de ses métissages culturels. Ses maladresses font en sorte que les positions raisonnées et les réalisations de la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) en matière d’immigration attirent la suspicion.

La CAQ propose entre autres d’accueillir 50 000 immigrants par année et d’exiger qu’une plus grande proportion de ceux-ci parlent déjà le français à leur arrivée. M. Legault en fait une condition essentielle pour assurer l’avenir du français au Québec, car il y a des limites à la vélocité de l’intégration des immigrants au tissu et à la culture francophones. Son gouvernement a doublé les budgets alloués à la francisation pour les faire passer à 168 millions de dollars par année, une excellente initiative qui souffre des inégalités dans la qualité et l’accessibilité de la formation. L’État québécois ne sait même pas combien d’entreprises participent aux cours de francisation. Les incohérences sont nombreuses, comme en témoigne le cas récent du programme de francisation exemplaire de Peerless, dont le financement a été retiré, puis reconduit à la suite d’un reportage du Devoir.

Il est à souhaiter que la création de Francisation Québec puisse servir à améliorer le bilan. Le Québec peut et doit faire mieux en matière d’intégration et de francisation si nous souhaitons aborder le débat sur l’immigration au-delà de l’insécurité linguistique.

Le Parti québécois (PQ) envisage aussi les seuils d’immigration à l’enseigne de la pérennité du fait français. Son chef, Paul St-Pierre Plamondonramène la cible à 35 000 immigrants par année et exige une connaissance du français de tous les immigrants économiques avant leur arrivée. Il est le seul, avec François Legault, à lier immigration et pérennité du français sans passer par le raccourci illusoire de la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre.

Le Parti conservateur du Québec (PCQ) rejoint le PQ sur les affres du multiculturalisme, mais il le dépasse par la droite en proposant de sélectionner les immigrants en fonction d’une « compatibilité civilisationnelle » (adhésion aux valeurs occidentales et capacité d’intégration). Cette nostalgie pour une cohésion sociale fantasmée est enrobée dans un épouvantable déterminisme qui fait fi des capacités d’intégration et d’adaptation de l’être humain.

À l’autre extrémité du spectre, Québec solidaire(QS) fixe la cible maximale à 80 000 immigrants par année, sans trop s’inquiéter des conséquences. Le co-porte-parole de QS, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a l’heureuse idée de proposer une bonification additionnelle des budgets de francisation (à 230 millions par année) et de vouloir faire découvrir la culture québécoise aux nouveaux arrivants par un « billet culture » de 200 $ par année. La mesure peut sembler anodine, mais elle a le mérite d’offrir une main tendue.

Le Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ) mise sur son habituelle approche débonnaire en matière d’immigration, dans le prolongement de son positionnement historique en faveur des droits des minorités. Dominique Anglade ne souffre d’aucune insécurité linguistique. Son invitation à « arrêter de diviser » et de présenter l’immigration comme « un problème et une menace » est apaisante en comparaison des amalgames douteux de M. Legault. Elle fait toutefois l’impasse sur les solutions nécessaires pour faciliter le transfert linguistique des nouveaux arrivants vers le français. Elle évoque sans trop de conviction la francisation et la régionalisation de l’immigration, qu’elle présente comme une solution à la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre (tout comme Québec solidaire). Cette relation de causalité entre immigration et emploi ne fait pas l’unanimité.

À force de traiter de la question de l’immigration à partir des capacités d’accueil du Québec, nous avons tendance à oublier que le réel problème se situe à Ottawa, où loge un premier ministre postnational qui embrasse un projet de croissance démographique basé sur l’apport migratoire. Les libéraux de Justin Trudeau ne respectent pas l’entente Canada-Québec sur l’immigration. Le processus migratoire fédéral désavantage les francophones, notamment chez les étudiants étrangers. Toutes les actions du fédéral en matière d’immigration nous portent à conclure qu’il ne se soucie pas du déclin du poids démographique des francophones au Québec et au Canada.

Le rapatriement des pleins pouvoirs en immigration est la mesure qui compte le plus, mais aucune des formations ne sera en position de réussir ce tour de force. Tel est notre véritable drame en matière d’immigration.

Source: Impasse fédérale en immigration


U.S. Population Growth Has Nearly Flatlined. Is That So Bad?

