Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In memoriam Edward Hugh

I was shocked to learn this afternoon of the death, in Girona, of Demography Matters' founder Edward Hugh. Alas, the obituary written by Xavier Grau and published in Ara is, sadly, undeniable. The world is missing a wonderful man.

Wikipedia's summary of his life serves as a perfectly adequate introduction, and reminder, to the man and his work.

Edward Hugh, dubbed by The New York Times as "the blog prophet of Euro zone doom" was a Welsh economist based until his last days in Catalonia, Spain, where he lived since 1990. He spoke French, Catalan, Spanish and English.

Born in Liverpool, Edward Hugh, who "attracted a cult following among financial analysts", studied at the London School of Economics but was drawn more to philosophy, science, sociology and literature. His eclectic intellectual pursuits kept him not only from getting his doctorate but also prevented him from landing a full-time professor’s job.

By inclination a macro economist, his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes often took him far from Economics and towards fields like demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. In particular his work was centred on the study of demographic changes, migration patterns, and the impact of these on economic growth.

In 2014 he published his first book entitled "¿Adiós a la Crisis?". He wrote the book in Spanish and it discusses the economic situation in Spain.

He worked on a book with the provisional working title "Population, the Ultimate Non-renewable Resource".

News of his death has spread quickly in the online communities where he was so actively until recently, on Twitter and (in the blogosphere) at A Fistful of Euros thanks to PO Neill.

As a long-time co-blogger and collaborator, all I can say right is that I will miss Edward. He was a man with a vision, a particular understanding of the way the world had developed and would develop, that merited sharing. On a more personal level, Edward's encouragement to me as a blogger and writer remains cherished.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On Paul Krugman, Portugal and debt and demographic debt spirals

Paul Krugman's recent blog post, "Debt at Demographic Spirals", briefly considered if too much emigration could be a bad thing for Portugal, and countries like Portugal.

We used to think that high labor mobility was a good thing for currency unions, because it would allow the union’s economy to adjust to asymmetric shocks — booms in some places, busts in others — by moving workers rather than having to cut wages in the lagging regions. But what about the tax base? If bad times cause one country’s workers to leave in large numbers, who will service its debt and care for its retirees?

Indeed, it’s easy conceptually to see how a country could enter a demographic death spiral. Start with a high level of debt, explicit and implicit. If the work force falls through emigration, servicing this debt will require higher taxes on those who remain, which could lead to more emigration, and so on.

How realistic is this possibility? It obviously depends on having a sufficiently large burden of debt and other mandatory expenditure. It also depends on the elasticity of the working-age population to the tax burden, which in turn will depend both on the underlying economics — is there a strongly downward-sloping demand for labor, or is it highly elastic? — and on things like the willingness of workers to move, which may depend on culture and language.

We've looked at the specific example of Portugal before. I made a brief post in October 2009 about the resumption of mass emigration in Portugal and a longer post. Edward Hugh has written in greater detail, in March 2013 speculating that Portugal was being hollowed out by the shrinkage of its working-age population and in August of that year suggesting that Portugal's demographic issues had been hindering economic growth since at least 2000. Let's not forget a May 2015 guest post speculating that Portugal had been turning Japanese for some time.

My personal sense is that there is some risk of this, especially in countries with contemporary traditions of emigration. From the perspective of European Union policymaking, some sort of fiscal union uniting pension and other social welfare system might well be necessary, producing rather less problematic results than wholesale fiscal collapse in the worst-effected labor-exporting areas.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

"Refugee Crisis and the North"

Friend of the blog Jussi Jalonen has just posted, at the group blog History and Futility, the essay "Refugee Crisis and the North". Here, Jalonen takes a look at the way the Syrian refugee crisis has impacted both his Finland and neighbouring Sweden, looking at the political climate in both countries. One thing I particularly liked is his prediction of different outcomes for refugee assimilation in each Nordic country, based on--among other things--the two countries' very different recent histories of immigration.

