Friday, December 30, 2011

A note on ethnic conflict and demographics: the Czech Republic

The population of the Czech Republic is similar to that of most European populations in its broad outlines: long life expectancies, below-replacement fertility rates, more-or-less substantial net immigration, all can be found in the Czech Republic. The most notable distinguishing factor of the Czech Republic's demographics lie in its size, now and in the relatively distant past: the Czech Republic is one of the very few countries in the world with a smaller population now than in 1945.

The population of the Czech Republic reached a peak of nearly 11.2 million in 1940 but fell to a mere 8.8 million in 1947, not as a consequence of an especially high wartime death rate but rather primarily because of the expulsion of the roughly three million Sudeten Germans. The population has since grown to 10.5 million, this growth the product first of post-war natural increase then--despite a recent partial recovery in fertility rates--because of substantial net immigration.

Beginning with post-war internal migrants from Slovakia (Slovaks and Roma alike) to the labour-hungry Czech lands, immigration into the Czech Republic became more globalized with a later wave of Vietnamese immigrants who made use of Communist Czechoslovakia's recruitment of Vietnamese students and guest workers in the 1970s and 1980s, to the Ukrainians who left their country in the 1990s to earn a living in a neighbouring country with a strong labour market and permeable borders. (As an aside, I wonder if the Ukrainian presence in the Czech Republic is at all linked to historical Czech interactions with the Carpathian Ruthenia that was historically almost an eastern extension of Slovakia, specifically with the Zakarpattia Oblast that was actually part of Czechoslovakia from independence until its 1945 cession to the Soviet Union.) Bulgarians, Chinese, Russians, and Mongolians are some of the newer groups to appear in the Czech Republic. As a high-income European country the Czech Republic would already be an attractive destination, but that the cultural links maintained by the Czechs with other Slavic populations in central and eastern Europe and the Communist-era political and military links established with countries such as Vietnam and Mongolia has advantaged the Czech Republic relative to its neighbours. From what I can tell, this immigration has been substantially less politically problematic than in most other European countries.

None of this couldt have been the case without the catastrophic ethnic violence of the 1940s, the Nazis' colonization and brutalization of the Czechs being followed by the expulsion of nearly the entire ethnic German population from the Czech Republic's territory after the Nazi defeat. Ethnic conflict determined the demographics of the Czech Republic.

Let's start with immigration. Over at my blog I note that Czechoslovakia came apart so quickly and peacefully because Czechs and Slovaks weren't particularly close, for good and for ill; mild resentments and a certain romantic nostalgia characterized, and characterize, relations between the two largest ethnic groups in the former Czechoslovakia. Czechs and Slovaks were separate groups, and each had its own discrete territory unthreatened by the other. The same wasn't true for Czechs and Germans in the modern Czech Republic. I've argued at my blog that the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans was only possible because of long-standing Czech fears that German influence could be the death of their nation, whether metaphorically through assimilation or actually through genocidal colonization. After the Second World War, the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans was probably inevitable. In a counterfactual scenario where the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans wasn't nearly so complete, where the border regions of the Czech Republic were bicultural if not outright German-majority, I can imagine immigration being a contentious issue. In Québec, immigration has been controversial because of concerns about the impact of immigrants on the language balance. Would the post-Communist immigration-driven population growth of the Czech Republic been possible otherwise?

The demographic and economic geography of the Czech Republic would also be radically different. Before 1945, the population density of the Czech lands was relatively uniform, with many of the Czech lands' borders--the same borders home to the Sudeten Germans--being superbly industrialized. The expulsions changed this, depopulating the areas once populated by Germans and then repopulating them only partially with migrants from elsewhere in Czechoslovakia, the expulsions additionally undermining once-strong regional economies. The net result was to make population, making wealth and industry concentrate that much more strongly in the centre of the Czech Republic, in Prague and environs, and in turn creating peripheries. Some people have noted that these peripheries, in turn, suffered disproportionately from overindustrialization and pollution, as the regions' unsentimental new residents saw their new home as a space where industrial modernity could operate untrammelled by tradition, as a site for mass production and mass consumption regardless of the human and environmental cost. According to a recent study (PDF format), the regions which saw the strongest divergence from Czech and European Union averages (as measured by GDP per capita, not by household income) were the border regions that formed the core of the former German zone of settlement. This peripheralization, coupled with the only partial repopulation of the Czech republic's peripheries after 1945, could plausibly encourage the continued concentration of Czechs and their wealth in the geographic centre of their country. Could these border regions of the Czech Republic have evolved very differently if not for the replacement of their populations?

In the past at Demography Matters, we've looked at how changing norms of gender, trivial connections formed by flows of guest workers or tourists, political concerns, the different ways in which people form families, similarities of language and culture between different populations, even geographic adjacency have led to demographic change of one kind or another. One thing that I don't think that we've ever before taken a look at is the role of ethnic conflict, culminating in ethnic cleansing and even genocide, in triggering demographic change. Thinking about this, I find it more than a bit disturbing since more than a few of the populations we've taken a look at--in Germany, Poland, East Africa, the former Yugoslavia, of course the Czech Republic--have been very strongly influenced by the long-term consequences of ethnic conflict. This will change in the new year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A note on North Korea after Kim Jong-Il

Kim Jong-Il may have died, but North Korea is still damned.

Korea--the south, the north, the peninsula in toto--has been the subject of more than a few posts here at Demography Matters. Korea matters.

Right now, the North and the South are marked by notable imbalances: the south has urbanized, has completed the demographic transition, is in fact at the level of lowest-low fertility, and has begun to receive substantial inflows of immigrants, while the north remains substantially rural and substantially less advanced in the demographic transition and--obviously!--is far more a land of emigration than a land of prospective immigration. South Korea has reached the levels of First World; North Korea combines the worst of the Second and the Third Worlds, with an inflexible totalitarian economy broadly hostile to non-centrally directed enterprise in the context of terrible general poverty. Notably, the South is rather less xenophobic than the North; I wrote back in November 2010 about how the South responds to its deficit of women by sponsoring the immigration of women across East Asia to marry locals, while the North punished women who engaged in survival sex with Chinese men with--at best--the sorts of abortions that didn't involve being kicked repeatedly in the abdomen by members of the security forces.

In the event that the north's border controls weaken sufficiently, as I wrote back in March 2010 sustained mass emigration--to South Korea, an amplification of the existing marriage-driven migration to China, to anywhere--is much the most likely outcome for decades to come. East Germany lost two million people to the West after reunification, and East Germany was--by world standards--a high-income society with relatively advanced consumer industries and a high level of technology. What can North Korea plausibly offer its citizens, especially given the huge improvements in life chances awaiting a North Korean who left and the perhaps (alas) slim likelihood that a new government could trigger quick positive economic transformations.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Five notes from Jacques Pepin's The Origins of AIDS

My response to World AIDS Day on Friday was a post at my blog reacting to the new book by doctor and Université de Sherbrooke professor Jacques Pepin, The Origins of AIDS. This book is a detailed examination of the origin of AIDS, piecing together the chain of events that allowed HIV to transition from minor zoonotic transfer that killed only a relatively few chimpanzee hunters and their intimates to being a global pandemic with tens of millions of dead and infected.

The mechanics behind the transfer of HIV from chimpanzee hosts to humans infected by blood during hunting and butchery are simple enough, while modern surveillance of the epidemic from the early 1980s on gives us a knowledge of how the disease is transmitted into new populations, how it takes hold and how it can be stopped. But how did HIV manage to make the transition from minor zoonosis to aspirant global epidemic?

Pepin argues that HIV wouldn't have seeded a global pandemic had it not been for a perfect storm of events occurring under colonial rule in Central Africa, of which two of the most important are the widespread use of unsterilized hypodermic needles to (among other things) inoculate French colonial subjects against local pandemics and patterns of urban migration in the Kinshasa-Brazzaville conurbation that encouraged the growth of a sex trade suited to accelerating the virus' spread. (For Pepin's purposes, "central Africa" comprises several discrete groups of territories: French Equatorial Africa, a federation of four colonies later countries (Gabon, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad), the French Cameroons that began as a German colony, later became a French mandate under the League of Nations, and eventually dominated; the Belgian Congo produced by the 1908 nationalization of the Congo Free State founded by royal génocidaire Léopold II on his own initiative; and, the non-Francophone anomaly of Equatorial Guinea, at one point the only Spanish holdings in sub-Saharan Africa.)

Pepin's book is all about populations, not only how they die and grow sick but how they live and structure their lives in very challenging situations. A few of the points that Pepin made struck me as worth sharing with Demography Matters' readership.

1. The relatively small populations of central Africa compared to central Africa's colonizers

One thing that jumped out at me when I opened Pépin's book was the ratio between the populations of colonized central Africa and its European colonizers. Central Africa was very sparsely populated.