Well worth reading, a useful and needed counterpoint to all the fretting about demographic decline and an aging population. Canadian policy makers and others need to think more about how to manage an aging population that mainly advocating for increased immigration to slow the trend:

A Demographic Crisis.” “A Blinking Light Ahead.” “The Death of Hope.” Those are some of the dire headlines that have been written in recent years about the sluggish pace of U.S. population growth, which in 2021 fell to its lowest rate ever — just 0.1 percent.

While the pandemic played a major role in driving last year’s decline, the country’s population growth has been slowing for much of the last decade, depressed by declining fertility rates, a surge in “deaths of despair” and lower levels of legal immigration.

But is a population slowdown as much of a crisis as some have made it out to be, or could it actually bring welcome changes? Here’s a look at a longstanding demographic debate.

For a population to replenish itself in the absence of immigration, demographers estimate that there must be, on average, about 2.1 births per woman. In the United States, the fertility rate has been consistently below that level since 2007. And it’s not alone: While some countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, are still growing rapidly, the global average fertility rate has been falling for decades, and even China’s population, the world’s largest, may very soon reach its peak.

As a result, the United Nations now predicts that the human population will start declining by the end of the century. (Other demographers have projected an even earlier peak.) Some countries — notably Japan and South Korea, whose fertility rates are among the lowest in the world — are already shrinking.

Why are fertility rates falling? The trend is typically attributed to a combination of economic prosperity, which leads to lower infant mortality, and greater gender equality. “As women have gained more access to education and contraception, and as the anxieties associated with having children continue to intensify, more parents are delaying pregnancy and fewer babies are being born,” Damien Cave, Emma Bubola and Choe Sang-Hun reported for The Times last year. Because many of those babies then go on to have smaller families than their parents did, they added, “the drop starts to look like a rock thrown off a cliff.”

It’s a stark reversal of the demographic trends of the 1900s, during which the coincidence of high fertility rates and lengthening life spans caused the global population to nearly quadruple in size, from 1.6 billion to six billion. And for much of the 20th century, it was the specter of overpopulation, not stagnation or decline, that animated dystopian visions of the future.

Which raises a question: How much stock should we really be placing in population forecasts? As David Adam explained in Nature last year, medium-term projections are usually quite accurate, as most people who will be alive in 20 to 30 years have already been born.

But over the longer term, projections diverge and become less reliable, in part because technological and environmental shocks that could cause demographic swings are impossible to predict, as Vox’s Kelsey Piper has written: “If, for example, climate change drives currently developed countries back into poverty and drives their birthrates back up, the estimates are poorly equipped to account for that. On the other hand, if more reliable contraceptives are developed and virtually end unintended pregnancies the world over, birthrates could fall much faster than predicted.”

For many futurists, the primary challenge posed by declining population growth is economic: When people live longer and have fewer babies, the population ages, leaving fewer working-age adults to support a country’s swelling number of retirees.

“Older people are more prone to illness, and many rely on publicly funded pensions and eventually require caregiving,” Stephanie H. Murray wrote in The Atlantic in February. “Many countries, including the U.S., are already struggling to meet the needs of the rapidly growing elderly population.”

This can create a kind of national languishing, as the Times columnist Ross Douthat argued last year: “If you assume that dynamism and growth are desirable things (not everyone does, but that’s a separate debate), then for the developed world to be something more than just a rich museum, at some point it needs to stop growing ever-older, with a dwindling younger generation struggling in the shadow of societal old age.”

Aging may take a particularly heavy toll on middle-income countries. Historically, as industrialized countries have become richer, their labor force grew more rapidly than their nonworking population, providing a “demographic dividend.” But in some developing countries, including Brazil and China, fertility rates have fallen to around or below replacement level much more quickly than they did for their higher-income counterparts, and their populations now face the risk of getting old before getting rich.

A population slowdown can be a symptom of other national problems. For example, as Derek Thompson has noted in The Atlantic, while declining fertility is often a sign of female empowerment, it can also be a sign of its opposite, as suggested by the growing gap between how many children Americans say they want and how many they have. “There are many potential explanations for this gap,” Thompson wrote, “but one is that the U.S. has made caring for multiple children too expensive and cumbersome for even wealthy parents, due to a shortage of housing, the rising cost of child care, and the paucity of long-term federal support for children.”