Some time ago, my hometown on the West Coast made a decision to accept refugees from Syria. The decision was historic. Although the town of Rauma has always had a relatively substantial community of guest workers and immigrants, the town has not accommodated refugees or asylum seekers so far. This morning, the residential building which was supposed to be used as a reception center for asylum seekers became a target of arson attack. Only a few days before, an old garrison building intended for similar use was burned to the ground in Kankaanpää. Evidently some people in Western Finland do not like the idea of providing housing for asylum seekers.

Another piece of news today came from Sweden. The school teacher who was injured in the Trollhättan attack in October has now died from his wounds. The attack made international headlines two months ago, and was also a sign of the times; a sword-wielding masked young man with far right sympathies assaulted a local Swedish school, in a violent assault against the immigrant students. So far, no comparable incident has occurred in Finland, although occasional direct assaults against asylum seekers have taken place. Three weeks ago, an Iraqi asylum seeker was stabbed by three local men at the reception center of Kangasala.

While a good part of the people in both Nordic countries have participated in volunteer work on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers, the refugee crisis has also triggered a wave of xenophobia. The European refugee crisis has occurred at the moment when the Nordic countries are experiencing the apex of the ongoing radical right-wing populist reaction. Sweden, which appears to be accepting the largest number of refugees, is going through a massive political realignment, as the so-far isolated and solidly anti-immigration Sweden-Democrats have enjoyed record poll support, occasionally as the largest political party. The refugee crisis has contributed to additional political radicalization, and earlier this year, the Sweden-Democrats terminated all cooperation with the youth organization of the party. Already in the spring, a number of SD youth activists were discharged due to their links with neo-Nazi groups.

The situation in Finland is somewhat different from Sweden. The main populist party, the True Finns, which contains its fair share of hard-core anti-immigration extreme nationalists, is exercising political power, having accepted a position in the new center-right government coalition. The party has found itself in a very precarious position, especially since Finland, as the only Nordic member of the Eurozone, is now facing impending austerity measures, and the center-right coalition is also enacting new, tougher labor laws. So far, the True Finns have quietly abandoned their former social conscience and their commitment to the consensus society. The party has acceded to these packages, and even moderated their position towards the EU bailout programs. The disappointment of the party rank and file has been visible in the polls, and the support of the party has plummeted. This has generated additional pressure for the True Finns to somehow crack down hard at least on the refugee crisis, and the party has been clamoring for new anti-immigration legislation modeled after Denmark, including cutting the welfare benefits of refugees and asylum seekers.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Four links on Ukrainian migration futures

I have been wanting for some time to do an extended analysis of the ongoing Ukrainian situation. For the time being, here's four articles which suggest interesting future trends for migration from Ukraine, since the end of the Soviet Union one of the largest sources of migrants in the world.

First up is an October 2014 Open Democracy essay by Judith Twigg, "Human capital and the Ukraine crisis". Here, Twigg outlines the demographic dynamics of Ukraine before 2014, noting here migration trends.
[A]ccording to the International Labor Organisation (ILO), between January 2010 and June 2012, 1.2m Ukrainians (3.4% of the adult population) were working or looking for work abroad. About two-thirds of these were men, and one-third women. Most were relatively young (20-49 years old), and the ratio of rural to urban Ukrainian labour migrants is about 2:1. Most are legal, with only about one in five Ukrainian migrant workers irregular. Several non-ILO studies offer far larger estimates of total Ukrainian labour migration, some as large as 5 to 7m seasonal migrants over summer periods. If these larger estimates are accurate, then Ukraine has replaced now-legalized EU-8 nationals as the major supplier of irregular workers at the bottom of European Union labour markets; and the Ukraine-to-Russia corridor is now the second-largest migration route in the world (surpassed only by Mexico-to-U.S.). According to the ILO, the main destination countries for Ukrainian labour migration (2010-2012) were Russia (43%), Poland (14%), Italy (13%), and the Czech Republic (13%).