While the quality of historical demographic data in central Africa is not very high at all, it is fair to suggest that for every person living in central Africa in the 1920s, perhaps four people lived in France and Belgium. The ratio was particularly low in French Equatorial Africa, a region of some two million square kilometres that was estimated in the late 19th century to have had a population of some five million people, more recent estimates suggesting a population that may have been half that. The former German colony of Cameroon had a population somewhere between two and three million people. Even the Belgian Congo, a veritable "subcontinent" as Pépin called it, in the 1920s had a population roughly the same size as its Belgian colonizer of seven or eight million people.

The difference in terms of population densities was vaster still, since central Africa's land area of some 4.7 million square kilometres is eight times the 582 thousand square kilometres of metropolitan France and Belgium combined. Central African populations, well into the lifetimes of many of the people reading this post, were small and (on average) widely dispersed.

Things have changed hugely. Now in 2011, central Africa has approximately twice the population of its colonizing region in Europe, and this ratio of central African population to Franco-Belgian is certain to continue to increase sharply to the relative advantage of the former region. I don't think it's at all speculative to suggest that this change in population ratios has much to do with the end of the French and Belgian empires in this vast area, since imperialism over a vast territory is easier if there isn't a vast population living on it that might contest the imperium's claims.

2. The vulnerability of central African populations to external forces

The small size and very low density of central African populations before the 20th century, and their very rapid growth after that point reflects the terrible vulnerability of populations in the region to outside forces.

Slavery had a hugely negative impact on the region, whether the transatlantic slavery of the European trade directed towards the New World or the Arab trade directed towards northern Africa and the Indian Ocean. Pépin cites estimates that eight hundred thousand slaves may have been taken by European slavers from the central African areas of his study; he doesn't provide estimates for the numbers taken by African slavers. This massive forced migration, sustained over centuries, had demographic impacts apart from the direct one of people leaving their lands of birth. The long-term effects of the central African slave trade included the destruction of much of the human and social capital necessary for the formation and maintenance of large-scale trading networks and polities, this in turn limiting the carrying capacity of central Africa relative to other world regions. The Kingdom of Kongo was destabilized over the long term by the export of people via the Portuguese based in neighbouring Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe.

The formation of European colonial empires in central Africa was also associated with terrible mortality. Much of this mortality was intentional, most famously in the Congo Free State where in the space of a generation the population shrunk by perhaps half from twenty to ten million, produced by a combination of very elevated death rates caused by mass killings, overwork, and their second-tier consequences (famine, disease, migration) and the lowered birth rates of potential parents who opted not to become parents in a country that amounted to an open-air extermination camp. A similarly sharp population decline also occurred in French Equatorial Africa as a result of the region's conquest and its sequelae.

To the best of my knowledge, central Africa is one of the few areas of the world in the modern era where populations consistently declined. Empire can be blamed for this.

3. The vulnerability of central African populations to disease

In my post last December on the dire demographics of the Roman Empire (and by extension, all pre-modern cultures), I followed Vaclav Smil in his identification of central Africa as the closest contemporary proxy for the Roman Empire's high birth rates and almost equally high death rates. In the early 21st century, such an analogy is somewhat strained, since although the region's health indicators--life expectancy, maternal mortality, and the like--lag world norms considerably they've considerably in advance of pre-modern standards.

A century ago? Not so much. Even now, Sub-Saharan Africa generally suffers from a higher burden of endemic disease than other low-income world regions, this substantially a consequence of sub-Saharan African environments. Consistently high temperatures and humidity support the mosquitos that sustain malaria, for instance. What one source identifies as "neglected tropical diseases", a broad collection of parasitical and protozoan diseases generally not present elsewhere in the world or not present to the same degree, seriously hinder the health and economic development of the region's peoples. Central Africa, a region that then as now had comparatively little developed health infrastructure, is and was especially vulnerable.

Tsetse fly-borne trypanosomiasis was the biggest threat to central African populations. Becoming especially widespread in central Africa over the 19th century following the intensified migrations and trade associated with colonial conquest, trypanosomiasis seems to have threatened the depopulation of large regions, with outside observers claiming that the populations of some regions like lowland Uganda or parts of the Congo basin were halved by the parasitic disease.

In Pepin's account, the French responded to this existential threat to the populations by establishing a fairly thorough compulsory medical program relying heavily on the use of hypodermic needles as delivery mechanisms for medicines. Most unfortunately, the hypodermic needles used were not sterilized, the idea of viral contamination of syringes only becoming known in central Africa until after the Second World War. This, Pepin suggests, may have been the thing that took HIV from being a rare zoonotic infection of chimpanzee hunters to being a plague with the potential for far wider spread. In his 2010 paper "Iatrogenic Transmission of Human T Cell Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 and Hepatitis C Virus through Parenteral Treatment and Chemoprophylaxis of Sleeping Sickness in Colonial Equatorial Africa", Pepin's study of a population in the Central African Republic that had received treatment for trypanosomiasis more than sixty years previously revealed that only a small fraction of the people who had been treated and expected to survive to the present actually did: "From historical data, we predicted that 59% of Mbimous 65 years and older would report treatment for trypanosomiasis before 1951; only 11% did so." Why? Noting that the rapid progression of human beings from infection with HIV to death in the space of a single decade made his hypothesis impossible to confirm, Pepin noted that use of unsterilized needles in the region was quite common--"In 1917–1919, of 89,743 individuals screened in Oubangui-Chair (now Central African Republic), 5347 were diagnosed as having trypanosomiasis and treated (mostly with subcutaneous drugs) using only 6 syringes."--and that other viruses known to be transmitted via the same routes as HIV, including Hepatitis C and HTLV-1, were present among the survivors.

HIV may have started as a zoonosis, but Pepin argues that it's only the widespread use of needles in the medical campaigns of France that allowed the rapid transmission of the virus beyond the relatively enclosed networks of kinship that once would have contained the virus. HIV could plausibly have been transmitted to very large numbers of people, some of whom who eventually would make their way to the cities of central Africa.

4. The role of unbalanced sex ratios, specifically, and anti-family sentiments generally, in the amplification of STDs

Central African cities are generally young, often founded as outposts by European colonizers and only seeing rapid growth after the Second World War, when rural-to-urban migration (only sometimes triggered by humanitarian catastrophes) and economic growth made urban life more appealing. In the case of central African cities, rural-to-urban migration was something undertaken mainly by men, as economic actors who (unlike women) had the autonomy as individuals necessary to move. Particularly in the Belgian Congo, migration by women was restricted in a vain effort to prevent the formation of families in urban areas and the entrenchment of urban living as a viable alternative. (This Belgian policy might be best considered as one of a clutch of policies, including the limitations on higher education of Congolese subjects, aimed at keeping the colony firmly under the control of the metropole.)

With the populations of Central African cities being composed disproportionately of young men with active sexual appetites, the unbalanced sex ratio created an opportunity for women to establish lucrative careers as sex workers. Pepin identifies numerous different trends in the sex trade, everything from women who had stable and lucrative relationships with a limited number of people to less fortunate women who exchanged sex anonymously with large numbers of people for pittances. As the economy of independent Congo deteriorated over the 1960s, the latter practice became more common. The formation of large open-ended sexual networks created a perfect environment for HIV's rapid spread. It didn't help that, as Pepin notes, Belgian medical policy in the future Kinshasa for STDs made full use of the coercive power of the state to provide medical treatment for anyone possibly infected with a STD, even the many people infected with yaws and thus providing a false positive for syphillis tests, and that the main medical centre also used unsterilized needles.

It's not a coincidence at all that this model of rural-to-urban migration, encouraging the migration of working-age men to urban centres but discouraging the migration of women and children to same in the hope of limiting permanent urban settlement, is exactly the same model of rural-to-urban migration instituted in southern Africa under apartheid that led to the current stratospheric rates of HIV prevalence throughout the wider region. Belgium echoed South Africa's sustained underinvestment in the human capital of its non-white subjects, and AIDS reaped the benefits.

5. The potential novelty and superficiality of migration-related links

(This principle applies to viruses and human beings alike.)

