Falling birth rates cause painful demographic changes

Falling birth rates do not cause a given population to die out 70 years later, despite some people’s insistence that they will do so, but they will – at times noticeably – affect most or even all demographic factors of concern and how they will change (most often to the worse) in the future.

Falling birth rates are not necessarily the cause of detrimental demographic consequences, IF they are the consequence of wealth, and IF a nation can afford to live with that consequence.  If a nation cannot afford to live with falling birth rates, low birth rates will be the cause of its demise.   It would be suicidal for that nation to curtail or promote the curtailing of it births, when that will cause the workforce in the years to come to be insufficient for the work that will be demanded of it.  Never cause a workforce to shrink when the work that must be done in the years to come will grow considerably larger and a much larger workforce will be required to do what is necessary.  There are ways to prevent that from happening, as long as whatever is being done will the members of the workforce employed, and as long as nothing is being done to cause a lot of unemployment, with the unemployed being added to the workload that needs to be carried by those still employed.

Automation and mechanization have liberated many people from onerous work.  Much work and many more work processes will be done by machines in the years to come.  The concern must be not so much that people doing work will be liberated from having to work, when machines do their work, but that those people will no longer have jobs.  The people who are still working, alongside machines.  The work formerly done by people who are now unemployed is still being done, perhaps faster, cheaper and better, but those unemployed people used to be heavy-duty consumers, and now they no longer have enough money to spend to consume as much as they did, and the machines doing the work that they formerly did are not consumers of consumer goods.

Beyond the basic and barest necessities, fewer income earners will consume fewer consumer goods.  When there is a very large number of unemployed, the economy will feel the pinch and go into a recession.  Curtailing the number of births will not do anything to change that,  not for at least another 20 years have gone by, and not until the horde of the unemployed that exists all along will see no further novice join its ever-swelling ranks.  All along, those who are unemployed will be come older, and every year more and more unemployed will go into “retirement”.  No curtailing of the number of births will do anything to reduce the number of people already in the pipe who will come ever closer to death, trying to live on ever shrinking retirement incomes for which fewer and fewer contributions are being made an ever-shrinking work force.

That is the problem we try to solve or prevent.  Curtailing the numbers of Births will solve that?  How can that change the number of people in the pipe that is labelled “Unemployed” and leads to retirement?  Some who go into retirement now will be retired for, say, 20 years on average.  The unemployed who come after them will be in the pipe from a year to 45 years, and they will keep coming for that long, with more of them coming.  The ranks of those who will be coming out of that pipe 45 years from now are swelling now.  They are swelling because kids who were born 20 years ago cannot find jobs now.  How will they all eat, afford housing, clothing, transportation and such?

All of that is in spite of the birth rates of all developed nations being below replacement level.  So, what sort of problem can we solve by cutting back on births ever more?  Whatever the problem people born to become unemployed cause to the economy could perhaps be solved by holding back a bit on mechanization.  Cutting back on wages will do that.  It will make us competitive on the world market and make mechanization far less attractive.  As I have seen and read, some economists have recommended that, but we cannot afford to do it, because everyone needs higher wages and higher incomes to be able to afford the luxuries they have become accustomed to and now consider to be necessities, the higher incomes and wages that make mechanization ever more attractive, causing unemployment.  Moreover, ever more unemployed need to be provided for, the numbers of the elderly are increasing, not least on account of better health care and better quality of life all around, while the taxes required to pay for their upkeep, that of the unemployed and anyone else who is on the dole keep rising.  Still, the employed workforce keeps shrinking, while the productivity of the mechanized work processes keeps rising.

It is more than a little difficult to understand how all of that will be or can possibly be alleviated by clamoring for and importing ever more immigrants.  Well, it is not being stressed much, but we need to think about what sort of jobs have not yet been mechanized and whose hands will be doing them.  We will use the immigrants for those unproductive jobs that will never be used to produce anything that can be sold on the world market. such as to house and feed the swelling numbers of the elderly, the increasing numbers of the unemployed who will also become elderly and decrepit, the immigrants who arrive and find that they become unemployed because they are unemployable, because they lack skills, technical skills and language skills.

Importing immigrants will solve the problems caused by immigrants who are on average far more likely than home-grown immigrants are to be unemployed?   How will that work?