To see how population stagnation or even decline need not spell disaster, you can look at countries where it’s already occurring, as Daniel Moss, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian economies, did last year. Take Japan: “Despite the caricature of the country as an economic failure in the grip of terminal decline, life goes on,” he wrote. “True, growth in overall G.D.P. has been fairly anemic in past few decades, but G.D.P. per capita has held up well.” What’s more, he added, Japan’s unemployment rate is very low and has remained so throughout the pandemic (it was 2.6 percent in July).

Japan’s example lends some credence to the view of Kim Stanley Robinson, a widely acclaimed science-fiction writer, who believes that an aging population with a smaller work force could actually lead to economic prosperity. “It sounds like full employment to me,” he argued in The Washington Post last year. “The precarity and immiseration of the unemployed would disappear as everyone had access to work that gave them an income and dignity and meaning.”

The challenges of an aging population could push countries to pursue policies that improve quality of life:

  • One 2019 analysis estimated that if the European Union eliminated inequities in educational attainment and in women’s and immigrants’ labor force participation, it could cancel out more than half of the labor force decline it might otherwise experience by 2060.
  • Another way governments have responded to labor shortages caused by population aging is by investing more in the automation of work, an M.I.T. study found last year. As The Times’s John Yoon reported last month, “The prospect of a shrinking work force has put South Korea at the forefront of developing robots and artificial intelligence for the workplace.”
  • In the view of the Times columnist Paul Krugman, the biggest economic problem of an aging population isn’t increased strain on the social safety net, but rather weak investment from businesses anticipating reduced consumer demand. If that scenario comes to pass, though, “why not put the money to work for the public good?” he wrote last year. “Why not borrow cheaply and use the funds to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, invest in the health and education of our children, and more? This would be good for our society, good for the future, and would also provide a cushion against future recessions.”

Fertility rate declines may also be making climate change easier to combat, albeit not in the way many think: As Sarah Kaplan of The Washington Post has explained, fossil fuel consumption is driven primarily by increases in affluence, not the number of people on the planet per se. So while population growth in poor countries hasn’t led to large increases in planet-warming emissions, a sudden baby boom in high-income countries like the United States almost certainly would.

For some demographers, the prospect of population stagnation or decline isn’t any more a cause for alarm than population growth was; it’s simply a change that governments will need to manage. “Rather than panicking or trying to forestall this for ourselves,” Leslie Root, a demographer and a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Colorado, Boulder, wrote in The Washington Post last year, “we should be thinking about what that transition will mean globally — both for rich countries and for poor ones that will be far more burdened by aging populations than we will.”

Source: U.S. Population Growth Has Nearly Flatlined. Is That So Bad?

Why US Population Growth Is in the Danger Zone

Always struck by the lack of thinking and analysis regarding options and approaches on living with a declining population. A larger population is not good for the planet from any number of perspectives, and even advantages at the country level are mixed at best.

Just as we have to do with climate change, we need to consider what a mix of curbing growth and mitigating the impacts would look like, how to manage transitions and address externalities:

The U.S. population grew at the slowest pace in history in 2021, according to census data released last week. That news sounds extreme, but it’s on trend. First came 2020, which saw one of the lowest U.S. population-growth rates ever. And now we have 2021 officially setting the all-time record.

U.S. growth didn’t slowly fade away: It slipped, and slipped, and then fell off a cliff. The 2010s were already demographically stagnant; every year from 2011 to 2017, the U.S. grew by only 2 million people. In 2020, the U.S. grew by just 1.1 million. Last year, we added only 393,000 people.

What’s going on?

A country grows or shrinks in three ways: immigration, deaths, and births. America’s declining fertility rate often gets the headline treatment. Journalists are obsessed with the question of why Americans aren’t having more babies. And because I’m a journalist, be assured that we’ll do the baby thing in a moment. But it’s the other two factors—death and immigration—that are overwhelmingly responsible for the collapse in U.S. population growth.

First, we have to talk about COVID. The pandemic has killed nearly 1 million Americans in the past two years, according to the CDC. Tragically and remarkably, a majority of those deaths happened after we announced the authorization of COVID vaccines, which means that they were particularly concentrated in 2021. Last year, deaths exceeded births in a record-high number of U.S. counties. Never before in American history have so many different parts of the country shrunk because of “natural decrease,” which is the difference between deaths and births.

