Just like investors tend to buy high and sell low, politicians tend to react to most major issues (ahem…immigration) by doing the wrong thing at the right time.
It’s no secret that almost all developed countries, and China in the emerging world, are slowing in workforce and demographic growth — many outright declining. Five of the six smaller ones (which include Australia and New Zealand) that aren’t have one thing in common: strong and high-quality immigration.
You would think, with clearly predictable further slowing in demographic trends, that the developed countries would be competing for the best global immigrants. But most are restricting or fighting against it just as we need them the most. The US fought against immigration going into the Great Depression. It’s doing it again now…
Immigration is slowing down…
The global migrant population is already slowing and peaked in 2005–10. Immigration into the US peaked in 2001. And with the lowest number of births recorded in the US since 1987, this spells trouble.
Look at this chart…
Source: United Nations Population Division
This should be a long-term trend as emigration slows after countries reach $8,000 GDP per capita PPP (purchasing power adjusted). The Factfulness book I so highly recommend also shows that life expectancy sees most of its acceleration by $8,000 GDP per capita. It doesn’t take a lot for people to have a decent and longer life and have less motivation to migrate, which is both costly and disruptive.
A recent Gallup poll showed that over 750 million people globally would emigrate permanently to another country if they could. This next chart shows where the highest percentages are by major global regions.
Source: Gallup World Poll
Not surprisingly, the highest, at 33%, came from the poorest region, Sub-Saharan Africa; followed by Latin America, non-EU Europe, and the Middle East/North Africa.
The surprise here is that the wealthier EU is the highest in the developed world, at a whopping 21% with North America second at 14%.
Note that numbers in North America have risen dramatically from 10% to 14% since Trump got elected… go figure!
The very highest percentage countries, where the most people would emigrate if they could, are the poorest ones, including Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, the Congo, and Nigeria. However, they’re not necessarily the immigrants we would want to go after. To have a positive impact on our economy, we need more of the educated and ambitious immigrants.
That means we should encourage immigrants from China, Southeast Asia, India, the EU, East Europe, Puerto Rico, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. Unfortunately, these countries are wealthier than their peers and will have fewer and fewer such candidates looking to move to America in the future.
Attract immigrants or die…
But we’ve got to figure something out, especially with the severity of the baby bust we’re experiencing. It’s simple: attract immigrants or slowly die.
More importantly, attract skilled immigrants, and make the path to America clear and legal. We should emulate countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Singapore, who have effective immigration policies.
Australia actually strikes me as having the ideal policy settings here.
They attract a strong cohort of skilled, ambitious workers which keep its economy ticking along.
Were it not for these immigrants, I believe the country would actually be in a recession right now!
Of course, infrastructure has to keep up — but the underlying model here is a good one.