[. . .]

Over time, Ukrainian labour migration to Russia is decreasing, and to the EU is increasing. Ukrainian labour migrants tend to fall into two categories: young people leaving permanently due to a lack of job opportunities at home, and circulating migrants engaging in temporary labour. One Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy study has shown that most Ukrainians seeking work abroad do so because of low wages at home (about 80%), as opposed to unemployment (about 10%). Most Ukrainian labour migrants are working in relatively low-skilled jobs, leading to a mismatch between some migrants’ skills and their current work positions. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 65% of Ukrainian labour migrants have completed secondary education, 15% have some higher education, and 15% have completed higher education. This produces a situation where almost half of Ukrainian migrants are employed in work for which they are clearly overqualified, a phenomenon referred to as ‘downshifting’ or ‘brain waste.’

In 2012, an estimated $7.5 billion equivalent in private remittances was transferred to Ukraine, equal to about 4% of Ukraine’s GDP that year (and exceeding 2012 net foreign direct investment, which was around $6 billion). This figure rose to $9.3 billion in 2013. This makes Ukraine the third largest recipient of remittance payments in the world, after India and Mexico. According to the ILO, the Ukrainian economy would have lost about 7% of its activity in 2012 without the stimulus effect from these migrant transfers. Remittance flows were first registered in a significant way in 2006 (about $1 billion) and have increased annually since then. The primary source country for remittance payments is Russia, followed by the United States, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom; these payments are therefore coming from members of the permanent diaspora as well as from labour migrants.

ILO data suggest that Ukraine’s main source regions for labour migration are those in the far west: Zakarpattia and Chernivtsi are classified as ‘very high’ source regions, with Volyn, Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Khmelnytskyi, and Cherkasy ranking as ‘high’ source regions. The central regions are classified as ‘very low’ sources, with all of the southern and eastern regions except Luhansk classified as ‘low’ (Luhansk, along with Rivne, Vinnytsia, and Mykolaiv, are classified as ‘average’). This means that, setting aside refugees from the recent conflict in the east, most out-migration from Ukraine is draining the most demographically stable and healthy parts of the country.

Given the scale of the devastation in the Donbas, with some estimates I've come across suggesting half the population or more has left--reputedly often disproportionately of working age--new sources and destinations are also likely.
In February of 2015, Olga Gulina's essay "Re-drawing the map of migration patterns" noted the likely consequences of the collapse of Ukrainian migration to Russia for the receiving country.

[I]n 2014, the number of migrants from Ukraine far outstripped Central Asia. Indeed, the statistical data for 2014 shows a decline in migration flows from all CIS countries, excluding Belarus (up by 4,455 in 2014) and Ukraine (up by 36,106 in 2014). Both Belarus and Russia have introduced simplified rules for residency and employment for people re-locating from areas affected by conflict in Ukraine.

According to statistics from 20 January, 2015, Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS) records show that, from the Former Soviet Union, there are 2,417,575 Ukrainians (5.6% of Ukraine’s population) living in the Russian Federation, alongside 999,169 Tajiks (12.1%), 597,559 Kazakhs (3.5%), 579,493 Azeris (6.1%), 561,033 Moldovans (15.8%), 544,956 Kyrgyz (9.6%), 517,828 Belarusians (5.5%), and 480,017 Armenians (15.9%).

[. . .]

The human capital in the economy of Russia’s big cities will suffer irrecoverable losses. Big cities need cheap labour. The traditional spheres of labour migrants’ employment – services and urban amenities, public catering, construction and transportation – are bound to experience labour shortages. The St Petersburg city authorities have already announced that 30% of labour migrants left their jobs in the city’s urban amenities sector. The Moscow city authorities, summarising the results of 2014, spoke about declining numbers of incoming labour migrants. As a result, the inbound migration growth rate in Moscow fell by 40% in 2014 versus 2013.

