An often repeated claim is that mass immigration is vital for countries of the West because their populations are in terminal decline. While acknowledging the benefits of limited and selective immigration to fill skills gaps in the economy it would be wrong to open our borders to mass immigration to solve a problem that in Britain at least, does not even exist.
According to the Office of National Statistics the total population of England and Wales in 2014 was 57.4 million. That year the total recorded number of live births was 695,233 and the total number of recorded deaths was 501,424. That gives us an approximate crude birth rate of 12.11 per 1,000 and a crude death rate of 8.74 per 1,000. Excluding net immigration, that results in an annual population growth of approximately 0.003 percent. Assuming the birth and death rates remain constant and an unlikely scenario of zero net immigration the population would grow by nearly 6 million over the next 30 years. Therefore the population of this country is not about to shrink at all.
However, it could be argued that the reason why we in Britain are not in a demographic trough like, for example, in Germany where recorded deaths do exceed live births, is because of the migratory influx of the last couple of decades. Upon closer scrutiny that argument does not stack up either. In 2014 the Office of National Statistics reported that 27 percent of live births in England and Wales were from foreign born mothers while foreigners only make up 13 percent of the population.
Nevertheless, if we adjust the figures for this fact, that still gives an approximate crude birth rate of 10.16 per 1,000 of the native born population which is still well above the crude death rate. This growth would still add more than 2 million to the population of England and Wales over the next 30 years. It should be clear then that we are not facing any crisis of numbers and actually our demographic statistics show a healthy rate of organic growth.
Perhaps the real problem is not a declining population per se but a decline in the population of working age people relative to the population of retired people. Life expectancy is increasing so the ratio of pensioners to workers is going to increase in the future. In order to pay for this, so the argument goes, we need to import young people from abroad to pay the taxes for our native born pensioners. Even if we were to assume that immigrants as a group make a positive contribution to the exchequer, which is doubtful as a 2016 study by Migration Watch UK suggests immigrants as a group are a net cost, such a policy is obviously unsustainable. The immigrants themselves will retire and become entitled to state pensions which will then require more immigrants to pay taxes, who will then retire and so on until the country’s carrying capacity is exhausted. Then what?
The idea is basically the same as a Ponzi scheme; new participants will delay the scheme’s collapse but collapse is still inevitable. The only viable solution to this fiscal problem is either to cut spending on state pensions or increase taxes to cover the cost. Either proposition will be unpalatable to the electorate but eventually we will have to acknowledge the truth. Trying to kick the can down the road via mass immigration is both dishonest and reckless to say the least.