Without immigration OECD populations will be in decline and in crisis

In times of high unemployment the anti-immigration voices are raised very high everywhere and especially in many European countries. Much of the sentiment is rooted in racist views whether against those of Asian or African or East European origin. In Japan it is seen as threatening the homogeneity of the country. But what every politician well knows – but which some will not dare to admit for fear of losing their populist base – is that  without net immigration in, OECD countries will face an increasing crisis of declining populations, declining labour force and an increase in the  proportion of the aged. They are all very well aware that expanding the working population to at least match the increase in the “aged” proportion is critical to maintaining the standard of welfare and health care that they have become accustomed to. Increasing the retirement age – which is already on the table as trial balloons – is unavoidable because even with immigration the proportion of the working population relative to the “aged” is in decline.

In OECD countries fertility rates are already well below the replacement level of 2.1 per woman. It is higher only in Israel, Iceland and New Zealand, and in India, South Africa and Indonesia. China is already down at 1.6 and India is down to 2.63 and declining fast.

The Local

France’s fertility rate has fallen below the symbolic level of two babies per woman and 2013 saw the slowest population growth in the country for well over a decade, new data revealed this week.

The 280,000 births in 2013 marked a 1.3 percent decline from 2012 with France’s fertility rate falling from 2.03 children per woman in 2010 to 1.99 children last year, according to the France’s national statistics agency INSEE. …… 

Despite the drop in the birth rate, France remains second only to Ireland when it comes to Europe’s most fertile nations. Women in Ireland, where the population is 4.6 million, had on average 2.01 children each in 2013.

These figures stand in stark contrast to Germany and Portugal, which had the lowest fertility rates on the continent. Germany recorded a rate of 1.38 per woman, followed by Portugal with 1.28 offspring per woman.

Korea, Hungary, Spain and Japan are the other countries where fertility rates are less than 1.4.

Fertility rates (2010 data) by country is here: OECD Total fertility rates 1970, 2010

Statistics are from the OECD Library:

Total fertility rates in OECD countries have declined dramatically over the past few decades, falling on average from 2.7 in 1970 to 1.7 children per woman of childbearing age in the 2000s. In all OECD countries, fertility rates declined for young women and increased at older ages. A modest recovery in total fertility rates started in the early 2000’s, to an average level of 1.7 in 2010. The total fertility rate is below its replacement level of 2.1 in most OECD countries except Israel, Iceland and New Zealand, and in India, South Africa and Indonesia.

The last few years have seen various trends emerge in fertility rates. A drop in fertility rates has occurred, for example in Australia, New Zealand, Spain and the United States, while rates have continued to rise in Iceland, Israel, Sweden, and Switzerland. The increase in fertility stopped in many other countries. The effect of the economic downturn is as yet unknown, but persistent economic uncertainties can impact downward the number of children women may have over their reproductive life.

OECD Fertility trends

OECD Fertility trends

OECD fertility table

The difference between the decline in fertility rates between India and China is of particular interest. While some of the difference is due to different rates of development, most of the difference can be attributed to the draconian one-child policy in China. But that is now being relaxed as the coming decline in the Chinese population becomes obvious..

The shortages of the proportion of working population – unless immigration is used to mitigate the shortfall – is inevitable and will really begin to bite over the next twenty years or so.

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