We could, if we really wanted, blame the HIV/AIDS epidemic outside of sub-Saharan African on la francophonie. After Belgium's hasty withdrawal from the Congo, in the 1960s the country was left without the trained professionals necessary to run the Congolese state. In order to fill the gap while Congo's own higher education system came online, the United Nations recruited thousands of French-speaking Haitian professionals and their dependents, fleeing the dictatorship of Duvalier. Many stayed; some few were infected with HIV; one unfortunate Haitian brought the virus back to his homeland sometime around 1966, as shown by the 2007 research of research of Worobey et al.. From Haiti, HIV made its way to the United States in 1969 and eventually seeded the epidemic in the North Atlantic world that led to the disease's recognition in the developed world a decade, perhaps, after it had become a major killer in central Africa. In the early 1980s in North America, in fact, AIDS was strongly associated in the popular imagination with Haitians, who formed a disproportionate number of the first diagnosed AIDS cases, especially in Québec and Florida where the Haitian immigrant diaspora was most visible. (Randy Shilts' book on the early epidemic, And the Band Played On, quotes a bathhouse owner in Florida who went so far as to say that AIDS was nothing gays in Florida had to be concerned with.)

How did all this happen? The chance historical events that established central Africa as a collection of territories run by Francophone powers, the ill fortune in Haiti that made emigration--not only to obvious destinations in the North Atlantic world, but even to remote central Africa--a good life choice, and the shared use of French in both the sending and the receiving country. Yes, as Paul Farmer noted in his generally quite good take on the Haitian AIDS epidemic, AIDS and Accusation, neither Haiti nor Congo (then Zaire) are as Francophone as France (as France now, at least; Eugen Weber's 19th century France was quite different), but neither had to be. In Haiti, French remained a socially more prestigious and internationally useful language than Haitian Creole; in Congo, a very complex language situation with four regional languages of note and official standing dozens of local languages did give French a privileged position as an official language. That shared language made Haiti and Congo appear in the perspective of the other.

The shape of the modern AIDS epidemic was chance, at many levels. The unfortunate Haitian who seems to have transferred the virus out of Africa might not have been infected, or might have died without transmitting the virus further. In that case, the transmission of HIV outside of Africa could have been delayed by decades, and by the 21st century AIDS would be seen as an overwhelmngly African disease, with the chance associations of the epidemic with gay men and Haitians not coming up. Conceivably, differences in colonial policy towards urbanization and public health, or maybe heightened concern for the possibility of medical contamination, could have slowed down or even aborted the epidemic. If different colonial powers had been active--perhaps the Portuguese, building on the long history connecting between the Portuguese and their Angolan colony with Congo--then even if the same sorts of things that caused the AIDS epidemic occurred it would have progressed in different directions. (Angola and Brazil are both quite lucky to have avoided the large epidemics often predicted for them, and the misuse of improperly sterilized hypodermic needles in Guinea-Bissau under Portuguese rule does seem to have unleashed HIV-2, the less lethal and much rarer variant of HIV, on the world.) Ubangi Shari --> Kinshasa --> Port au Prince --> New York City was not an inevitable trajectory for AIDS, nor was the size or shape of the epidemic to date.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

US-Mexico border activity changing

The Migration Policy Institute has released an analysis Immigration Enforcement in the United States recently with some surprising conclusions about the flow of illegal immigrants in both directions across the US-Mexico border.

Most notably, the analysis shows that

“During the last decade, apprehensions in Southwest sectors peaked in 2000 (1,643,679) and hit their lowest point in 2010 (447,731). “

This is referring to the southern border of the US. Of course, government resources assigned to this border have increased dramatically; so the decrease in apprehensions seems to indicate that far fewer individuals are attempting to cross illegally. If the number of attempts remained constant and enforcement increased, one would expect to see an increase in the number of apprehensions. Perhaps the increase in risk of getting caught and the economic problems in the US are acting as a deterrent to individuals considering attempting the crossing.

On a national basis, “according to DHS, immigration officials made 516,992 apprehensions in 2010 — the lowest number of apprehensions since 1972 when there were 505,949 apprehensions.” Of course the southern border apprehensions make up the majority of this figure, but it is remarkable that the level was last this low almost 40 years ago.

Deportations have fallen as well; the MPI report states that

“The number of removals and returns combined stood at fewer than 1 million in 2010 and the lowest level since 1975. Combined removals and returns in 2010 totaled 863,647, the lowest number since 1975 when removals and returns totaled 680,246.”

These figures would make sense given that deportation can’t occur until an individual is apprehended.

It seems that the net change in illegal residents in the US from south of the Mexican border is now negative, as deportations are greater than apprehensions. If this is the case, then the policy debate regarding this issue needs to be re-examined.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

American workforce has likely permanently changed

The following chart shows the ratio of employed persons to the total population (from the FRB). The ratio spiked up in the 1970′s as women and baby boomers entered the workforce (with a short plunge due to the major recession of the early 1980′s) and stayed high until the economic crash that began in 2008.

A person born in 1950 would have been 25 in 1975; entering the workforce as part of the sharp spike up in the ratio. That same person would have been 58 in 2008, of course. Losing a job at that age means that they are unlikely to find new employment near their peak wages before reaching 65. A lot of people are in that position now; those with savings will need to spend that cash to support themselves. Dis-saving is taking place.

The size of the boomer group compared to the population as a whole indicates that the employment ratio will remain low for the decades of the boomer retirement years.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A brief note on the situation in Greece

The Greek economy is locked in a catastrophic downwards spiral. The odds of things getting better soon are trivial.

Greece is now caught in a Catch-22. The government must slash spending and raise taxes as a condition for getting the bailout cash it needs to pay for government salaries, pensions and operating expenses.

But the deeper Greece cuts, the more the economy shrinks and the less revenue it generates to manage its debts and eliminate its deficit. And the deeper the austerity, the more the Greek people push back, with violent strikes and protests.

As recently as July, the International Monetary Fund was forecasting that Greece would eke out 0.6 per cent growth next year. Now, it appears the economy will shrink 2.5 per cent in 2012 after a 5.5-per-cent slump this year.

And the more the economy contracts, the worse its debt burden becomes.

And as life becomes more difficult for ordinary Greeks, they start to use their capital--economic, cultural--to prepare to leave their country for a better life elsewhere. In an Inter Press Service article, Apostolis Fotiadis' "Lost Generation Begins to Leave", there are suggestions that the predicted emigration has at last begun.

A report published by the Labour Research Institute, belonging to the General Labour Union (GSEE) of private sector workers has predicted rapid deterioration. Officially more than 790,000 are currently out of work. The real numbers are higher because many are not counted due to logistical reasons.

The young coming into the labour market are hit hardest, with unemployment of those between 15 and 29 years rising above 40 percent. This feeds the emigration wave.

Some of the well-off are leaving as well. Andreas Kallisteris dropped a lucrative consultant’s job at the ministry of employment to follow his wife and son to Berlin. His wife, a self-employed translator, was also doing well, but decided to go.

"We are thinking not to ever return," Kallisteris, a highly skilled professional involved in policy making for years told IPS. "I can’t influence the future and I cannot affect the choices made by a failed administration and political system. There are no prospects for this country.

"I am leaving behind me a place that is becoming a desert. With the departure of the best human resources, phenomena like the rise of extreme right and underdevelopment will become acute social issues soon. I will only return if and when this generation that runs the country pulls out."

Old migration roots have been revitalised since last year. People from north-eastern Greece, the hardest hit by the crisis, are trying to return to Germany and Scandinavia where their predecessors flourished as ‘gastarbeiters’ (guest workers) in the fifties and sixties. Countries in Western Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia are the most popular destinations so far.

Up to July this year, 106,775 visits were recorded on the website of ‘Europass’, popular among those looking for jobs in the European Union. By August 55,073 documents were completed by people residing in Greece.

In Australia, after scams that abused the credit details of people promised migration and jobs, the Greek community in Melbourne, that has one of the biggest diaspora communities of ethnic Greeks, has mobilised to accommodate seekers.

The Burgh Diaspora's comment.

The legacy pathway of the gastarbeiters migration is 50-years old. Today's relocation is a testament to the strength of the ties between two communities. Our unit of analysis for international migration is the nation-state. Aggregated in that data are important subnational connections, such as the "Greek" Diaspora in Melbourne. The lines of trust will lead economic refugees to a specific neighborhood in the city, not just anywhere in relatively prosperous Australia. Melbourne isn't necessarily the best rational choice for an immigrant.

My Toronto may well see some new immigrants. Toronto's Greektown, located around east-central Danforth Avenue, is one of Toronto's major ethnic enclaves and, despite the expected drift of second- and third-generation Greek-Canadians away from the area as rents rise and the upwardly mobile suburbanize continues to be a centre of the community.