Excess deaths accounted for 50 percent of the difference in population growth from 2019 to 2021. That’s a clear sign of the devastating effect of the pandemic. But this statistic also tells us that even if we could had brought excess COVID deaths down to zero, U.S. population growth would still have crashed to something near an all-time low. To understand why, we have to talk about the second variable in the population equation: immigration.

As recently as 2016, net immigration to the United States exceeded 1 million people. But immigration has since collapsed by about 75 percent, falling below 250,000 last year. Immigration fell by more than half in almost all of the hot spots for foreign-born migrants, including New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco

Some of this reduction is a result of economic factors; immigration from Latin America has slowed as those economies have grown. Some of it is epidemiological; immigration declined around the world because of COVID lockdowns. But much of this is an American policy choice. The Trump administration worked to constrain not only illegal immigration but also legal immigration. And the Biden administration has not prioritized the revitalization of pro-immigration policy, perhaps due to fears of a xenophobic backlash from the center and right.

America’s bias against immigration is self-defeating in almost every dimension. “Immigration is a geopolitical cheat code for the U.S.,” says Caleb Watney, a co-founder of the Institute for Progress, a new think tank in Washington, D.C. “Want to supercharge science? Immigrants bring breakthroughs, patents, and Nobel Prizes in droves. Want to stay ahead of China? Immigrants drive progress in semiconductors, AI, and quantum computing. Want to make America more dynamic? Immigrants launch nearly 50 percent of U.S. billion-dollar start-ups. The rest of the world is begging international talent to come to their shores while we are slamming the door in their face.”

Finally, yes, Americans are having fewer babies—like basically every other rich country in the world. Since 2011, annual births have declined by 400,000. Two years ago, I wrote that “the future of the city is childless,” and the pandemic seems to have accelerated that future. Just look at Los Angeles: L.A. County recorded 153,000 live births in 2001 but fewer than 100,000 in 2021. At this rate, sometime around 2030, L.A. births will have declined by 50 percent in the 21st century.

Declining births get a lot of media coverage, with mandatory references to Children of Men, followed by mandatory references to Matrix-style birthing pods, followed by inevitable fights over whether it’s creepy for dudes like me to talk academically about raising a nation’s collective fertility. My personal opinion is that wanting and having children is a personal matter for families, even as the spillover effects of declining fertility make it a very public issue for the overall economy.

The fact that declining fertility is a global trend suggests that it’s not something we can easily reversed by mimicking another country’s politics or culture. Around the world, rising women’s education and employment seem to correlate with swiftly declining birth rates. In just about every possible way you could imagine, this is a good thing: It strongly suggests that economic and social progress give women more power over their bodies and their lives.

But I should stress that declining fertility isn’t always a sign of female empowerment, as indicated by the large and growing gap between the number of children Americans say they want and the number of children they have. There are many potential explanations for this gap, but one is that the U.S. has made caring for multiple children too expensive and cumbersome for even wealthy parents, due to a shortage of housing, the rising cost of child care, and the paucity of long-term federal support for children.

The implications of permanently slumped population growth are wide-ranging. Shrinking populations produce stagnant economies. Stagnant economies create wonky cultural knock-on effects, like a zero-sum mentality that ironically makes it harder to pursue pro-growth policies. (For example, people in slow-growth regions might be fearful of immigrants because they seem to represent a threat to scarce business opportunities, even though immigration represents these places’ best chance to grow their population and economy.) The sector-by-sector implications of declining population would also get very wonky very fast. Higher education is already fighting for its life in the age of remote school and rising tuition costs. Imagine what happens if, following the historically large Millennial cohort, every subsequent U.S. generation gets smaller and smaller until the end of time, slowly starving many colleges of the revenue they’ve come to expect.

Even if you’re of the dubious opinion that the U.S. would be better off with a smaller population, American demographic policy is bad for Americans who are alive right now. We are a nation where families have fewer kids than they want; where Americans die of violence, drugs, accidents, and illness at higher rates than similarly rich countries; and where geniuses who want to found new job-creating companies are forced to do so in other countries, which get all the benefits of higher productivity, higher tax revenue, and better jobs.

