Immigrants Flood Into Europe

Steven Mosher
by Alejandro Macarron Population Research Institute Weekly Briefing 19 November 2014
Reproduced with Permission

"It doesn't matter if we Spaniards do not have enough children, as long as foreign migrants come to Spain and have kids here," the head of a major conservative Spanish think tank said to me a couple of years ago. I had suggested to him that the center-right Partido Popular - now the governing party in Spain - promote pro-natal policies.

But can immigration really make up for Spain's growing birth deficit? Since 2011, when we had our conversation, both Spaniards and migrants have had fewer children each year. In part because of the ongoing economic recession, there were 10% fewer children born in 2013 than in 2011. Moreover, more people migrated out of Spain than migrated into it during this period. The net migration flow was negative, not positive.

Tylenol is great for relieving the pain of a headache, but it won't cure a brain tumor. In fact, by masking the pain, it might stop us from finding out that we have a tumor and seek treatment for it. It might, in this way, actually kill us.

Many Europeans view immigration the way that people with a headache view Tylenol. The immigrants flooding into Europe mask the pain of the aging native population with its huge baby deficit. It disguises the ugly core demographic numbers, and gives politicians and the public an excuse to avoid taking the real steps necessary to avoid committing demographic suicide.

Europe and Japan are the frontrunners in this race to oblivion. Both have populations that are dramatically shrinking and aging. Low birth rates and increased life expectancy are both responsible, but what the demographers call "lowest low fertility" accounts for the bulk of the problem.

In the official published statistics, foreign immigrants and their locally born children partially cover up a very inconvenient truth: native European populations are ageing at historically unprecedented speeds. They are shrinking, or on the verge of shrinking, because two generations of Europeans have failed to have enough children to replace themselves. Foreign migrants partially mask this pain, making European (and US) demographic statistics look better than they otherwise would. Immigrants provide:

Overall, foreign immigrants have a very positive demographic impact in Western Europe, as long as these immigrants are properly integrated into their host societies. Needless to say, this is not always easy to do, either economically, politically, or culturally, and it is certainly not cost-free[2].

Immigration can certainly be part of the solution to Europe's low birth rates, but it cannot be all of the solution. If such immigrants create a false sense of well-being, distracting the native population from the demographic cliff that it is about to go over, it may doom them to destruction.

Because the simple fact is, if Europeans do not start having children, they will commit demographic suicide. It is just a matter of time.

NB. Numbers in this article are mostly data from European official statistical bureaus (like European Union Eurostat, French INSEE, Spanish INE, German Destatis or Swiss Statistical Office), or figures calculated by the author, using such primary data.

The Demographic impact of foreign immigrants on the countries of Western Europe