Greek on the Danforth

One thing I'd like to note is that these anecdotal reports, suggesting that Greek workers are responding to internal devaluation by seeking destinations where their living standards won't be compressed, suggest that the wider European Union is not the dominant destination for Greek emigrants despite the European Union's integrated Europe-wide labour market. The integrated labour market necessary for the functioning of a currency union, in other words, may well not be forming notwithstanding all of the economic pressures on it to form. The consequences of this, for the future of the Eurozone and the economic future of Greece--emigrants who travel far from Greece may be less likely to return, assuming an improvement, than emigrants who stay closer to the country--are evident.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Adomanis on Steyn: Eurabia as an oversimplified story

Writer Mark Adomanis has an extended review of Eurabia theorist Mark Steyn's latest book, the subtly-titled America Alone: Get Ready for Armageddon. Adomanis is critical of Steyn's thesis, since despite his undeniable skill as a raconteur with a good grasp for compelling narratives, it's fundamentally confused if not outright self-contradictory. The core of Adomanis' argument deserves to be quoted at length.

Steyn’s parallel attempts to prove that "statism" is the source of all of the world’s problems (from increasing obesity to stagnating median wages) and that the Islamic world, particularly Iran, is ready to run roughshod over an effeminate and degenerate West, relies on such a tendentious and selective presentation of facts that it actually winds up subtracting from his readers’ understanding of what is actually going on in the world.

According to Steyn, Europe is in a demographic death spiral caused by statism and, at a deeper level, the loss of religious belief and "civilization confidence." Iran, on the other hand, is on the fast track to becoming the dominant power in the Middle East.

Yes, in reality, in 2009, Iran’s fertility rate, which Steyn uses as a heuristic for a society’s overall health, was actually lower than that of Brazil (barely mentioned in "After America"), the United States (doomed, according to Steyn), France (even more doomed, according to Steyn), or the United Kingdom (which is well and truly f*****). If an Islamic revolution and the full-fledged implementation of hardcore Shariah enforced by "morality police" can’t keep Iran’s fertility rate from rapidly collapsing, perhaps the "problem" of declining fertility is actually better explained by the basic pressures of modernity than by the craven adoption of liberalism.

Consider the experience of Muslim countries like Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Despite not being "liberal" in any recognizable sense of the word (indeed, being almost the exact opposite of the coddling social-democratic "nanny states" that Steyn blames for the West’s decline), these countries all experienced sustained and rapid decrease in fertility over the past 20 years. Today, according to the CIA World Factbook, Tunisia and Algeria are below replacement rate (the number of children required to keep a population at a constant level) and several other Muslim-majority countries are right on the cusp. Steyn avoids the problems these facts present for his thesis through the simple and effective tactic of not mentioning them.

Steyn’s knowledge of demographics is remarkably confused. In the concluding chapter, for example, he argues that "much of America is now in need of an equivalent to ... post-Soviet Eastern Europe’s economic liberalization in the early nineties."

He seems unaware that fertility rates collapsed during Eastern Europe’s experiment with economic liberalization. Indeed, not a single post-communist Eastern European country has yet regained the level of fertility it had at the time of communism’s collapse: Once again, Steyn avoids the problems this presents for his thesis by simply leaving it unmentioned.

What I take away from Steyn’s sincere but confused attempt at comparative demographics is the following: He confidently predicts the future supremacy of countries (Iran) that are doomed according to metrics of his own choosing (the total fertility rate) while simultaneously making policy prescriptions (radical economic liberalization) that, when implemented in other countries, have had the effect of exacerbating the trend (decreasing fertility) he’s attempting to reverse.

Admonis makes an additional interesting note at his Forbes weblog.

[I]f, like Steyn, you consider all first-world countries to be irredeemably corrupt, and doomed by excessive debt and insufficient fecundity, what other real-world options are there? There are no free-market wonderlands where the people are rich, the government is small, and everyone is constantly popping out babies – we can only look at what actually happens in observed reality and judging by that there would seem to be (at the absolute least!) strong tensions between economic development, fertility, and political liberty.

We've blogged here in the past about an Iran that has the sort of age structure that could drive an economic boom if the country had better government, or about the demographic transition in the Maghreb and Libya that may soon make most of North Africa a labour-importing area. (We haven't, unfortunately, written at all about a Turkey that's also well advanced in the demographic transition and has already become something of a magnet for its neighbours. Later, we promise.) If the demographic transitition from high-fertility labour-exporting demographic systems to low-fertility labour-importing systems is so far advanced in Europe's neighbours, it's not obvious how these regions will be able to take over a much larger and wealthier continent with more impermeable barriers to entry.

Steyn writes a compelling, direct story (with, agreed, an engaging style of prose): as a result of any number of bad political, economic, and social choices, the West (starting with Europe) has become fatally weakened and is going to be taken over by a civilization that is hostile to the West and antithetical to the values of liberal and conservatives alike. He writes in a time when dystopias if not outright apocalypses are pretty common, being arguably the biggest growth area in young adult fiction. The problem with his particular dystopia is that it oversimplifies things hugely.

The Fertility J-Curve

Take fertility. This graphic illustrates an argument advanced in Nature in 2009 that human development has a complicated relationship with fertility. "[T]here exists a "J-shaped" relationship between human fertility and development — i.e., that further advances in economic development can reverse the decline in fertility rate[, ...] that, in highly developed countries with HDI above 0.9, further development halts the declining fertility rates. This means that the previously negative development-fertility association is reversed; the graph becomes J-shaped." In such a case, rising human development may well lead to rising fertility as increasingly developed societies provide people with more chances to become parent to more children.

This is a contentious argument, many responding by saying that the correlation between higher human development and lower fertility merely weakens as human development rises. Is this weakening uniform, i.e. in some countries is the weakening more significant (or an actual reversal, even) than in others? I'd be interested in breaking the data apart and seeing whether the countries with the highest levels of human development might form high- and low-fertility clusters. Recent increases in fertility in northwestern Europe in the past couple of decades are at least suggestive.

This question isn't answered by Steyn, who simply wants to reverse things to a supposed ideal scenario that might not even exist. Certainly many European countries have higher rates of completed fertility than most of the North African and Middle Eastern countries that have produced large numbers of immigrants to Europe, as Europe's modernizing neighbours come to share in Europe's modern and post-modern demographic norms. It's a complex picture, and deserves to be treated in its full complexity.

The same goes for immigration. Steyn paints a picture of a low-fertility/high-immigration Europe bordering a high-fertility/high-emigration Muslim world that has been rapidly expanding to the exclusion of all other possibilities. The reality, however, is that things are much more nuanced: many emigrants from the countries supposedly directed towards Europe actually go elsewhere in the world in large numbers, differences in fertility between religious groups have narrowed consistently over time, and immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa are hardly the only immigrants moving to Europe. Europe may no longer dominate the world the way it did a century ago, but Europe--the continent as a whole, its component societies--are high-income countries with global connections that have fostered migrations as diverse as those of Ecuadorians to Spain, Vietnamese to Poland, and Sri Lankan Tamils to Norway. The story with immigration to Europe, again, is substantially more complex.

If you oversimplify a model of a real-world system you're going to come up with not an efficient model of the real world but a broken one. Eurabia as presented by Steyn is like that, no matter how compelling a storyline he weaves about it. We need higher criticism, desperately, for analyses of demographic situations of all kinds.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A note on changing dependency ratios and migration

The concerns I expressed about Canadian immigration patterns and policies risking the reproduction of patterns of socioeconomic inequality linked to immigration status and ethnicity are all the more salient in light of this Statistics Canada report on projected changes in the Canadian labour force.

Using a range of projection scenarios, the labour force is projected to grow to between 20.5 million and 22.5 million by 2031. In 2010, the labour force numbered about 18.5 million.

[. . .]

Between 1971 and 1976, when the large baby-boom cohorts were entering the labour market, the labour force increased at an average rate of just over 4% a year. This growth rate slowed to about 1.4% between 2006 and 2010. By 2016, growth is projected to be less than 1% on average in all scenarios. Projections show it could slow even further to between 0.2% and 0.7% in the period from 2021 to 2026.

In four of the five scenarios, the growth is projected to stop slowing after 2026, once most baby boomers have left the labour force.

The projections also suggest that, if recent trends continue, the labour force will become older and increasingly ethnoculturally diverse. Close to one person out of four in the labour force could be aged 55 or over by 2021. There would also be higher proportions of foreign-born people and people belonging to a visible minority group (as defined by the Employment Equity Act) in the labour force.

As the growth of the labour force loses momentum, the population of seniors aged 65 and over is projected to grow increasingly rapidly as a result of population aging and the entry of the baby boomers into this age range.

[. . .]

In 2010, the participation rate was 67.0%; by 2031, it is projected to range between 59.7% and 62.6%, which would be the lowest observed since the late 1970s.

The projected decline in the overall participation rate over the next two decades would be largely attributable to demographic phenomena, such as the aging of the baby-boom cohorts, increasing life expectancy and a fertility rate below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.

