REALity May 2019
If Not Immigration – What Then?
Western Nations and East Asia are strangling themselves to death and destroying their future, by their failure to deal with the tragic problem of a declining fertility rate.
Statistics on population decline in these nations are terrible. For example, in Cyprus and Taiwan women are having only one child. Poland and Japan have a birth rate of 1.3 children for women of childbearing age. Canada is not much better as its fertility rate, according to the 2011 Census, is an abysmal 1.54 children per woman. At the other end of the scale, countries with the highest birth rate in the world are all in Africa. Niger, leads the way, with 7.1 children per woman, while in Mali, Chad and Somalia, women have 6 or more children.
The practical implications of the decline in population are frightening. Demography impacts on every single aspect of our lives, for example, on housing, social benefits, consumer purchases, traffic and maintaining schools and hospitals, to name a few.
Yet this issue is being ignored by most world leaders. They continue to live in a fantasy world, whereby they believe there will be sufficient tax payers to provide social benefits, infrastructure, and to maintain an affluent society by way of immigration. The reality is that this is very complicated. Something else may have to be done to stop this decline in population.
Several commentators have noted that many western political leaders do not have children. These include France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of Holland, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven of Sweden, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, and president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. When political leaders do not have a familial connection to the future, they then can have little sense of kinship to the future.
This may be one of the reasons why there is such complacency by our leaders about the declining population. This complacency may also be due to the idea that immigration can always be relied on to supplement the ranks.
Canadian Immigration Policy
Canada’s immigration policy is one of the best in the world. Immigrants have flooded into Canada over many generations and generally have integrated well into our society. They, in fact, form the very backbone of our country.
Much of this success is due to the fact that our immigration policy is based on the point system. That is, immigrants applying to Canada are given points, for example, for speaking French or English, for education levels, skills and trades, or having a job waiting on their arrival. This all pays off as our immigrants generally seem to readily fit into our society and culture. This ability to adjust to Canada and to fit into our society has been the key to our successful immigration policy.
The point system in immigration is especially successful, when we consider what recently occurred, when 25,000 Syrian refugees came into Canada, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government sponsorship program when the point system was not used.
Although the first few years in a new country are always very difficult for newcomers, it is especially difficult for refugees who frequently don’t have language or job skills upon their arrival here. Canadians have been reeling from the unprecedented snow and cold this past winter, so one can only imagine how this weather has affected the 25,000 Syrian refugees who arrived here in February 2016. The Trudeau government has spent more than $32 million transporting these refugees to Canada, even though refugees are usually required to pay their own travel costs. These refugees have also been provided with housing, healthcare and education by the federal government.
According to Statistics Canada, in its report released in February 2019, in 2015, 55% of Syrian refugees privately sponsored by churches had employment, while for government sponsored refugees, the employment rate was only 5%. Fewer than half of these government sponsored refugees speak English or French and only 51% of males and 47% of women have high school diplomas. This creates isolation and depression. For many of them, it causes a risk that they will remain on welfare for an extended period of time, struggling in a culture they do not understand, with a language they do not speak.
A similar situation occurred in Germany, when Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted one million Syrian refugees into Germany. This created huge problems in assimilating them into the culture. So much so, that Ms. Merkel has been forced to curtail her immigration policy because of political pressure that has led to her decision to step down as Chancellor in 2021.
The upshot of all this is that we cannot take in refugees without careful consideration of the ramifications both to them and to society. Experience has shown that if immigrants or refugees do not integrate into society, there can be a heavy burden maintaining them financially. That is, although Canada is a wealthy Western country and has an obligation to help those individuals from other countries who are suffering and in need, we should also consider alternatives in addition to immigration.
Alternatives to Immigration
Serious legal and social problems have arisen by way of generous immigration policies, not only in Germany, but also in the Netherlands and Sweden. Some European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, are attempting to find alternative solutions to immigration for their declining populations. For example, in his annual State of the Nation address, in January, 2019, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced a package of policies to encourage couples to marry and have many children. A major new policy is that women with four or more children will be exempt from paying income tax for life. Special low- interest government loans are to be provided to women under 40 (those of childbearing age) to purchase a home. Subsidies are also being provided to help families pay off their mortgages. Other benefits include help with transportation and child care. For example, couples with three or more children will be eligible to purchase a family car (defined as a vehicle that seats 7 or more people). Twenty-one thousand daycare spaces across the country are to be established, and child care payments will be paid directly to grandparents caring for their grandchildren.
France has also brought forward pro-family laws to provide special benefits to large families, including eliminating income tax payments for families with four or more children. France now has the highest fertility rate in the European Union, although it is still low at 1.92 children per woman. Poland is bringing in policies to improve its abysmal birth rate of 1.2 children per woman.
It is fascinating, however, that Israel has a fertility rate at 3.1 babies per woman, much higher than any member of the European Union and far higher than the second highest fertility rate in the West, which is Mexico, with 2.15 babies per woman.
Israel’s fertility rate is exceptional, not only because it is so high, but also because this high number of births cuts across all educational classes and levels of religiosity. It also is increasing, even though the age that women usually first give birth is rising, and the education level of women is rising – factors usually linked with decreased births. The Jewish population of Israel is about 75% secular and traditional Jews, including 8% Ultra-orthodox Jews, who have an average family size of about seven children per family. Unlike other countries, highly educated women in Israel have just as many children as their less educated counter-parts.
What is more astonishing is that the reason behind Israel’s high fertility rate remains a mystery. Maybe those many countries wishing to increase their own fertility rate should investigate Israel’s secret!