Simply put, the U.S. has too few births, too many deaths, and not enough immigrants. Whether by accident, design, or a total misunderstanding of basic economics, America has steered itself into the demographic danger zone

Derek Thompson is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of the Work in Progress newsletter. He is also the author of Hit Makers and the host of the podcast Plain English.

Source: Why US Population Growth Is in the Danger Zone

Falling birth rates are not an existential crisis for Central and Eastern Europe, but an opportunity

Of note:

A growing number of countries – including two in Central and Eastern Europe – are adopting coercive pronatal policies in a bid to make women have more children, a new report has found.

The report, Welcome to Gilead, raises serious concerns about the abuse of reproductive rights by nationalistic governments, echoing the pronatal dystopia of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

The report, produced by UK charity Population Matters, details how right-wing, populist and/or nationalist administrations are stigmatising women who choose to have smaller families as unpatriotic and describes how policies intended to limit women’s reproductive choices are linked to population goals.

“Coercive pronatalism is not simply a manifestation of patriarchy or misogyny but can be a product of political and economic forces entirely indifferent to women, for whom they exist simply as productive or non-productive wombs,” says Population Matters Director Robin Maynard.

“These regimes are instrumentalising women’s bodies to serve nationalistic, economic and patriarchal interests. Violating sexual and reproductive health and rights is never justified. It is imperative we all defend them, wherever they are threatened, and for whatever reason.”

In many countries, leaders fear the impact on their economic and political goals of women choosing to have fewer children.

As a result, the percentage of countries with pronatal policies grew from 10 per cent in 1976 to 28 per cent in 2015, according to the UN’s most recent data.

Not all such policies abuse reproductive rights, but increasing numbers are doing so.

The report examines examples of such restrictions in China, Iran, Russia, and Turkey, as well as the emerging Europe states of Hungary and Poland.

It identifies how politicians in the US and Germany are starting to promote the same agenda and policies.

It details in particular how pronatalism is often linked to a restrictive, patriarchal “pro-family” agenda and the promotion of ethnic nationalism, based frequently on religious orthodoxy and hostility to multiculturalism and immigration.

These motivations include subscription at the highest political level to the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that Christian and European culture and civilisation will be extinguished by immigration from Muslim countries and high birth rates among immigrants.

Population Matters Policy Adviser Monica Scigliano, who wrote the report, says: “When people think of coercive population policy, their minds often go to examples like China and India, in which leaders wanted to limit population growth by forcing women to have fewer children.

“Now, however, with birth rates declining and in some cases emigration reversing population trends, that has changed.

“As people continue to choose smaller families, more governments across the world are resorting to coercive tactics, depriving people of their reproductive rights in order to increase their populations.

“In particular, nationalistic agendas can lead to a toxic brand of pronatalism that represents an almost inevitable threat to sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

Hungary and Poland

In Hungary, the right-wing populist government of Viktor Orbán is now inching towards a total abortion ban. Orbán states, “we want Hungarian children. Migration for us is surrender”.

Earlier this year, former US Vice President Mike Pence told a summit in the Hungarian capital Budapest that “plummeting birth rates” represent “a crisis that strikes at the very heart of civilisation”, adding that he hoped the US Supreme Court would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling.

In Poland meanwhile, the ruling populist and pronatalist Law and Justice party recently increased abortion restrictions, banning abortion on the grounds of foetal abnormalities, which had been the reason for 98 per cent of all abortions in the country. Its law has recently claimed its first victim, a pregnant woman named Izabela who died after being denied an emergency operation because doctors insisted on waiting until they could no longer detect her baby’s heartbeat.

Polish reproductive rights campaigner Antonina Lewandowska, who wrote the foreword to the report, says:

“The Polish pronatalist movement drove doctors into such a state of fear that they would rather let Izabela go into septic shock than terminate the pregnancy earlier and save her life. They are terrified of prosecution and stigma, as the pro-natalist/anti-choice movements would probably eat them alive.

“On the other hand, there is a group of medical professionals that are rather comfortable with the current situation, as it lets them argue that medical negligence happens due to that ‘freezing effect’ of an abhorrent law rather then their own incompetence, mistake or deliberate choice to not provide their patients with necessary medical care – an abortion – due to their personal beliefs.