The aging of the baby boomers, which is largely behind the projected decline in the overall participation rate, has had a major impact on the aging of the labour force. Between 2001 and 2009, the proportion of people in the labour force aged 55 and over rose from 10% to 17%, an increase of 7 percentage points in nine years. The first baby boomers reached the age of 55 in 2001.

[. . .]

In 1981, there were roughly six persons in the labour force for each retiree. By 2031, or 50 years later, this ratio is projected to decline to less than three to one, according to all five scenarios. The ratio is projected to decline in every province.

By 2031, roughly one in every three people in the labour force could be foreign born. Between 1991 and 2006, the percentage of foreign-born people in the labour force rose from 18.5% to 21.2%. If recent immigration levels were to continue, that proportion is projected to reach almost 33% in 2031, according to most scenarios.

If labour forces remain largely static, it's not good at all to have a large and growing share of the national population shut out for reasons linked to ethnicity. This is the problem facing the western province of Saskatchewan, where the First Nations population is growing rapidly but remains underemployed.

"If you have a large 65-plus (population) and don't match that with an increase in the labour force size, then your dependency ratio or the health care costs or other costs associated with the retired group may be a concern," said University of Saskatchewan policy and labour expert Rose Olfert.

"On the other (hand), if those baby boomers have good retirement plans and have lots of good discretionary spending, they can also be a source of expenditure and growth for the economy as they begin to spend all their hard-earned money that they acquired over their lifetime."

Olfert warned that as bay boomers retire they will leave "a relative vacuum of experience and skills on the part of the incomers." That puts skilled and educated labour at a premium.

It's not just a numbers game, she said, but an issue of quality. Attracting and retaining workers will be a difficult and competitive process and Saskatchewan will be competing with other provinces and other countries to fill the void.

[. . .]

"We need to engage aboriginal people like never before, both as employers and as employees," he said.

High unemployment rates in the aboriginal community means that population could help meet the labour demand and, with numerous policies and programs in place, progress is being made. A recent Statistics Canada report shows offreserve aboriginal employment in Saskatchewan grew by 3,300 jobs in July from a year ago. Employment among aboriginal youth was up by 500 jobs.

"It's just that the challenge is large and even though these policies and practices are successful and are working to a large extent, they seem to not be enough," Olfert said. "It's as though you are running fast, but you have to run a little bit faster to keep up."

As for the situation in labour-exporting New Brunswick, it can be safely described as potentially catastrophic.

In New Brunswick, the labour force participation rate was at 64 per cent in 2010 and is expected to fall to between 54 and 58 per cent by 2031 - roughly six percentage points below the national average.

While the proportion of the labour force aged 55 and over is expected to reach 24 per cent in Canada by 2031, it's expected to be three percentage points higher in New Brunswick.

At the same time, the ratio of workers to retirees by 2031 is expected to be three to one in Canada and two to one in New Brunswick.

The bleak outlook is partly due to the fact the population in New Brunswick is already older than in Canada overall, Lebel said.

Seniors made up 14.7 per cent of the province's population in 2006, one percentage point higher than the proportion for Canada as a whole, according to census data.

At the same time, New Brunswick's fertility rate of 1.59 children per woman is lower than the national average - 1.68.

Almost half of the population could be more than 65 years of age by 2031, according to medium-growth projections based on historical trends by Statistics Canada.

Saskatchewan at least has a reasonable prospect of following in the path of neighbouring Manitoba.

The famous United Nations report on replacement migration of a decade ago produced some interesting results. One of these results was the confirmation that rapid population aging is irreversible. In the admttedly extreme case of South Korea, experiencing rapid aging owing to the collapse in fertility rates from the very high level of the 1960s to the very low levels of the past decade. In order to keep the exceptionally 1995 high ratio of workers to seniors, 5.1 billion immigrants would be needed. Among other things, transforming the southern half of the Korean peninsula into a vast arcology would be problematic. Declining dependency ratios are inevitable; it's occurring worldwide. Even immigration won't necessarily change dynamics, since immigrant populations would have to have exceptionally and unrealistically high birth rates to reverse secular trends (this, in turn, having its own obvious problems).

That same report on South Korea did suggest that certain relatively medium-term improvements might be sustainable; the numbers and proportions of immigrants and immigrant descended people necessary to sustain either the peak population of South Korea or the peak working-age population of South Korea seems possible. South Korea is more open to immigration than neighbouring Japan, at least, and the movement of people from Vietnam, China, and the Philippines associated with marriage-driven immigration could contain the seeds for a broader migratory movement. South Korea might come to emulate a Canada that is enacting something very much like those policies right now, you could say. For those policies to work, though, you need a labour force that is permeable to people of diverse backgrounds at every level. Besides being a waste of resources, the ethnic segmentation of a workforce carries obvious dangers for social cohesion. Creating immigrant underclasses through migration policies which don't give immigrant the chance to acquire the cultural and economic capital needed to integrate, as we've seen in many countries around the world, is--besides being foolish--self-destructive.

Migration policies really need to be thoroughly thought-out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Some notes on new immigration trends in Canada

In the right-leaning Canadian daily newspaper the National Post, policy analyst and writer Steve Lafleur recently had an article titled "Only more immigrants can save Canada’s economy" published. How many more immigrants, and why so many more?

In his immigration policy remarks on July 19, Minister Jason Kenney acknowledged that Canada would need roughly one million immigrants per year in order to maintain the ratio of working age citizens to retirees. Citing a lack of resources for integrating new Canadians, and a concern that accelerating immigration levels too rapidly could lead to a nativist backlash, he said that it won’t happen.

While the Minister’s expressed concerns are valid, they pale in comparison to the demographic reality. The proportion of Canadians aged 60 and over is projected to increase from roughly one-fifth to nearly one-third by 2020. Our national debt stands at over $582-billion, and is increasing at a rate of more than $1,400 per second. This burden doesn’t include provincial government debts, or unfunded pension liabilities such as the $748-billion shortfall for the CPP. For those Canadians hoping to start collecting CPP in the next decade, the question shouldn’t be if we can integrate one-million immigrants per year, but how.

While taking in four times more immigrants than we do now would present some logistical challenges, they are not insurmountable. One criticism against more immigrants is that more immigrants will put greater stress on the housing market. This assumes that the housing stock is fixed, and that all immigrants will go to the hottest real estate markets. Canada’s three biggest cities have admittedly been hostile to new development, which is pricing many out of the market. A healthier attitude toward development will be crucial if those cities are to remain affordable.

However, the immigration question presents a great opportunity not just for smaller metropolitan areas, but for rural areas as well. Rural areas in Canada are often resource rich, but population poor. It is most evident in Saskatchewan, where there are typically 10,000 vacancies in any skilled trade in the province. There are plenty of resources, but not many people. Saskatchewan is twice the size of Germany, with 1/80th the population. There is no shortage of room or resources.

Smaller centres also offer the advantage of lower cost housing, and would require less expensive infrastructure upgrades. Manitoba is leading the country in terms of targeted immigration to smaller centres. Rural Manitoba received nearly 3,200 immigrants in 2008 alone, and the province is clamouring for more. For too long, our immigration policy has been fixated on Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. High levels of rural immigration can revitalize communities, and Manitoba has shown the way.

I see any number of problems with this. Leaving aside the question of whether such vastly increased immigration would be acceptable to the Canadian electorate, I wonder if Canada should enact this policy given the continuing lags in income and employment relative to the Canadian average experienced not only by first-generation immigeants but apparently many of their Canadian-born children. Is it ethical for a country to sharply increase levels of immigration if it can't guarantee the integration of these immigrants and their children into the community on equal terms with native-born? Canadians have a myth of their country as a country open to all. The ongoing growth of class and income disparities in the city of Toronto right now defined substantially by ethnicity and immigration status could disprove this thesis quite badly.

Lafleur does bring up the interesting success of the province of Manitoba. Manitoba Labour and Immigration's 2009 report does suggest that the province, twice as many immigrants as the neighbouring province of Saskatchewan that also has a population of roughly one million (13 520 in Manitoba in 2009 versus 6 890 in Saskatchewan). This may have something to do with the distribution of the Manitoban population. Winnipeg is the province's capital and largest city, and with its hinterland, accounts for seven-tenths of the province's population. Opportunities offered by economies of scale may exist in Manitoba thanks to Winnipeg that don't exist in Saskatchewan, where less than a quarter live in the largest city of Saskatoon and a fifth in the provincial capital of Regina a substantial distance away. The previous mentioned report does suggest that a percentage of immigrants roughly proportional to Winnipeg's share of Manitoba's population does settle in Winnipeg, however, suggesting that the rest of province is also attractive. Rates of unemployment in Manitoba are consistently 2% or more below the Canadian average, with Saskatchewan in a similar position. Presumably Manitoba is doing something right insofar as attracting immigration goes. Is it doing right by its immigrants? Research is called for.

