Sunday, July 26, 2009


The basic question is unasked. Why do we need to grow our population at all. From immigration OR fertility? The pat answer of needing to support the aged doesn't address ecological concerns.

Immigration no substitute for babies, late retirement: C.D. Howe
By Shannon Proudfoot, Canwest News ServiceJuly 2, 2009

Canadians need to have more babies, and delay their retirement, to stave off a crisis in the country's aging workforce, warns the C.D. Howe Institute, which finds immigration is not the "elixir for youth" many think it is.

From government talking points to casual conversation, immigration is often discussed as a solution to the challenges presented by the country's aging workforce, says CEO William Robson. But when the economic and social policy research institute conducted population simulations, even vastly increased numbers of immigrants had "startlingly little effect" on the overall age structure in Canada, he says.

As it stands now, Canada's population, faced with longer life expectancies and low fertility rates, is producing fewer young people to replace the older people leaving the workforce, the report says. That, in turn, means a smaller population of working-age people to make money, pay taxes and support the pension and health-care needs of a burgeoning older population.

"I was surprised by how weak immigration is, on its own, as a tool to affect these things," Robson says. "People in Canada generally feel very positively about immigration, so it would be nice if something that we like turned out to be the answer to some of these things that otherwise can look a little threatening."

Immigrants are younger, on average, than the rest of the population, but not by much, Robson says, so exerting any real impact on the overall age structure would require unrealistically high numbers of immigrants.

The C.D. Howe report is "emphatically not" anti-immigration, Robson says but, rather, suggests other factors that could have a greater effect on the problem of the aging workforce:

- Postponing the expected retirement age from 65 to 70. This shift has already started, he says, most recently, because people whose savings have "taken a hammering" found themselves unable to retire for financial reasons.

- Raising the fertility rate. It's a thorny issue to build policy around, Robson says, but Quebec saw some birthrate increases between 1988 and 1997 with a government "allowance for newborn children" that paid families up to $8,000 for each child born.

- Boosting productivity. The factors that affect this — and why Canada lags — are "mysterious," he says, but productivity improvements are a "free lunch," in the sense that they give societies more output with the same number of workers.

"Immigration helps but, on its own, it will not do the trick," says Robson. "My concern is that a lot of people who talk about immigration as a way of dealing with these things might think that, therefore, we can let some of these other things slip.

"If nothing else changes, the rapid increase in the share of the population that's over 65 does mean a real pinch on the working-age population," Robson says. "If we consciously work on all those fronts, then chances are, we'll get old and we'll be wondering, 'What was all the fuss about?' "


Robson is able to understand that productivity improvements “give societies more output with the same number of workers”. But why doesn’t he understand that the fiscal burden of mass immigration--- the difference between what the largely unskilled annual cohort of immigrants consume in social services vs. the taxes they are able to pay to reimburse us for that consumption---robs us of the money to upgrade productivity? And why doesn’t he understand that the cost of providing for the young exceeds the cost of providing for the aged? But the really big $64,000 questions are “Why doesn’t the CD Howe Institute understand the ecological consequences of growing our population? Why don’t they grasp the concept of limited carrying capacity? Why don’t they understand the principle of a pyramid scam? If more people are needed to support the apex of our population, how many more people will be needed to support the people who were originally required to support the aged? Ad infinitum? When is the CD Howe Institute going to talk about the urgent need for a Population Plan in this country? “
Tim Murray

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