The demographic dilemma we face is not -- at least not in the next 30 years -- population decline. It is population aging.
Who will pay for health care and other social services? Who will keep pensions afloat? By 2030, there's a good chance workers will enjoy steadily rising wages thanks to chronic labour shortages, but that money won't go into their pockets. It will go to governments -- which will raise taxes to punishing levels to keep retiree supports from collapsing.
So what matters here is not the absolute numbers of people in the population. It's the ratio of workers to retirees. And many studies have shown that, for a host of reasons, feasible levels of immigration can do little to change the worker-to-retiree ratio.
So the analysts asked what would it take to maintain the ratio of workers to retirees? Answer: Immigration would have to more than triple almost immediately and rise rapidly to almost seven times current levels. That would mean 2.6 million immigrants arriving each year. And Canada's population would explode to 57 million within 15 years.
Needless to say, that's impossible. Not to mention absurd -- because there's no way we could boost numbers that high.
It has now become almost universally accepted that Canada's current intake of immigrants has little effect on slowing Canada's aging demographic trend. Reversing the trend is completely out of the question.
Some may argue that the solution is to increase immigrant intake targets but there are problems with that simplistic view, the prime being the cost of it. The cost to taxpayers to fund the current system is estimated to be in the billions of dollars. A conservative number puts that cost to at least $2 billion but it is most likely higher. It goes even higher when publicly funded services that immigrants are most likely to use are factored in.
It is true that immigrants pay taxes as well but if immigrant cohorts are drawing more from taxes in the form of support services in addition to feeding the immigration system itself then the point becomes moot. The Frasier Institute's Herb Grubel argues that "immigrants who arrived in the 12 years before 2002 imposed a fiscal burden of $18.5 billion on all Canadians in the year 2002 alone". In other words it is more costly to Canadian taxpayers than it is worth.
So the fact that Canada's immigrant intake has almost no positive effect on the nation's aging demographic trend, to the point of being negligible, it operates at a financial loss to Canadian taxpayers as well. Now consider how much more costly it will be to increase targets to a number that will reverse the aging demographic trend. We cannot afford it even if we wanted to.
Throwing more fuel on the fire is the aging portion of Canadian society. How can Canadians support the demands of its retirees and support an already expensive immigration system? Tax increases are pretty much an inevitability to support the former. Taxes would have to be increased even higher to support the kind of immigration that would have any effect on Canada's aging society.
Canadians like to think that most of the planet is covered by teeming masses of poor people in hopeless countries. Billions upon billions of them. And every single one of those people would sell a kidney to come to Canada, drive a cab, and shiver for six months of the year.
In the past, that satisfying image bore some resemblance to reality. Today, it increasingly does not. In a few decades, it's likely that Canadians will be amazed to recall we once thought that way.
He argues that improving economic prospects in one's home country discourages emigration. He then couples this with the measured fact that increasing standards of living is reciprocated by decreasing fertility rates. This kind of one, two punch will make Canada a tougher sell to prospective immigrants as the economies improve in nations like India, China, Turkey, and Mexico and elsewhere. Indeed, Canada may be competing with a country like China for immigrant labour as China itself is experiencing an aging society as well and may fall victim to a declining population over the next few decades.
I am not sure how much I agree with him on this. If it were true then why do middle class east Indians commit career suicide and emigrate to Canada? The western lifestyle has a certain attraction to it and Canada as a shopping mall is quite appealing. If not for economic reasons or as an insurance policy western citizenship is fashionable. But I do think he is right for us to expect a remarkable decrease in Asian immigration for the reasons he has given. I cannot say the same for south Asian immigration but we shall see. In any case there will be no shortage of the world's 7 billion people who are willing to relocate to Canada. I think it is more fitting to focus on the quality of immigrant that Canada will attract and not from where.
So if immigration "won't save us", what will? According to Dan Gardner, and pretty much any one else who doesn't make a living in the immigration industry, Canada can only save itself by having more babies. Indeed, the Canadian government should be investing more in Canadian families than in immigration. The billions of tax dollars wasted (as opposed to invested) to support the bloated immigration system should be redirected to support Canadians who want to have children. This is what Canada has traditionally relied on to increase its population. Immigration did, and does, have its place but it is ineffective to sustain and grow the nation's populace. Only Canadians can do that.
I get tired of hearing that though immigration does not help alleviate Canada's aging population "it does help". I disagree. It is detrimental becuase it absorbs public money that otherwise could have been used to support Canadians who want to have children. We wouldn't be wasting money to teach immigrants English or French since Canadians would be teaching their children that. We wouldn't be spending so much money on job training initiatives and job placement programs for immigrants like we do now since we would be doing that with Canadian children through the school system. Children are the nation's future. Without them Canada has none.
I know that telling Canadians to have more babies is an affront to some Canadians' self absorbed existence and their selfish impulses but to you I say die already! To what end have you lived your life anyway? I know having children is a personal choice and there are some people who should not be having children at all but there are Canadian men and women who want children, and not just one. Canada's future depends on them and they deserve the support.