Don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against immigrants or immigration, provided there are jobs here that need to be filled.  I immigrated here, in 1962, and that is how things were then.  No one was allowed to come here from elsewhere, to stay, unless he had a lot of money or a lot of skills or both, and he had to be able to speak at least one of our two official languages.  That worked.  It worked well, and it did the country and the immigrants a lot of good.  Mind you, even then and even amongst the immigrants there were them already a few who figured out how to live a comfortable life of the retired without having done much or any work to earn it.  Still, virtually all immigrants were too proud to make welfare a career choice.  Besides, life on the dole was not an easy one and I had never met anyone then who thought he could get rich on it.

The birth rates are not the problem.  There is not a lot to go before they hit Zero.   Unemployed immigrants will aggravate the problems that reduced birth rates are intended to mitigate. The two solutions work against one another, much like a driver will not go very far if he stands with his whole weight on the brake and the gas pedal at once.  I am not objecting to immigration or immigrants, but I most certainly wish someone will explain why anything I stated above is wrong.

Here is a short summary of a global demographic transition model reflection global population changes, using the interplay of

birth rate – death rate = population growth rate

Here is the link to that:

The progression and outcome shown in that are always the same.  All that ever happens is that the rate of change for individual factors affecting the outcome varies, with the  extent of change to a rate change depending on a combination local, regional, international and global circumstances and the extent of political will.  Note that the discussion focuses on a global demographic transition model, and that therefore massive population transfers through migration are not addressed, meaning that the sum total of emigration and immigration cancels out and should be ignored.  However, massive population transfers through migration will nevertheless have impacts on regional characteristics and on regional differences between those characteristics.  To what extent local and regional impacts of those changes affect the global rate of changing demographic trends is not addressed by the presentation.

Drew Grover deserves credit for mentioning that in the introduction to his presentation, but ideologues pushing for zero population growth, reduction of the world population down to between 300 million and a billion, for birth rates that are way below replacement levels, and for other population control measures rarely, if ever, do.  After all, it would never do to stress that it is hoped that the promotion of international, massive population transfers is a method for global population control.

It is quite likely that the powers hope and have reason to believe that migration in large numbers from  countries or regions with very high birth rates to countries with very low and essentially fatally low birth rates will convert those who have no choice but to use their children as social safety nets to the sort of people who love to have the government take over the provisioning of social safety nets and incomes to be derived therefrom.  That may then convince them that it is better for personal comfort to integrate into the social standards of the Western culture and to begin to prefer to devote their love and attention to cats and dogs instead of having, loving and raising their own children.

One problem with that is that such government generosity not only causes governments to run out of their people’s money but will ensure with a vengeance that the governments will also run out of people, thereby causing the demise of nations to progress at an accelerating rate.

The following table and the graphics that are shown farther down show some of the numbers that are of interest to people who worry about demographic trends.  They show comparisons between Angola (which has currently the highest birth rate of all countries in the World) and two other countries that have some of the bottom-most lowest birth rates, Japan and Germany.  The figures and graphs are shown to illustrate that low birth rates do not spell instant death for the population of either type of country, neither for those that are said to be in danger of dying out nor for those that are ostensibly bulging at the seems to the point of bursting and falling to pieces.  Here is the table:

Birth rates and population numbers

Demographics of Decline: Low and Falling Birth Rates
Two extreme ends of the range of birth rates.
Is either extreme much to worry about?

Source: UN, http://countrymeters.info

Birth rates are of much interest to those who fear and obsess about their impact, be that whether birth rates are “too high” or “below replacement level” or even approaching zero.

  • Rising birth rates invariably cause a yearning by social engineers for zero population growth and often – as they currently do – make them promote negative population growth, that is, population reduction by any and all imaginable means.
  • Falling birth rates are just as much of interest to demographers, politicians and others in countries whose population is declining, countries whose economic health is in decline as well. Too few young people becoming productive, and there won’t be enough of them to do the necessary work to keep the economy, the infrastructure and the country’s non-productive population sector alive: the elderly, the very young, the sick and disabled, not even its unemployed and its prison population.
Falling birth rates are bad? Birth-rate comparison — Angola Vs. Japan

Demographics of Decline: Low and Falling Birth Rates
Birth-rate comparison — Angola vs. Japan

Source: Wikipedia, List of sovereign states and dependent territories by birth rate

Average life expectancies in the developed nations are substantially more than 70 years and still rising. In addition, the birth rate of a country would have to fall to zero, to cause the population of that country to completely die out a hundred years or so later. A very slight drop to just below the replacement rate will permit the country to exist essentially almost for an infinite interval of time. That is not quite true; more needs considering.