For that matter, my native Prince Edward Island is also apparently doing something right. Taking in absolutely as many immigrants (some two thousand per year) as the much larger adjacent provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the province is really surprising me.

When a Chinese immigrant visits Brown’s Volkswagen in Charlottetown, general manager Skip Rudderham is prepared: He has interpreters on speed-dial and bilingual business cards. Prince Edward Island, with its reputation of homogeneity and conservatism, may not seem the likeliest province to require such measures, but require them it does: Chinese immigration is transforming the island both culturally and economically.

“We would quite literally hire every qualified [Chinese] person we could get our hands on,” said Mr. Rudderham. “Our Chinese clientele is large enough that we could keep this person busy basically dealing with that clientele alone.”

[. . .]

Since the province started recruiting skilled and affluent immigrants through its Provincial Nominee Program in 2001, upward of 10,000 newcomers have called P.E.I. home. But while the province of just 143,200 is undergoing a metamorphosis at the behest of immigration generally, it is immigration from a land of nearly 1,337,000,000 in particular that is driving the novel shift.

China has been the chief source of immigration to P.E.I. for the past five years, with nearly 2,400 newcomers arriving between 2006 and 2009 alone, according to the province’s Population Secretariat. Most of those newcomers at least initially settled in Charlottetown, where the population was just 32,000 at the time of the census in 2006.

[. . .]

That fact has not been lost on the government, which is looking to counter a natural-population-growth rate that has shrunk to almost zero. Provincial spending on resettlement programs doubled to more than $4.2-million between 2008 and 2009, and it has paid off: P.E.I’s population rose by nearly 400 in the first quarter of this year, making it the only Atlantic Canada province to see an increase.

[. . .]

Hamish Redpath, a realtor who recently launched a monthly bilingual publication called Ni Hao PEI (Mandarin for “Hello P.E.I.”), said he regularly shows homes to Chinese newcomers at prices ranging between $400,000 to $1.5-million. He said the Chinese community is peppered throughout Charlottetown and across the bridges in communities such as Stratford and Cornwall.

“They’re interested in beautiful homes, with water views or right on the waterfront,” Mr. Redpath said, adding that he serves Chinese families looking for more modest abodes, too. “I have also shown Chinese families some rural homesteads outside of Charlottetown. They have lived in Beijing all their lives and they talked to me about the pollution and the crazy traffic, so to come here and have five acres and a little farmhouse for a couple hundred thousand bucks is a dream come true.”

A fourfold increase in immigration is probably impossible. If Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, two provinces not known as receivers of immigrants, are encountering success, then there may well be a diffusion of immigrants beyond the country's traditional gateway cities--Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver--that could bode well for immigrant integration into the country's labour markets and national life as a whole.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Rust belt migration in the USA

I recently came across a site titled Burgh Diaspora authored by Jim Russell, a geographer who focuses on human capital issues particularly related to the city of Pittsburgh, but covers the wider area commonly referred to as the "Midwest" and "the Rust Belt"(referring to abandoned factories).

Russell's point of view is unconventional and he challenges the conventional wisdom regarding the relative prospects of metro areas throughout the US. The site asks the question:

Since education makes a person more likely to leave your region, how do you justify your investment in human capital?

This seems based on the idea that graduates of local universities leave due to the industry centers of modern America being located anywhere but Russell's home region. Russell challenges the idea that a "brain drain" from the heartland is actually taking place.

One factor affecting migration to this region that seems to appear in Russell's accounts is a certain amount of xenophobia in this region; he documents instances where the residents of some areas are hostile to "outsiders" potentially migrating in. This would be a major obstacle if attracting workers from other parts of the US is a goal for governments in this region.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Demography's misuse, or, going from Eurabia to mass murder

Demography matters so much that one man, Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, decided to become a mass murderer on account of what demography supposedly told him.

As has been noted worldwide, the tendentious concept of "Eurabia"--a Europe doomed, via Muslim fecundity and the fecklessness or outright self-hatred of its governing elites, to become Muslim--is the single idea most responsible for Breivik's decision to kill as many future potential multiculturalist traitors to Norway and Europe as possible. Journalist Doug Saunders elaborates on this in a video post from Oslo for the Globe and Mail.

Saunders has posted at his website a collection of Breivik's comments posted at the Norwegian blog revealing the man to be preoccupied with pop demography of the least analytical sort. (No, Lebanon is not a relevant model for any plausible European future, not least because of the substantial territorial changes coupled with unprecedented history of sustained mass emigration and the numerous bloody, bloody wars.) Going into more detail, blogger P.Z. Myers noted that in his screed, Breivik was concerned with the ridiculously precise micromanagement of fertility along the misogynistic lines described by Margaret Atwood in her 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale.

1. Limit the distribution of birth-control pills (contraceptive pills): Discourage the use of and prevent liberal distribution of contraceptive pills or equivalent prevention methods. The goal should be to make it considerably more difficult to obtain. This alone should increase the fertility rate by 0,1 points but would degrade women's rights.

2. Reform sex education: Reform the current sex education in our school institutions. This may involve limiting it or at least delaying sex education to a later age and discourage casual sex. Sex should only be encouraged within the boundaries of marriage. This alone should increase the fertility rate by 0,1 points.

3. Making abortion illegal: A re-introduction of the ban on abortion should result in an increased fertility rate of approximately 0,1-0,2 points but would strip women of basic rights.

4. Women and education: Discourage women in general to strive for full time careers. This will involve certain sexist and discriminating policies but should increase the fertility rate by up to 0,1-0,2 points.

Women should not be encouraged by society/media to take anything above a bachelor's degree but should not be prevented from taking a master or PhD. Males on the other hand should obviously continue to be encouraged to take higher education - bachelor, master and PhD.

Adds Myers, "It's all about fertility, ladies, and if only we keep you ignorant and trapped in the home, you'll start pooping out babies for us. Isn't that sweet?"

Demography's a concern of this blog, obviously, as are future population changes. The signal difference is that we at Demography Matters are concerned with fact-based linkages, writing, and research, taking a look at what actually goes on insofar as populations evolve because demography matters enough to be taken seriously. We engage with myths like Eurabia not least since these kinds of catastrophic theories do very little to create informed discussion on the subject. People are not going to talk or act in rational manners about immigration or population aging or anything of the kind of they think that the future of their country is doomed. This may especially be so if they think that their country's doom is indeed that is an intended consequence of their evil political elite.

As a co-blogger of mine over at History and Futility, Jussi Jalonen, wrote earlier today, the whole knot of anger and misunderstandings and conspiratorial mindsets surrounding Eurabia that motivated Breivik exist at the center of an increasingly influential political network.

Following the modus operandi of all publicity-seeking mass murderers, Breivik wrote a manifesto where he openly stated his motives and clarified his political opinions in detail. Published in the internet, the “European Declaration of Independence” – which can be downloaded from here – is essentially a grotesque compendium of blog posts and columns, tied together with Breivik’s own narrative. The quoted writings all have in common an openly islamophobic, anti-immigration theme. According to Breivik’s twisted, but coherent logic, the “multiculturalist Marxist establishment” is attempting to convert the European Union into a “Marxist superstate, the EUSSR”; these “cultural Marxists” are also responsible for the “mass Muslim immigration” and “islamization” of Europe. Breivik is, in other words, a true believer in the so-called “Eurabia”-predictions previously discussed also on this blog, and he also believes that an open discussion of these threats was impossible due to the pervasive European “political correctness”. In his own words, Breivik was using the mass murder as means to “send a message” to the “Marxist, multiculturalist elites”. His chosen method was to wipe out the next generation of the left-wing politicians whom he saw as the culprits of the immigration policy and the destruction of his cherished European civilization.

What’s important to remember is that Breivik’s ideology was not original, and his sick ideas were not of his own making. In essence, he was a product of the internet age, a dedicated consumer of the radical anti-Muslim political propaganda which has circulated around the websites and weblogs ever since the 9/11 attacks and the controversial Muhammad cartoon episode. Breivik maintained a lively interest in the most notable anti-Islam bloggers, such as “Fjordman”, with whom he occasionally seems to have corresponded, advertising his book project; one example of their dialogue can be found here, in the comment section. The title of Breivik’s book, “Declaration of European Independence”, is actually borrowed from a column which “Fjordman” wrote for the cultural-conservative “Brussels Journal”-blog. Breivik describes his ideology by the name “Vienna School of Thought”, which is a reference to another well-known paranoid anti-Islam blog, “Gates of Vienna”.

