Many countries in the Western world are starting to face up to the realities of demographic winter: decades of low fertility rates, as well as increasing life expectancy figures, have seen natural population growth slow to next to nothing and populations significantly age. As the baby boomers enter into their retirement years, the concern is being increasingly voiced by politicians, policy makers, academics and talking heads: how are we to pay for pensions and health care of the elderly when there are fewer taxpayers to replace those retiring?
The modern social security state is predicated on an ever-expanding pool of taxpayers (a typical population pyramid – like a Ponzi scheme) so that present entitlements can be supported without drowning the state (and therefore future generations of taxpayers) in debt or vastly increasing the tax burden on current taxpayers. When the ever-expanding pool of taxpayers goes into reverse there is the potential for the entire system to collapse. The government is left with unpalatable options: either cut back on entitlements for the elderly (who usually vote more regularly than those in the younger age brackets); or increase the tax burden on the younger workers.
The collapse of the typical population pyramid can be seen in Canada. According to the Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussan, in 1971 there were 6.6 people of working age for every senior citizen; by 2012 that proportion had become 4.2 to one, and by 2036 it is predicted to drop to just two to one. And why is the Immigration Minister commenting on these figures? Well, if one wishes to keep the Ponzi scheme going, and one’s own citizens refuse to reproduce in the numbers needed, then one is forced to turn to outside sources for new taxpayers: immigrants. Currently, three-quarters of Canadian population growth is due to immigration. By 2036, there will be no population growth outside of immigration.
That is why the current Liberal government of Canada has just announced an increase in immigration over the next three years to “the most ambitious immigration levels in recent history.” This year Canada is welcoming 300,000 economic migrants, family reunifications and refugees. In 2018 that number will climb to 310,000, then to 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020. By 2020, the rate at which Canada's population will be increasing due solely to immigration will reach one per cent per year. The main reason given for this increase is economic, to offset an ageing population:
“‘Our government believes that newcomers play a vital role in our society,’ Hussen said. ‘Five million Canadians are set to retire by 2035 and we have fewer people working to support seniors and retirees.’”
Although one million immigrants over the next three years appears like a lot, the government’s plans do not go as far as some were hoping for. Its own Advisory Council on Economic Growth had recommended increasing immigration levels to 450,000 annually by 2021. The CEO of the Canadian Association of Professional immigration Consultants welcomed the news but thought that 350,000 per year should be aimed for while the Canadian Council of Refugees wanted the share of refugees increased beyond the proposed14 per cent. The Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance called for 350,000 immigrants in 2018, 400,000 in 2019 and 450,000 in 2020.
Even the Conservative opposition party’s only concern was not the numbers per se, but the inability of the government to integrate new arrivals. Immigration could only help Canada’s economy if the new immigrants were able to speak French or English and were given mental health support. That is, the opposition questioned the government’s ability to manage immigration effectively; it did not question large scale immigration as a whole.
This lack of effective debate over large scale immigration is common in the West. Multiculturalism is unquestioned, and mainstream political parties do not seem to think that there is a problem with large numbers of new arrivals from all over the globe. To believe that the nation state has the duty (and is largely defined by its ability to) control its borders and who enters it is seen as racist, or worse, Trump-like. And when parties or politicians do want to control immigration or do not buy into globalism, they are denounced by bien-pensants as “far-right”. (See the reaction to recent election results in Eastern Europe.) Even New Zealand’s new Prime Minister was compared to Trump in some media reports because of her government’s aim to reduce immigration by 30,000 people per year.
But the question must be asked (and in Canada particularly) what is effect of large scale immigration on the underlying culture and institutions of the society? What culture do Canadians currently have? What is important to them? What are they prepared to sacrifice on the altar of multiculturalism? Equality before the law and notion that ignorance of the law is no defence perhaps? What cultural norms and practices (and ultimately, what religious beliefs) do immigrants bring with them? Are these beliefs compatible with Canadian life?
Or are Western countries so far down the cultural relativist road that every culture is deemed the same and of equal worth? Thus Canada (or Germany or Australia…) will be no worse by inviting thousands of people with differing cultural beliefs to settle in its territory. Perhaps we are missing something by treating immigration solely as a fix for economic woes brought on by our own lack of fecundity.