Monday, April 23, 2018

Plague, 30-yrs War ... and Post-Modernism: Meet the Hard Math of Demographics

Depopulation and demographic collapse are not unknown concepts, disease and war have brought both on a regular basis to human civilization. Unless you are Mayan, Khmer, or other star-crossed civilizations, complete collapse is rare. What we are seeing now from Japan to China to Europe - especially former Communist Europe - is different. This is by peaceful choice.

People have simply decided not to have children.

Over at Bloomberg, Leonid Ragozin has a great write-up about what happened to the Baltic Republics since the fall of the Soviet Union. As is my wont, let's start with a graph.

This graph is almost standard throughout the former Soviet Union. The non-Muslim parts especially responded to economic and social chaos by doing two things; 1) Stop having families, 2) Emigration.
Several factors are contributing to the depopulation of Eastern Europe, and Latvia has all of them: low income, compared with more developed EU nations; insufficient growth; and strong anti-immigrant sentiment. The average annual take-home pay among all EU nations was 24,183 euros ($29,834) in 2015, according to Eurostat, while in Latvia it was only 6,814 euros ($8,406).

The young and educated are disappearing in the greatest numbers, shrinking the amount of working adults who can fund benefits for pensioners. Latvian demographer Mihails Hazans said that, as of 2014, one in three ethnic Latvians aged 25 to 34—and a quarter of all Latvians with higher education—lived abroad. In Moldova, that figure is more than 20 percent. In Ukraine—which other Eastern European nations look to for migrant labor—the state employment service said 11 percent of the population lives abroad.
With fewer young Latvians staying and getting married, buying houses or starting families, the school system is slowly shrinking. The population is skewing older. Classrooms give way to day rooms.

But Lakse stayed. He went on to college and is now pursuing a legal degree at the University of Daugavpils, Latvia’s second-largest city, which has a population of 86,000. Even for those who stay, though, the pull of the west remains. When students in his class were asked recently whether they were going to stay in Latvia after graduation, almost half said no.
Economics can take time, and in an international environment where educated and motivated people can easily move about, emigration will be an issue. The key is to build a nation your people don't want to leave.

If simple numbers are the issue, as this is Bloomberg and Leonid is Leonid, there is a paper thin discussion of the joys of an immigration fix.
Nine out of 10 countries with the lowest acceptance rate of immigrants are former members of the Eastern bloc. Of these, the three Baltic nations had been previously forced to accept Russian-speaking migrants. In Latvia, the issue is so controversial that in 2015, when the EU insisted it accept just a few hundred Syrian refugees, nationalists initially threatened to withdraw from the government. That same year, Latvia came in second to last in the Migrant Integration Policy Index, which ranks 38 democracies according to the quality of immigration policies. Only Turkey did worse. Latvia was fourth from the bottom in Gallup’s 2017 Migrant Acceptance Score list, which ranks countries in order of their populations’ attitudes to immigrants.

Anti-immigrant sentiment in Latvia is driven, in part, by the National Alliance party, one of three in Latvia’s governing coalition. Speaking in Parliament earlier this year, party official Janis Dombrava quoted polling agency Eurobarometer as showing that 86 percent of Latvians believe immigrants make no contribution to the state.

“Latvia must either completely abandon or minimize the number of migrants who come from third-world countries,” Dombrava said. In October, Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis rejected an EU plan to accommodate an additional 50,000 refugees from the Middle East and Africa. He also defended Poland, which refused to meet the EU-imposed minimum number of refugees it was obliged to accept.

Hazans, the Latvian demographer, has been researching the nation’s slow-motion implosion. Low wages, poor career prospects and poorer working conditions, he said, are the top reasons. He also warned of a parallel political cycle to match the economic one: Since the young leave and the old stay, the electorate gets more conservative, he said, further exacerbating anti-immigrant leanings.
Where can anyone find an example where mass immigration from the Middle East or Africa has been a net-positive to civil society in Europe? Where have any of these large masses produced a boom of per-capita income? What net positive attribute to a nation in 2040 will a critical mass of unemployable, unassimilable, ethnically, religiously, and linguistically people in an already existing ethno-state (Latvians are a distinct ethnic group as are Estonians, Finns, etc) have? 

Go ahead, I'll wait.

This isn't going to happen.

Let pause a moment and wonder if there might be a positive here. By chance, could the Baltic republics be bumping in to avoiding a rising future problem? Again, over to Bloomberg;
Meanwhile, some in the tech industry believe that as machine learning and other technologies continue to replace human labor, basic income will be the only way to guarantee large portions of the human race a decent standard of living.
No one argues this point; the future economic system in the developed world will need fewer people, not more. Machines will take many jobs that require low skills. There will be a higher standard of living on average, but jobs will be scarce. It will be a challenge to find jobs for the educated, the low-skilled? Nope.

Waves of immigrants from Muslim nations and Sub-Saharan Africa are not of skilled and educated people. In the modern economies of Europe, there is no place for them to prosper.

As populations shrink, they will eventually find their level as moods and norms change, as they do. Will they be 30% lower? 50% lower? Who knows, but it will level in the next few decades. What we do know is that there won't be a need more people to take what few low skill jobs there will be.

The best thing for these nations to do - if they wish to remain in peace this century - is to build a high-tech, highly educated people among those kids they do have.

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