This internet sub-culture where Breivik spent his pastime has not been without political significance. The very same post-modern, radical, fanatic cultural-fundamentalist atmosphere which produced Breivik has made serious inroads to the mainstream politics in the Western World, basing its success on populism and fear. The writers who inspired Breivik included known Muslim-baiting hate-mongers such as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and Daniel Pipes, and he was fascinated by the Tea Party movement. Geert Wilders, the head of the Dutch PVV and the producer of Fitna, was among Breivik’s heroes, and his book even mentions – in one of the quoted posts from “Fjordman” – Jussi Halla-aho, a Finnish anti-Islam blogger who was elected as an MP of the populist “True Finns” party in the last elections and became the chairman of the parliamentary committee in charge of police, border guard and the immigration affairs. Breivik’s book endorses several “anti-immigration, cultural conservative organizations”, ranging from the Sweden-Democrats to the Polish PiS, all of which he saw as the possible salvation of the Continent from the supposed evils of multiculturalism and immigration. The only thing which made Breivik special was his conviction that this parliamentary political activity needed to be supplemented with direct action, and he saw himself as the man who could provide it.

Demography matters too much to be left unchallenged to the sorts of people who would use the study of population--or more precisely, what these people think counts as the study of population--to justify all manner of horrors. Beware.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Four links on the Canadian census

Tonight, I thought I'd limit myself to posting four links dealing with the transformation of the Canadian census from a detailed mandatory form to a shorter optional questionnaire. (I've blogged about the issue here on several occasions, link to these post to be found here.)

  • The Toronto-focused blog Torontoist's Max Hartshorn asked in "Can An Optional Questionnaire Fill the Shoes of the Long-Form Census?" the question of the post's title. Given the likelihood of over- or under-representation of different demographics, the likelihood that recent trends may be missed, and the generallly lower resolution of the National Household Survey, the answer seems to be a decided "no."

  • The major problem with an optional survey, Hiu says, is that it may over- or under-represent certain segments of the population. When you give a group of people an optional questionnaire, there is always a chance that those who don’t respond will differ in meaningful ways from those who do. In the case of the NHS, researchers argue that ethnic minorities, and individuals with very low or very high incomes, will be least likely to respond.

    [. . .]

    One possible solution is to use data from previous censuses to fill gaps in NHS results. The so-called "imputation" of missing results through the aid of external data is a standard statistical technique. But it runs into problems if the data you are using to plug holes differ in meaningful ways from your obtained results.

    [. . .]

    Such technical issues are of great concern to Toronto city planner Tom Ostler and health policy professional Paul Fleiszer, both of whom use the long-form frequently in their work.

    Fleiszer, who works for Toronto Public Health, says that his department “uses data on language, immigration, ethnicity, income, and education, all previously available from the long-form, to guide our programs and policies."

    "For example, we offer tuberculosis prevention initiatives to people that have immigrated from countries where tuberculosis is endemic. The long-form identified areas where those populations live so we knew which neighborhoods to offer classes in."

    "One critical [item] that we use in city planning in particular," Tom Ostler says, "is the question of where people work and linking that question to where they live. [This gives us] a picture of commuting flows across the city," which can help in planning bus routes and transit initiatives.

    "Even just a basic statistic like the number of people who are working inside the city of Toronto," Ostler explains, helps the City set job targets for the future. These targets influence how much money will be invested in employment services and infrastructure.

    "At the end of the day," says Fleiszer, "if you don't have good data, you can't make good decisions. That irritates me as a public health professional."

  • At The Search, Douglas Todd observed that the census, by providing a finely-detailed portrait of the Canadian population in all of its diversity, allows government to respond and treat the different issues of these populations accordingly. It's a long-standing tradition, after all.

  • According to senior Statistics Canada official Tina Chui, the federal government has been asking about religion and ethnic origin since 1871.

    Even though some countries don't include such questions in their census, Ottawa originally asked them because the country's two "founding" peoples were French (mostly Roman Catholic) and British (mostly Protestant).

    It wouldn't have been possible more than a century ago for the federal government to respond fairly to the contrasting needs of these two ethnic/religious groups if it didn't have facts and figures about them.

    Now that multicultural Canada, which has the world's highest immigration rate per capita, is home to people who speak more than 200 languages, it's more important than ever to track residents' ethnicities and religions.

    [. . . T]his year's census questions have been translated into more than 30 languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Creole, Romanian and many aboriginal tongues. Moreover, census staff are always following up to encourage completion.

    Why go to all the trouble? Chiu reminds us that solid ethnic and religious data will help school boards serve diverse students. They will aid ethnic community groups in supporting their clients. They will assist businesses in targeting customers, based on cultural backgrounds. They will lend a hand to researchers monitoring ethnic and religious discrimination, and governments creating effective training programs.

  • The CBC posted a simple article: "Census workers getting partial answers on householder surveys".

  • Statistics Canada is accepting incomplete forms – called partial responses – and there is no followup.

    "On the (short) census, we will follow up since the census is mandatory, so if we don't have a minimum amount of information or there are inconsistencies, it is possible that we'll call people to clarify the information that was provided," said Marc Hamel, director general of the census management office.

    "We don't do that on the National Household Survey. We make the assumption ... if they have omitted to complete one question or a section, we go on the assumption knowing that it's a voluntary survey that they've omitted to complete that on purpose."

    One census enumerator, who spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity, said workers had been instructed to accept the long forms with as few as 10 of 84 questions answered. They can also declare somebody has given them a "total refusal" simply by speaking to them on the phone.

    "We can try and convince them and talk about how it's a good thing, but a lot of people shut down the conversation quickly when they find out it's not mandatory."

  • Finally, the Globe and Mail's Stephen Gordon is very unhappy with what is happening.

  • As Economy Lab contributor Kevin Milligan and his UBC colleague David Green note in Canadian Public Policy, one of the most striking features of the census is its ‘hidden ubiquity’. The census is an invisible -- and yet essential -- element of virtually all the data that inform policy debates.

    The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is the source of the monthly employment data release. Some 55,000 people are polled, and participation is (so far) mandatory. But in order to make sure that this panel of 55,000 people is a representative sample, the LFS checks to see if its panel has the same features as the Canadian population as a whole: levels of income, education and the like. The only available reference point to make this verification is the census. As time passes, it will be less and less clear if announced changes in unemployment rates are due to what is actually happening in the labour market, or is simply an artefact of an increasingly biased sample.

    The Consumer Price Index (CPI) tracks the price of a ‘representative basket’ of goods and services. The price of this basket is of interest only insofar as it is representative of Canadians’ expenditures, and estimates for representative spending patterns are based on the Survey of Household Spending. This is a voluntary survey, so responses have to be corrected so that the panel or respondents reflects the general population. Again, the only available reference for making this correction is the census.

    Employment and inflation data have the power to move markets, and policy-makers need reliable data to guide their decisions. The list is goes on, and is almost endless. For example, the labour market experiences of immigrants will be an increasing preoccupation for policy-makers as the population ages; the only source of information about immigrants is the census.

    Go, read all these sources.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    On African immigration to Latin America

    A Deutsche Welle English-language article pointed me to an interesting new phenomenon, that of African immigration with Latin America as a final destination--most notably Argentina, but also Brazil. I first heard about the phenomenon back in 2009, but this largely anecdotal phenomenon seems to be getting more attention of late.

    It's rush hour on Avenida Rivadavia in the buzzing, pulsating quarter of Once in Buenos Aires. On the pavement, street vendors have put up small stands every two meters: Earrings, watches and sunglasses are spread out on big shawls on the floor, they pile up in suitcases, or dangle from umbrellas.

    "It's cold," says one of the vendors, rubbing his hands. Koaku Bu Date Rodrigue was born in Ivory Coast. The 25-year-old came to Argentina two years ago.

    "My country is in a civil war. I was forced to fight in a rebels' group," says Koaku. "One morning I managed to escape. I made my way to San Pedro port and hid in the container room of a ship." Koaku doesn't remember just how long he had to hide for. When the ship stopped moving he was in Argentina.

    Every year, hundreds of thousands of Africans leave their home countries. Many want to go to Europe. But the EU has been sealing off its external frontiers.

    "I had heard of Europe, but I didn't know how to get there. You need money and you need to know people," says Koaku.

    Like Koaku, many Africans are therefore now considering other destinations, such as Latin America. In Argentina, the number of African migrants and refugees has more than doubled since 2005.

    The national refugee commission CO NA RE has registered more than 3,000 over the past five years. Illegal immigrants from Africa today make up the second largest group of asylum seekers in Argentina. Most of them come from Senegal or Ivory Coast. Neighbouring Brazil reports similar developments.

    Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire, it's worth noting, are arguably the two West African countries most closely integrated with global migration flows. A Reuters article goes into greater detail.

    In Brazil, Africans are now the largest refugee group, representing 65 percent of all asylum seekers, according to the Brazil's national committee for refugees.

