Europe: let’s discuss emigration, not immigration
Should European countries accept free in-migration of people? Hmmm… many countries should focus on the problem of how to totally discourage out-migration.
In many countries the young and well-educated have left in droves because of boom-bust crises followed by austerity, this despite unfavorable demographics. Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Lithuania are examples – but even in Germany the ‘Harz-reform’ of around 2000 was followed by high net out-migration of Germans. States should be applying all macro- and micro-economic tricks to keep the millennial at home (including providing cheap houses)! If there is any countries which should welcome Brexit it are Poland and Lithuania!
Looking at it from a more quantitative angle, it is clear that it is a question of years, not decades, before the population of Turkey (77 millions) will surpass the population of Germany (81 millions), even taking net immigration into account. But will the young Turks solve the ever mounting German demographic and age related burden? Oh no. Not a chance. The fertility rate in Turkey is with about 2,1 at replacement rate and the relatively fast increase in Turkish population is partly due to improvements in health and life span as well as to the relatively large size of child bearing generations. It won’t be long before population growth in Turkey will taper off (it is in fact already tapering of, fertility reached replacement rate somewhere between 1995 and 2000 and the child bearing generation will soon start to stabilize). So, don’t count on the Turks. The (historically) more amazing development is taking in Germany (and Ukraine and Russia and….). Between 2009 and 2014 ‘natural’ population decline in Germany was about -1.000.000. Which is remarkable. And I have no idea why French and British mums are having much more baby’s – the fertility rate in these countries is about 2,0. But be that as it may – the German population is declining at a considerable rate and this rate is set to increase. People are scarce!
For about 250 years (the potato!), European population growth was, barring wars, positive and often strongly so. This has been changing. Around 1965, the fertility rate in Germany plummeted to a very low rate of 1,4 births per woman (2,1 children per woman is considered the ‘replacement rate’, i.e. the rate consistent with a long run stability of the ‘natural’ population). Around 1975, the fertility rate in the Netherlands plummeted. Around 1985, fertility rates in South Europe plummeted to levels of sometimes 1,2 (Portugal!) while in between fertility rates in Eastern Europe went down. And in the nineties, the Turkish fertility rate, which had already come down from extreme levels of about 6, reached replacement rate. As a logical consequence, the ‘natural’ German population is declining, many other populations are or will be following.
There is a golden lining to this: small populations are much more ‘sustainable’ than larger populations. But there are problems, too. The number of 0-5 year olds in Germany is not even 50% of the number of 50-55 year olds, in Portugal this ratio is heading to about 40%! Even when pension ages increase to about 70, there will be a financial problem to pay for pensions while increasing pension ages will do nothing to diminish the ‘care burden’! And the present young generation is beyond redemption. Suppose that Portuguese twenty and thirty somethings suddenly get a lot of children again. This will mean for them that they will face as well a historically high burden when it comes to care for the elderly as well as an increased burden to raise children. There is of course also a political side to this, Putin for one will be very aware of developments in Turkey (and Germany). The macro-economic side: it makes it even more incomprehensible that countries like Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Portugal, Greece and Spain embraced austerity. Austerity pushes young people over the border – and increases the demographic burden. And don’t count on the Turks. The real discussion should not be about immigration. But about emigration.