May 23, 2002


Europeans struggle with idea of 'replacement migration' : The issue is a flashpoint for countries dealing with aging and declining populations (David R. Francis, May 23, 2002, The Christian Science Monitor)
"Demography is destiny," Auguste Comte, the 19th-century French mathematician, once wrote.

In most of Europe, with birthrates so low that populations are or soon will be declining, there has been much discussion about whether to admit more immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, or eastern Europe to provide the workers needed to produce goods and services for retiring western Europeans.

Without enough workers, people may have have to wait until, say, age 75 or later to retire. But some wonder whether an inflow of migrants from poor countries will cause "cultural genocide," undercutting the ideas, religions, even national identities in the countries where they arrive. [...]

In the United States, immigration has become a livelier issue because of the Sept. 11 tragedy with its foreign suicide hijackers. America's population will continue to grow, though only because of a high birthrate among recent immigrants. Native-born women average fewer than two children each.

In the US, [a UN] report notes, it would take 38 million immigrants, or 760,000 per year, between 2000 and 2050 to keep the population constant. That is less than the immigration level of about 1 million in recent years. The situation is similar in Britain and France.

In Italy, South Korea, and Japan, it would take a much higher level of immigration to stabilize the general population.

To stabilize the working-age population would require an even greater number of immigrants in the industrial nations, levels probably not politically feasible.

The aging of populations raises many critical questions, the report notes. What's the appropriate age for retirement? At 75, there would be enough workers to provide the same support for retirees as today in most countries studied.

Should present retirement and healthcare benefits for the elderly be maintained? Should workers and employers contribute more to support the increasing numbers of the elderly?

We in the West want nothing more than to have our tiny preplanned families and retire early while living the while in the luxury to which we've become accustomed and we want to limit this lifestyle to "Americans". But we find ourselves caught in a demographic vise that is closing rapidly and our failure to deal with any of the implications in a serious way has put us on a collision course with the kind of decline and race-hatred that increasingly defines the rest of the developed world, from Japan to the Netherlands. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 23, 2002 12:46 PM
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