Migration Watch UK has debunked a recent report in the Financial Times suggesting a poll of economists supports the idea that the arrival of a million migrants in 2015 could help solve the eurozone’s economic crisis.
The newspaper of record for the financial industry claimed the poll found the recent migrant influx could help Europe tackle the crisis of ageing and declining populations so long as national leaders find a way to overcome any political risks unsuccessful integration would cause.
The claims of the Financial Times (FT) have been scrutinised by the think tank Migration Watch UK (MWUK), and the results do not make happy reading for the pro-migrant lobby.
For a start, the sample size of the poll was tiny. Only 33 economists were consulted out of many more senior candidates who could have been asked, and the FT reports only ‘several’ of them believe in migration’s magic bullet. MWUK points out: “We are not told how many is ‘several’, who they are, how they were chosen or what the others think.”
In any case, ahead of the recent migrant crisis Germany had already experienced high levels of immigration, both from outside and within the European Union (EU). Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show the population of notional working age in Germany increased by almost 3 million to 42.7 million between 2004 and 2013, and those in employment rose by nearly 4 million to 40.4 million.
Since 2009 the population of Germany has not been in decline and although it has one of the oldest populations in Europe, it is hardly geriatric. In 2014 it had 31.5 persons aged 65 and over for every hundred aged 15-64, the rest of the Euro area had a comparable 29.5.
The enticingly easy option of immigration distracts Germany’s attention from the need to address its structural economic problems. Training migrant workers may provide short term solutions but delay necessary reform and a change in attitude to such things as all-day childcare (German day care centres and primary schools usually close at 1pm).
In fact Germany already has its own demographic reserves which can be called upon to help. World Bank figures show that labour force participation rates are lower than those in comparable European countries, by between 2 and 8 per cent in comparison with the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
In addition, even though the official age of German pension entitlement is 65, the average age of retirement in 2010 was 61.8 and 60.5 for men and women respectively, or between 2 and 6 years earlier than the countries noted above.
As MWUK points out: “In this respect, Germany looks more like Southern than Northern Europe.”
In any case, demographic relief provided by immigration can only ever be transient because migrants also grow old. In order to stop that becoming a burden more immigrants are needed. In 2000 the United Nations calculated Germany would need to import up to 6 million immigrants every year between 1995 and 2050, to a total of 188 million, to maintain a workable age dependency ratio.
Doing that would mean Germany’s population growing to 299 million in 2050, the majority of which would be people with ‘foreign background’. Even today 20 per cent of the German population is comprised of immigrants and their children.
Proponents of migration always talk up the advantages of a skilled workforce, but the labour market participation and educational level of all generations of Turks, the largest minority of non-European Economic Area origin in Germany since the 1960s, remains low, especially among women. Also, Turkish unemployment in Germany is higher than average.
Part of that problem could be addressed by Syrians. Some evidence suggests most Syrian migrants seem to come from urban areas and have higher educational levels and more skills than Turks, who mostly came from rural areas.
However, with one solution comes another problem. Family sizes in Syria are relatively high, and so is the burden of child dependency. World Bank statistics show the participation rate of Syrian women in the Labour force is correspondingly low – 13 per cent in the pre-civil war years compared to 54 per cent in Germany.
MWUK concludes that the huge influx of migrants to Germany in the last year will bring some short term benefit to the labour force, but at a considerable cost in integration and additional housing, and without addressing the long term issue of an ageing population.
The think tank also warns that immigration is no solution to British economic and demographic issues, pointing out the situation in the UK is “radically different” to Germany’s.