They’ve tried everything from carnal-themed masses to baby-ready dating sites, “date night” childcare, ad campaigns and even prize draws for positive pregnancy tests. But now, the citizens of rural Denmark have come up with another idea to boost the country’s flagging birth rates.
People in the Danish municipality of Thisted, in north-west Jutland, have agreed on a deal with the council to procreate as much as possible over the next few years to help maintain underpopulated public services. In return, the local politicians have promised to keep schools, nurseries and leisure facilities open – on the condition that parents produce enough new children to fill them.
The problem is a falling birth rate and rising dependency ration (ration of non working age population to working age population) is a key issue in much of the developed world. Especially in Japan, Italy and Germany.
Cechetti at the Bank of International Settlements even draws a link between the end of the working age of the baby boom generation and debt servicing problems leading to financial crises.
The projected shift in the dependency ration over coming decades is a problem in most european countries, mopst starkly Germany and Poland,
Demographic Dependency Ratios (age 65+ relative to age 15-64)
2010 2030 2050
Germany 31 % 46 % 56 %
Austria 26 % 38 % 48 %
United Kingdom 25 % 33 % 38 %
Hungary 24 % 34 % 51 %
Poland 19 % 36 % 56 %
EU-27 26 % 38 % 50 %
Source: Eurostat (EU-Commission, Ageing Report 2009); own calculations
Their is a difference between the demographic dependency ratio and the economic one (ratio of people in work and those retired or unemployed) but there is unfortunately no clear statistical set for the latter across countries. A challenge for a graduate student i’m sure.
In England the issue is more complicated. There is a dramatic difference between the birth rate of families which have lived in the UK for a generation or more and those who have migrated to England. Migration watch UK stirred controversy last year with a report on migrant birth rates.
Between 2001 and 2012 inclusive, 57% of population growth has been described as due to net migration, 43% to natural increase (the excess of births over deaths). However, that substantially understates the demographic power of migration. Much of that natural increase came from immigrant parents. If that immigrant contribution to natural increase is included, then the total contribution of migration to UK population growth over the period from 2001 to 2012 was between 83% and 85%
the birth rate (strictly speaking, ‘total fertility’) in the UK is currently 1.83. However, as the birth rate required to sustain a population is approximately 2.1, any long term population increase in the UK can only be as a result of immigration…. if there were no migration at all, and if fertility remains constant and mortality continues to decline. The population continues to grow at a diminishing rate for quite a long time– until about 2041 – under the momentum of the age-structure and from longer survival, before gradually declining. On ONS assumptions (but without migration) it would return to its present size towards the end of the century. By contrast, the current ONS Principal Projection (which includes a net migration assumption of only 165,000) would give a UK population of 90 million at the end of the century.
Even under the Migration Watch data (not known for its accurate use) under a ‘zero’ net migration scenario the population declines (and dependency ratio increases) by about 1 million every 10 years. What this means is that if England wishes to avoid a dependency ratio contributing to the kind of long term stagnation we see in Japan the current total fertility needs to increase to 2.1 from 1.83 – in other words we need 15% more babies to avoid dependency ration related increases in taxes and debt repayments in other words to retain our current wealth.
So those who claim we cant afford immigration because the school are full, ‘you cant get a GP appointment’ etc. are missing the point. The schools and surgeries would be even more crowded with a zero net migration policy designed to maintain the dependency ratio and our current ability to service debt.
There is a clear three way trade off between immigration, birth rates and debt servicing. If you want to stop immigration with low birth rates prepare to transfer more of societies income to rentiers.
Also debates about the economic costs and benefits of immigration need to be clearer about what the policy on and policy off scenario is, taking into account costs of debts servicing, distributional impacts and counterfactuual policy alternatives designed to maintain dependency ratios.
So to those who complain about immigration at a village hall meeting complaining about new housing ask them how many kids they have. If they have had less than three or four sorry its your fault.