FRIDAY, 5 OCTOBER 2012

The UK is a Crowded Kingdom

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Last month I mentioned the “pushback” against large scale immigration in the UK. Just to be clear, I wasn’t necessarily endorsing the views of those who are concerned about too many immigrants to the Mother Country.  Instead I was noting that there are serious political and social issues that come with relying on immigration to bolster a flagging or stagnant population. Even if they are ultimately wrong as to the threat posed, the fact that people in the home country feel threatened by immigration can be a large problem.  For one, assimilation will be presumably much more difficult when the native population is in part sullen and resentful. 

Along these lines, there are more reports in the UK papers of population growth that will do little to calm the fears of those like Sir Andrew Green.  According to the Office for National Statistics, the population of England and Wales grew by twice the European average over the last decade: at 7.3% over the ten years.  Excluding the Second World War, this growth rate was the highest over the past century and coincided with the relaxation of border controls with Eastern Europe.  In Europe, only Germany and France are now more populous than Britain (which has 63 million people), and both are much larger countries.  After last year’s census, the estimate of when Britain’s population will hit the 70 million mark has been revised downward from 2027 to 2021.  This news is not welcomed by Simon Ross, a member of Population Matters which campaigns for sustainable living. He greeted the news this way:

“‘This growth rate is one of the highest in Europe, for a country that is already one of its most densely populated.

‘It is hardly surprising that we face issues in housing, transport and employment. In the medium term, these numbers are unsustainable.

‘The Government must be supported in its efforts to limit net migration and should take steps to reduce the birth rate through improving sexual health and encouraging people to have smaller families.’”

In order to try and bring down net migration, the Home Office is cutting the number of visas offered to international students and is restricting the number who can stay after graduation.  Furthermore, only the most skilled foreign workers can take up jobs in Britain and must earn at least £18,600 if they wish to bring their spouses over as well.  As for Ross’ other suggestions, I’m not sure whether this counts as “improving sexual health” in Ross' eyes. My guess would be: no.  Quite frankly, if the UK is anything like NZ, most 12 year olds are taught about the birds and the bees. People aren’t having babies because they are ignorant; they are having babies because they are getting drunk and having sex.  No amount of condom teaching will help then.  As for encouraging smaller families, I think that the UK Government should buy the copyright to use some of the Chinese Government’s wonderful slogans:

“If sterilisation or abortion demands are rejected, houses will be toppled, cows confiscated”

Classic encouragement.



 
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Welcome to Demography Is Destiny, MercatorNet’s blog about human dignity and population. We launched this after seeing two themes crop up constantly in the media: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling up to unsustainable levels. 

Although many people dress up these concerns in global warming T-shirts, the underlying issue is the Population Bomb. Back in the 1960s the Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich proclaimed that Malthus was right: the world faced mass starvation because there was too little food and too many people. Well, Ehrlich was proved wrong over and over again, and over and over again the fear comes back, like a vampire sucking optimism and hope out of modern society. I hope that this blog helps to put a stake through the heart of this dangerous and indefensible idea.

Dangerous, because the unsupported notion that the world cannot support its population is being used to promote human rights abuses, including coercive population programs. And indefensible, because world population, is actually on track to a steep decline. You could call it catastrophic, except that we are trying to avoid fostering apocalyptic fears on MercatorNet. We prefer to leave that to climate-change scaremongers. But it will certainly bring about enormous problems. At the moment, world population is about 6.8 billion. By the year 2050, it will rise to 9 billion, according to a United Nations scenario for mid-range fertility rates. But this global statistic conceals the fact that populations in many developed countries will actually decline. The number of elderly will increase enormously. Russia’s population will decline by one-fifth by 2050, for instance.

Huge problems are looming because of this “demographic winter” – social, financial, human rights, geo-political, cultural, and religious. We hope to track these changes, puncture illusions, and foster hope with Demography Is Destiny. And there is plenty of room for hope. After all, in the oft-quoted words of economist Julian Simon, people are the “ultimate resource”. We may not be over-populated, but we do have plenty of intelligent, inventive, adaptive people.

Where did we get the name? The catchphrase “Demography is Destiny” has almost become a cliché. It seems that it was coined by the French philosopher and sociologist August Comte in the 19th Century. But it still rings true.


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