Linda Nazareth, who is an economist and a self-described ‘futurist,’ and a regular contributor to the Globe and Mail, has written a useful opinion piece for that journal in which she follows up on some thoughts from the World Economic Forum. The world she (and they) says can be seen like this*:
Most of Africa, she says, is Young and Poor; a few (mostly oil-rich Middle Eastern countries) are Young and Rich; much of the world, including e.g. Russia and Latin America, is Old and Poor; many countries, including America, Australia, most of Europe, Japan and Canada, are Old and Rich. It’s nice to be rich, isn’t it? And surely there’s no shame in being old, is there?
No shame, perhaps, but lots of danger. Ms Nazareth uses Japan as an example of a country that:
- Is ageing very rapidly; and
- As she explains, “A third of its population is over 65, a reality that is putting pressure on the country’s health and social services sector. And with so many people well beyond their peak consumer years, Japan has for decades been dealing with a population that has a penchant for saving rather than spending. That is one of the reasons – perhaps the main reason – why it has had an issue with deflation (prices continuously falling) for years, although that has not always been well understood by policymakers.“
She tells us that Japan has, for years, used lower and lower interest rates to stimulate the economy, as America and Canada are doing now, but it has failed to help as much as expected.
She says that “The other way … [in addition to lowering interest rates thet] … rich-old Canada might avoid a Japan-style mistake is by keeping what is inevitably going to be an aging work force productive. Instinctively, this should not be a problem at all, given that older workers presumably have had more years to accumulate skills and knowledge and as such should be more productive than younger people. But,” she adds, “research shows that, as work forces age, productivity tends to fall, perhaps because job requirements change over time and workers are not continuously trained to keep up with them.“
There is, of course, a third way: adopt an aggressive and very well focused immigration policy ~ bring in tens of millions of new and mostly young Canadians who will, some almost instantly, most after a couple of years, be productive members of society and will raise families here. The “look” of Canada will change, somewhat, and a few ‘Neandercons‘ will object to that. But we know, from experience that we get good, productive people from e.g. China, India, Iran and Iraq and the Philippines: they are, usually, already well educated and they raise children who also value learning and hard work. They are just the sorts of Canadians we need to re-energize our economy keep it growing. We don’t just need accountants, engineers and physicians, as Premier Doug Ford has said, we need more carpenters, electricians and plumbers (and soldiers, I would add) too, and we are not ‘growing‘ enough on our own so importing them, through a good, well managed, fair (colour-blind) immigration system is another way to slow the rate at which our whole population is ageing.
We can see and understand the Japanese situation. We can see that lowering interest rates and trying to employ older workers, longer, is not working well enough. Both are useful but neither slows the ageing process. Only a higher birthrate, which appears to be impossible to achieve in most of the developed world, will help … or increased immigration, which we have seen working, and which has worked well, for us.
I’m not talking about refugees nor about the (too many) illegal migrants who have come to Canada. I am talking about well-screened, carefully selected immigrants who want to become productive Canadians. They want to come here and we need them.
* I could have made a better chart, but the trend line is accurate, from Young & Poor to Ols & Rich.