After years of a relatively liberal immigration policy, Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans claimed that under the old rules, "we had a lot of cooks, a lot of hairdressers coming ... from overseas, in front of doctors and nurses. It didn't make any sense." Reading the blogs rarely sheds much light on the immigration debates, since hyperbole is the order of the day in most dialog/diatribes on this issue. Especially during tough economic times, populist sentiment blames low-wage immigrants for stealing all the jobs. You want the best and brightest of course, but you also need a continuously replenished wider workforce.
Across the world, countries are experiencing changing demographics, with developing countries generally having growing youthful populations (some countries more than others) while the developed world has an aging population. Japan and Italy in particular have some of the lowest birth rates and most rapidly aging population demographics in the world.
This will create huge problems over the long run for developed countries who are too restrictive in immigration. Japan is probably the canary in the coal mine here, due in part to their highly restrictive immigration policies. As researchers Llewelyn and Hirano put it, "In place of a durable strategic immigration policy, Japan has instead utilized short-term ad-hoc policies to import human capital through a number of 'side door' mechanisms that have allowed its industry to meet demand for unskilled labor at the expense of meaningful debate on the issue of immigration."
Fast forward to the middle of this century and the planet as a whole will face these same problems of an aging society. Except then there will be no outside countries from which young workers can be brought in. That will be a real crisis! In the meantime though, it will be the developed nations with the lowest birthrates and most restrictive immigration policies that will be forging the difficult path of learning how to live with an aging population, supported by a smaller and smaller working population.
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