    There are now more than 3,000 African immigrants living in Argentina, up from just a few dozen eight years ago. The number of asylum seekers each year has risen abruptly, to about 1,000 a year, and a third of them are African.

    "We're seeing a steep increase in the number of Africans coming to the country and seeking asylum," said Carolina Podesta, of the Argentine office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

    This is still low compared to the tens of thousands of immigrants who make the journey to Europe each year, but Africans are expected to come to Latin America in increasing numbers.

    "It's a search for new destinations," Podesta said, adding that many were being pushed by tougher European immigration and security policies put in place after September 11, 2001.

    [. . .] Africans might arrive on cargo ships or commercial planes and then seek asylum or overstay tourist visas. In Argentina, they can obtain temporary work visas shortly after arriving and renew them every three months.

    "The migratory policies of the country are very favorable," said Manzanares. "It's a reflection of history. What happened with European immigrants 100 years ago is now happening with African immigrants."

    The Democratic Republic of Congo is also a major source of migrants, given the ongoing horrors, while Brazil has been connected with Lusophone Africa--Angola and Mozambique particularly--even since the post-independence migrations.

    The accounts of African immigration to Argentina and Brazil emphasize the similarities between this 21st century migration and the migrations from Europe to South America which began in the late 19th century, driven by the search for economic opportunity. (Parallels with the African slave trade that inflicted so much suffering, thankfully, haven't been raised.) The critical difference between these two migrations is that the African migrants number in the thousands, while the Europeans numbered in the millions. This may change--with the increasing difficulty of getting into Europe or even the Maghreb, the relative attractiveness of Argentina and Brazil as immigration destinations, the apparent relative ease of legalization in Argentina, and what may be the beginning of chain-migration networks set up by these first African immigrants, the phenomenon may indeed take on the proportions of the earlier European migration. Certainly it merits watching.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    On the very unlikely Eurabianization of southern Europe

    David P. Goldman, a writer and economist who first appeared writing for Asia Times under the moniker of "Spengler", has gained a lot of fame on the Internet for his articles, combining as they do hard figures with a pronounced conservatism and interest in pop demographics. Notwithstanding his sketchy past ties with the LaRouche movement, a rather conspiratorial movement claiming to favour a new industrialism and oppose genocidal conspiracies like those of the British royal family--I was told once that if the US and China combined their strengths they could destroy the old system and we'd be on Mars in thirty years--he's worth paying attention to, at the very least because so many people do just that.

    A recent post at Goldman's Asia Times blog Inner Workings, "Southern Europe: Hopeless But Not Serious", takes a look at the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) and their dire economic future. The dire future of all of them save Ireland, mind; ultra-low fertility and rapid aging will do the rest in.

    That is true for the moment, when the elder dependent ratio for Southern Europe stands at around 25%. Between 2020 and 2045, however, the infertility of Southern Europe will catch up with it, and the elder dependent ratio will rise to over 60%–an impossible, unmanageable number. At that point the character of these countries will change radically; they will be overwhelmed with immigrants from North Africa as well as sub-Saharan Africa, who will not have the skills or the habits of civil society to maintain economic life. And their economies will slide into a degree of ruin comparable only to that of classical antiquity. Perhaps the Chinese will operate Greece as a theme park. Spain, which can draw on Latin American immigrants, is likely to be the least badly off.

    Strictly speaking, Ireland should not be included among the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain). Although post-Catholic Ireland has lost its famous fecundity, Ireland’s fertility rate still hovers around replacement. The Irish economy was far too dependent on offshore finance as a source of employment and suffered disproportionately from the collapse of the credit bubble in 2008. But this small country also has high-tech manufacturing and other industries which make the eventual restoration of prosperity possible. The southern Europeans are doomed. They have passed a demographic point of no return. There simply aren’t enough females entering their child-bearing years in those countries to reverse the rapid aging.

    I wouldn't necessarily disagree with much of this. The rapid aging of southern Europe's populations and the shrinkage of the cohorts of youth, combined with the effects of the internal devaluation given the region's adoption of the Euro, and a general lack of economic competitiveness, does augur bad things. Edward Hugh has written about the very low trend economic growth rate in Italy (Portugal in passing, too). Absent very unlikely transformations in southern European demographic profiles, things can be problematic. I also think Goldman is right to suggest that Spain, with its well-established links with Latin America, may avoid many of the worst effects.

    Where do I disagree? My lesser disagreement relates to the ways in which the effects of population aging may well be mitigated by better health. We've written in the past about longevity, exploring the ways in which longevity is being extended. The intriguing concept of "disability-free life expectancies" may provide a potentially very useful paradigm.

    [M]any people over 65 are not in need of the care of others, and, on the contrary, may be caregivers themselves. The authors provide a new dependency measure based on disabilities that reflect the relationship between those who need care and those who are capable of providing care, it is called the adult disability dependency ratio (ADDR). The paper shows that when aging is measured based on the ratio of those who need care to those who can give care, the speed of aging is reduced by four-fifths compared to the conventional old-age dependency ratio.

    Co-author Dr.Sergei Scherbov, from IIASA and the VID, states that “if we apply new measures of aging that take into account increasing life-spans and declining disability rates, then many populations are aging slower compared to what is predicted using conventional measures based purely on chronological age.”

    The new work looks at “disability-free life expectancies,” which describe how many years of life are spent in good health. It also explores the traditional measure of old age dependency, and another measure that looks specifically at the ratio of disabilities in adults over the age of 20 in a population. Their calculations show that in the United Kingdom, for example, while the old age dependency ratio is increasing, the disability ratio is remaining constant. What that means, according to the authors, is that, “although the British population is getting older, it is also likely to be getting healthier, and these two effects offset one another.”

    The new ratio that Sanderson and Scherbov introduce, of the ratio of disabilities in adults over the age of 20 in a population, does seem to make more sense in certain contexts notwithstanding a degree of subjectivity (what will different statistical agencies define as "disabilities"). If this ratio is adopted and if the prediction that most children born today in developed countries will reach the century mark comes true, if there are sufficient reforms conceivably southern Europe might avoid catastrophe. ("If", as the Spartan king said to the Persian ambassador.)

    My greater disagreement? His predictions of Eurabian doom: "[T]he character of these countries will change radically; they will be overwhelmed with immigrants from North Africa as well as sub-Saharan Africa, who will not have the skills or the habits of civil society to maintain economic life."

    No, no, no.

    Let's begin by noting that trans-Mediterranean immigration plays a minor role in southern Europe. Of themore than four million immigrants in Spain, only a bit more than a half-million are Moroccan, with insignificant if high-profile numbers of immigrants from elsewhere in the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. Back in 2006 I noted that there were half again as many eastern European immigrants in Italy as from Africa, and that African immigrants were as numerous as the combined total of Latin American and Asian immigrants. Immigrants in Portugal are overwhelmingly from the Lusophone world and eastern Europe, and of the million-odd immigrants in Greece a large majority are immigrants from neighbouring Albania. There may be large income gaps between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, but income gaps in themselves do not produce immigration. All manner of ties, including human ties, gird immigration, and all of these southern European countries are regional economic and cultural powers, if not global ones (Spain comes particularly to mind, to a lesser extent Italy, Portugal via its Lusophone connections, and Greece relative to impoverished Albania). Why would geography determine everything? It clearly doesn't.

    Still more importantly, if we accept Goldman's argument that southern Europe is doomed to impoverishment--easy enough to belief, especially if economic pressures lead to a sustained large emigration of youth from southern to northern Europe--why would immigrants even settle in southern Europe in large numbers? By global standards, Latvia is quite wealthy, and its aging and shrinking population could arguably benefit from immigrants and provide them with sufficient wages. Are large numbers of immigrants settling in Latvia? No: Latvia's economy is too unstable, and arguably lacking enough long-term prospects for various reasons including a contracting workforce and aging population, to keep Latvians at home, never mind attract immigrants. At most, Latvia is/will be a transit country for migrants hoping to make it to rich western Europe.

    Back to southern Europe. Migration is fundamentally a rational decision, made by people who want to extract the maximum benefit from their movement from one place to another. If migrants have to decide between a declining southern Europe and a more prosperous northern Europe, I'd bet they'd prefer northern Europe. I know what decision I'd make. You? Even if--if--there are substantially greater flows of North Africans to Europe and of sub-Saharan Africans beyond North Africa, why would they settle in large numbers in countries lacking in any long-term prospects?

    Everyone reading this blog and writing here--indeed, everyone interested in demographics generally--likely agrees that migration is a very important phenomenon in the 21st century world. Everyone should also take care not to make the sorts of dramatic predictions of radical clash-of-civilization-themed transformations that never come true, too. Demography matters too much for it to be treated so superficially.