Immigration, Myths and the Irresponsibility of Europe

ROME, Jun (IPS) - With little fanfare, the German IFO Institute for Economic Research recently published a report on population projections for Germany which states simply that the country's population is shrinking fast.

The country has lost 1.5 million inhabitants since the last census in 2011 and it is estimated that it will have fallen from the 82.5 million in 2003 to 66 million in 2060, when Great Britain (if it still exists as such), will be the most populated country in Europe.

Meanwhile, a European Commission Population Policy Acceptance study found that 23 percent of German males thought that "zero" was the ideal family size, and this despite the 243 billion euros that the government spends each year in family subsidies.

The IFO report also states that, without immigrant families, the number of newly-born children would only reach 400,000 in a country of 82 million, and that even if German couples were to start having children again, it would take two decades to have citizens contributing to the social system.

It concludes that a decline in income and productivity because of the aging population is a serious concern for everybody for the near future.

This is happening in the European country which has most immigrants - close to 10 million.  Last year, Germany accepted almost 700,000 immigrants, placing itself after United States in terms of numbers. Nevertheless, even with that "open" policy, its population is destined to a massive decline.

At European level, we see the same chilling trend. According to population projections from Eurostat, the official statistical agency of the European Union, the projected values for Europe's population "are unprecedented in any human population."

It says that "whereas in 1960 there were on average about three youngsters (aged 0-14 years) for every elderly person (aged 65 or over), by 2060 there may be more than two elderly people for each youngster: in other words, more grandparents for fewer grandchildren than in the past."

Let us add to all this a Migration Policy Debate paper issued in 2014 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which states that "contrary to widespread public belief, low-educated immigrants have a better fiscal position - the difference between their contributions and the benefits they receive - than their native born peers."

"here immigrants have a less favorable fiscal position, this is not driven by a greater dependence on social benefits, but rather by the fact they often have lower wages and thus tend to contribute less ... Efforts to better integrate immigrants should be seen as an investment rather than a cost."

Finally, the U.K. government has declared that, although migrants make up only eight percent of the population, they contribute 10 percent to the country's gross domestic product (GDP), and that the economic growth rate of the United Kingdom would be some 0.5 percent lower for the next two years if net immigration were to cease.

Now, what is impressive is that those data remain for the specialists even though they have vital political implications. No newspaper has been publishing them and no parliamentarian - let alone government - has used them.

This simply because we now have anti-immigration (and usually right-wing and anti-euro) political parties which have sprung up in every European country, especially since the financial crisis of 2008, and this argument is now taboo.

The fact that the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) considers that Europe will no longer be competitive in just a few decades, because its aging population will not be competitive and a major burden on the social system, unless it opens the door to at least 10 million people, is totally ignored.

Instead of opposing populist parties with a campaign of facts, European governments try to neutralize them by incorporating their requests. After the anti-immigrant and anti-euro U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) took four million votes in May's general elections, Prime Minister David Cameron has embarked on a campaign among European colleagues to demand that he be allowed to expel European immigrants if they do not find a job within six months and, among others, cancel their rights to social benefits.

This is a brilliant example of the difference between a statesman and a politician. A statesman does what is good for his country, even if that costs him dear.

When German Chancellor Helmut Khol was in favor of European integration and the euro, he had to face very hostile public opinion. For the Germans, the Deutsche mark was a symbol of stability and trust, and the idea of a new currency shared with other less responsible people revived memories of the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic. At the same time, Europeans were suspicious of German intentions.

Kohl decided to accept a non-German, Wim Duisenberg of the Netherlands, as the first governor of the European Central Bank, to make the Euro possible.

Today, the existence of Pegida, a German far right anti-Islam political organization which boasts a few thousand members at most, is enough to paralyze Chancellor Angela Merkel, a politician. She has voiced her opposition to the quota proposed by the European Union for sharing the load of immigrants entering Europe via the Mediterranean.

Her position has immediately been shared by France, with the United Kingdom and Denmark asking to be left out, and several Eastern and Central Europe countries agitating against immigrants ... even though they are the countries which provide the bulk of internal immigrants in Europe!

So, we have the data, the projections, and the hard fact that Europe is heading for decline unless it changes policy and acts to increase its population. And, speaking of projections, in the meantime the population of Africa is expected to double.

When will the European political class wake up and realize that time is passing? (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris    

Photo: USDA/Flickr