Many factors affect population growth rates, for starters,

(birth rate + immigration rate) – (death rate + emigration rate) = population growth rate

Although the interplay of those factors applies to varying extents to any instant in time, there are more complexities when making predictions of population trends. Take varying lengths of lags between cause and effect, which all vary over time, for example:

  • The average life expectancy in a population reflects the death rate in that population, but some people born there will die elsewhere.
  • The death rate in a given population will include some or most of the people born there but not those who had emigrated and died or will die elsewhere. It will include immigrants who will die there but not those immigrants who will emigrate and die elsewhere.

Not only that, but all of the factors mentioned so far vary with time and on account of various causes, and they vary differently, for example:

  • Immigrants were not born in the country they choose as the target for their migration;
  • Emigrants will not die in their country of birth. and
  • Economic conditions – living standards, peer pressure, wars, famines, natural disasters, politics (local changes as well as geographic differences) – affect birth rates, migration rates, immigration rates and death rates. Immigrants generally have higher birth rates than does the resident population of the country of their choice.
Are falling birth rates bad for countries afflicted by them? <br /> Population comparison

Demographics of Decline, Low and Falling Birth Rates
Population over time: Angola, Japan, Germany
(Japan expects its population to decline to a little less than 90 million by 2065.)

Source: UN; Angola,  Japan,  Germany

People who maintain that “Predictions are hard, especially about the future,” are quite right (no, Yogi Berra was not the one who discovered and announced that, but he did voice it).  The  farther away in time a given prediction applies, the less confidence should be put into it, because the less likely it is to turn out to be true, and the wider off the mark it will turn out to be.  Things will generally become more unpredictable when social change is not just permitted to happen, but when changes of any of the factors caused by and affecting it are being forced to change.

A look at some of the consequences caused by Japan’s low and falling birth rates show that the problems caused by the now will persist and worsen for quite some years to come.  There is no quick fix, especially because a massive increase in the net migration for Japan is so far neither desired nor feasible.  Germany, equally surprised be the equally low birth rates it began to experience, did something about the looming population calamity, to hold it off.  That did not work out well.

Germany increased its immigration rate, allowed massive numbers of immigrants from Islamic nations to migrate to Germany, and it is now experiencing escalating social conflict and turmoil, as do all European countries who opted for that solution as well.  The problem is of great and growing concern and appears to be caused by inexperience and lack of skill of population planners.  (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice tried an easy fix and suffered serious consequence because of his inexperience.)  Is there a master in the house of cards of trying to fix a birth dearth through immigration?  Does he know how to solve the problems caused by the bungling apprentice-population-planners and how to put an end to the calamity they made happen?

The numbers shown by the UN for public consumption do not indicate the whole picture and are somewhat misleading.  They show neither the massive numbers of Islamic migrants coming to Germany nor the massive numbers of people who leave Germany.  They most certainly do not show whether the people who leave Germany are Muslims who do not like it there.  The net gain is a relatively small net migration (of about 250,000 this year), not enough to appreciably bolster Germany’s population numbers. An improvement in that department is barely perceptible.  Moreover, a large portion of the new immigrants is now not merely unemployed and on the dole – thanks to the generosity of already overtaxed income earners in Germany – but many, perhaps most, of the Islamic immigrants are unemployable.  More on those issues in Mark Steyn’s analysis: The Great Brain Drain (2017 12 19)

The net-gain in population numbers in Germany was about 50,000 additional residents i 2017, at the cost of perhaps a million or more of the lately-gained immigrants living on the dole now, which most have been doing for a number of years already.  How can that be worth doing?

If changes are being forced, then the laws of unintended consequences begin to come into play, more and more.  That is because things that work reasonably well are best left alone, contrary to the assertions by people who invoke “the precautionary principle” and claim that it is better to do something than to do nothing, except that doing the wrong thing is often far worse than doing nothing.

If anything in relation to the misguided population planning and immigration directives is to be learned from history, it is this.  Where- and whenever freedom of democracy and the free market were allowed free play, the results always were: 1. Growing prosperity; 2. Better living standards; 3. Improving quality of life; 4. Better health and rising average life expectancies, and 5. Falling birth rates.

No government coercion to bring about one or the other of those five outcomes for all people ever succeeded without having to rob Peter to pay Paul and thereby harming one or more of the other outcomes.  No government ever managed to bring about improvements for all five categories of outcomes, but the symbiosis of freedom of democracy and free market principles always did, time and again.

The invoking of the precautionary principle for rationalizing the expense and effort to bring about forced change is nothing but a sign of ignorance of the beneficial interactions of the interplay of the forces of freedom of democracy and the free market.

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