“In both cases, it is clear – aggressive, fundamentalist pronatalism paved the way for violating human rights in Poland.”

The economic value of older people

Central and Eastern Europe’s demographic decline has until now been presented as an existential problem. But have we been looking at the issue from the wrong perspective?

Even relatively poor countries such as Romania and Bulgaria are currently placing more demands on the renewable resources of their land than it can provide, and lower populations reduce that demand, as well as relieving pressure on biodiversity.

“Romania is one of Europe’s more biodiverse countries, for instance, with great forest cover and wetlands in the Danube Delta – both of value to the world, not just Romania,” Alistair Currie, head of campaigns and communications at Population Matters tells Emerging Europe.

“As it becomes more affluent, it has an opportunity to manage that land and natural environment more sustainably. Agriculture is the primary driver of habitat loss, and where countries aren’t scrambling to feed their populations through intensive agriculture and monocultures, that can give nature a break.”

Fears of labour shortages are often exaggerated because of continued population growth and automation, but Currie suggests that any shortages which do arise can be addressed through measures such as increasing labour force participation, judicious immigration policies, further automation and increasing retirement age.

“Fiscal challenges presented by ageing populations can be solved by pension reform, increasing the productivity of older workers, later retirement, investment in preventative health to reduce associated health care costs, and, where appropriate, equitable increases in tax,” he says.

“One thing that really came out strongly in our research is the economic value of older people. That means things like potentially increasing retirement age – low across much of Central and Eastern Europe. To do that, you do need healthy populations, however, which requires investment in preventative health care.

“Pronatal policies, meanwhile, are not productive. They’re often costly, in the short term they increase the number of dependent children, and in the longer term, they drive up consumption and resource use.”

Source: Falling birth rates are not an existential crisis for Central and Eastern Europe, but an opportunity

Immigration Can Offset US Population Decline | Cato at Liberty Blog

Cato Institute’s reply to the CIS post highlighting the limits of immigration in addressing an aging population ( Immigration and the Aging Society ). Not convinced. And like all immigration debates, the question is one of balance and understanding the limits of immigration in addressing ongoing policy and demographic issues:

The U.S. population is growing slowly and the average age of Americans is increasing as a result. Although the United States is not as old as other countries and likely to age better, the future looks demographically grim. Some social scientists and commentators think that boosting immigration can help delay or reverse those trends. Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, makes a series of silly argumentsagainst the notion that immigration can slow the aging of the U.S. population. Camarota’s points below are in quotes and my responses follow.

In reality, a significant body of research shows that the impact of immigration on population aging is small. While immigration can certainly make our population larger, it does not make us dramatically younger.

Camarota might be correct that the current and historically low rate of immigration to the United States doesn’t much lower the average age of the population, but that does not mean that immigration could not lower the average age if it were expanded. He merely shows that current U.S. immigration policy, which is very restrictive and much closer to his ideal level than mine, cannot much affect the average age. We shouldn’t expect a restrictive immigration system that allows in, at least prior to the immigration restrictions adopted by President Trump and partly maintained by President Biden (so far), a number of immigrants roughly equal to 0.3 percent of the population annually to have a big effect on the average age of the population. In 2018, 32 OECD countries had higher immigration flows as a percent of their populations and only five had lower flows, relative to the United States. Camarota’s point does not rebut the argument that expanded immigration would lower the average age and expand U.S. population.

But demographers have known for a long time that, absent truly gargantuan and ever‐​increasing rates of immigration, it isn’t actually possible for immigrants to undo or dramatically slow the overall aging of society. As Oxford demographer David Coleman observes, ‘it is already well known that [immigration] can only prevent population ageing at unprecedented, unsustainable and increasing levels of inflow.’

Do demographers know that? I looked up the source of the quote by David Coleman, former British MP and member of the Galton Institute. Camarota clipped a portion of a longer quote that makes a slightly different point. Coleman’s full quote is: “Although immigration can prevent population decline, it is already well known that it can only prevent population ageing at unprecedented, unsustainable and increasing levels of inflow, which would generate rapid population growth and eventually displace the original population from its majority position [Camarota’s quote italicized].”

