Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Aging population more pressing concern than Climate Change

Climate change is not the most pressing issue facing Canada. Hell, Canada is one of the few countries that may actually benefit from climate change. (The tree line is moving north etc). Immigration, for example, is a more pressing concern for Canada than is climate change . Canada is one of the oldest countries (39.7). However bad things are now things promise to get a lot worse. The percentage of Canadians over 65 is set to go from 14.7 now to 27.6 in 2050. The ability of Canada to sustain its social programs will be greatly comprised.

Part of the problem is that average immigrant to Canada (37.1) is not much younger than the average Canadian (39.7). The situation is akin to baling out a boat by moving water from one part of the boat to another.

Major changes to the immigration system are needed. Two come immediately to mind. Canada needs to limit family unification to spouses and dependents under 18 and it needs to rework of the points system so that more emphasis is placed on youth. The average immigrant to Canada has to get younger. Canada also needs to do a better job of ensuring that immigrants are able to succeed. The earning power of immigrants continues to fall and this will eventually affect our ability to attract immigrants to Canada as well as the affect the general population’s willingness to accept them. To that end, Canada needs to do a better job ensuring that foreign credentials are recognized, but it also needs to place a greater emphasis on the ability to speak English or French and it needs to limit is exposure to immigrants who are the least likely to speak English or French and are the most likely to drift into illegality (viz., refugees) .

In addition to changing the type of immigrant Canada goes after, Canada also needs admit a lot more immigrants -- upwards of 500,000 a year. This will mean, among other things, greatly increasing the number of visa officers in second world countries with large pools of young educated English speakers. India is an example that comes readily to mind, but others abound. Currently interviews in Brazil are only held in Brasilia and Sao Paulo, but not in Rio . As a source of immigrants, South America remains largely untapped and this especially so with regard to Brazil.

An obvious place to start the search is at home. Foreigners who complete graduate degrees in Canada should be granted citizenship and those who complete an undergraduate degree should be given more credit than they currently receive. Currently they can receive no more than 5 points for studying in Canada. As for ESL students, Immigration officials should be going from one ESL school to another and making clear to students that if they pass the Cambridge exam, say, have a degree and are in their twenties, we want them.

It is imperative that Canada undertake such a project now. After all, Canada is not alone in having to deal with aging population. Some Europe have an even worse problem. Indeed, professor Charles Kupchan notes, "today there are 35 pensioners for every 100 workers within the European Union. By 2050, current demographic trends would leave Europe with 75 pensioners for every 100 workers and in countries like Italy and Spain the ratio would be 1 to 1."

"World Bank projections show that the working-age population of the present EU will drop from 230m now to 167m by 2050, a fall of 63m. Most of this is concentrated in the 12 current euroland countries, where working-age population is projected to drop from 186m to 131m. The worst-hit individual countries are Italy , with a 15m, or 42% fall, from 36m to 21m, followed by Spain and Germany . Britain is not immune but fares relatively well. The World Bank projects a 5m fall in working-age population, from 35.2m to 29.9m In general, though, Europe 's position is dire. As Lombard Street Research writes: "The last demographic shock on a similar scale was the Black Death of the late 14th century. Even two world wars did not stop Europe 's population rising by nearly a fifth in the first half of the 20th century."

If Europe continues on as it is, the median age in Europe will go from 37.7 today to 52.3 by 2050!


Anonymous said...

Language will not a problem in 15 years, let alone 40.

Maybe you should spend less time reading right-wing propaganda and more time keeping up on the developments in computer and translation technology.

Koby said...

Yes in 40 years time we will have moved well beyond babel fish. However to suggest that language will not matter any more is just plain weird.