Coleman agrees that immigration can prevent population decline. He identifies two problems with more immigration: It would “generate rapid population growth and eventually displace the original population from its majority position.” Rapid population growth is one of the many goals of those of us who favor liberalized immigration, so I have no argument with Coleman there. We simply disagree as I believe that population growth is positive and he thinks it’s negative. When it comes to “displace the original population from its majority position,” Coleman means that immigrants and their descendants would eventually become the majority of the population in the United Kingdom at a high level of immigration.

There’s no good reason for Camarota to find that shocking as it has happened at least once in U.S. history. As sociologist Charles Hirschman pointed out, the population of the United States today would only be about 100 million if immigration had stopped in 1800. Since the current population is about 330 million, that means most Americans are immigrants or the descendants of post‐​1800 immigrants. That doesn’t mean that boosted immigration would be “unprecedented” or “unsustainable.” It sounds like a return to immigration normality for Americans.

There are four broad reasons why the demography doesn’t support the political credo. First, not all immigrants arrive young — in fact, a growing share are arriving at or near retirement age. Second, immigrants age just like everyone else, adding to the elderly population over time. Third, immigrant fertility rates tend to converge with those of the native born. Fourth, to the extent that immigrants do have higher fertility rates than the native born, their children add to the dependent population — those too young or old to work.

Camarota’s first point is a curious criticism of the current restrictive immigration system. If this is his concern, why not just increase legal immigration opportunities for younger immigrants? Camarota’s second point somewhat answers that criticism – because “immigrants age just like everyone else, adding to the elderly population over time.” After all, newborn babies age too and will one day retire, which is a particularly poor argument against having children or increasing immigration.

Camarota’s third point is that immigrants assimilate. While a surprising admission from Camarota given his research, immigrants and their children still increase the population, and it takes time for immigrant fertility to approach that of natives – which he admits in his next point. Camarota’s fourth point is that immigrants have higher fertility rates that produce children who are also dependents.

To sum up, Camarota thinks that our current immigration system doesn’t help reduce the ratio of dependents to workers, immigrants age like everybody else, immigrant fertility shrinks too rapidly, and immigrant fertility doesn’t shrink fast enough.

The Census Bureau also estimates that, in 2060, 59% of the population will be of working age. Again, this is based on the assumption that net migration will amount to an average of 1.1 million each year. Under a zero‐​immigration scenario, just under 57% of the population would be of working age. In other words, while immigration is projected to add 75 million people to the American population by 2060, it will only increase the working‐​age share of the population by about two percentage points. Even if annual net immigration were expanded by 50% above what the Census Bureau projects, so that it averaged about 1.65 million a year, it would still only increase the working‐​age share of the population by three percentage points.

In other words, Camarota writes that the U.S. can increase immigration by 50 percent and have a working‐​age share of the population in 2060 similar to what it would otherwise be in 2027 or, on the extreme other side, 2060 America will look like Japan will in 2032. The percentage point spread is small, but the social, economic, and fiscal impacts are larger than they appear. Japan’s looming population collapse is terrifying and a few percentage points difference caused by expanded legal immigration can delay it for decades or longer. Even better, expanding legal immigration is a lot cheaper than birth subsidies.

You can read the rest of Camarota’s piece as it merely expands upon his points, offers some politically correct suggestions for reforming entitlement programs, and adds more figures. Nowhere does Camarota contest the obvious counterargument that immigration’s currently small effects on America’s age distribution result from very restrictive immigration policies.

The U.S. fiscal imbalance is a serious problem created by a poorly designed entitlement system. Declining U.S. fertility exacerbated the problem of the fiscal imbalance in a way that a well‐​designed system would not face. In addition to that, a growing population is correlated with increasing prosperity over the long term. More people mean more ideas, workers, consumers, investors, as well as potential friends, neighbors, and family members.

The worldwide and American increase in economic output from expanded legal immigration would be large and much of it could be captured to resolve the fiscal imbalance – at least for a few more generations. According to some estimates, massively expanded immigration would place the United States in an unassailable economic position. Allowing Americans and immigrants to interact as they see fit would also be a more ethical policy. In short, there are many reasons to support expanding legal immigration, and reversing expected US population decline is one of them, despite what Neo‐​Malthusians say.

Source: Immigration Can Offset US Population Decline | Cato at Liberty Blog