[. . .]

The most serious changes in migration policy have affected Ukrainian nationals. The events in Ukraine have created a new layer of migrants in post-Soviet space – humanitarian migrants, for whose support Belarus and Russia simplified immigration law (particularly employment regulation). Additionally, the Russian Federation has allocated 366 million roubles (£3.7million) from the federal budget to regions receiving and accommodating those newcomers. According to FMS, the numbers of Ukrainian nationals coming to Russia are still growing. More than 2.6 million Ukrainians stayed in Russia in 2014, and 245,510 among them applied for refugee status and temporary asylum. In January 2015, the number of Ukrainian citizens in Russia had grown by 1.6%.

But the Ukrainian nationals who arrived in Russia as humanitarian migrants in 2014, will be deprived of their previous privileges in 2015. The head of Russia’s Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romodanovsky, has already announced that all ‘privileges for Ukrainian nationals will end in 2015. We were exceptionally liberal in relation to Ukrainian nationals in 2014, but we will return to normal regulation and treat Ukrainians according to the rules in 2015.’

The collapse of visa-free travel rules between the two countries is also going to hinder future migration. This, again, is explored at Tass, in Lyudmila Alexandrova's English-language commentary "Labour migrants from Ukraine benefit Russian economy".

The lax migration rules most Ukrainian citizens in Russia have enjoyed since the beginning of hostilities in Dobnass expired last Saturday. The 90-day period of their presence in Russia without proper registration will not be prolonged any more. Those of them who have spent more than three months in Russia will now have one month to legalize their status in Russia. Exceptions have been made for refugees from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. The rules of presence in Russia and the automatic prolongation of their stay will remain unchanged. Those who fail to formalize their status by December 1 will be faced with administrative measures applied to all illegal migrants, ranging from administrative punishment to expulsion and subsequent ban from entering Russia.

There are about 2.6 million Ukrainian citizens in Russia at the moment, says the deputy chief of the Federal Migration Service, Vadim Yakovenko. More than one million of them are from Ukraine’s southeastern regions, and more than 600,000 others are in breach of the migration rules.

Since April 2014 404,000 Ukrainians have asked the Federal Migration Service for temporary asylum or refugee status, and another 265,000 for temporary residence permits.

[. . .]

"Of course, the number of migrants will get smaller," leading research fellow Yulia Florinskaya, of the Russian presidential academy RANEPA, has told TASS. "They will have to either update their licenses and pay big money, something they are not in the habit of doing, or pack their bags. Some of them, the most skilled ones, will leave."

She agrees that the potential of Ukrainian labour migrants is being used not to the full extent: "All experts have suggested giving temporary residence permits to Ukrainians without any quotas."

"We are interested in keeping these people here. Ukrainian migrants play a tangible role in our economy, particularly so at a time when the number of migrants from Central Asia is on the decline. Should these people get up and go, there will be no chance of ever luring them back. This is very bad strategically. Besides, we do have the vacancies for them. Our own able-bodied population has been shrinking by 900,000 to 1,000,000 a year."

I would note, again, that a Russian migration policy that accepts migrants, refugee and otherwise, from the Donbas region and does not accept the same from the rest of Ukraine, particularly given the close links between the Donbas and the Russian Federation, might well create a situation where emigration from a devastated Donbas to Russia will accelerate. The consequences of this for Russia, Ukraine, and the separatist republics could be serious indeed. Who will be left to man the republics' militaries if no one lives there?

Finally, in the commentary "Poland: Immigration or Stagnation" by Thomas Mulhall at New Eastern Europe, an article that looks at the demographic situation of Poland speculates as to the source of that country's immigrants.

Even though a crisis is not imminent in Poland, it is worth looking at where people will come from to fill the inevitable labour shortage when it arrives. The obvious candidate is Ukraine. It is one of Poland's neighbours and its GDP per capita is about a quarter of that of Poland. The countries have historical ties with the western city of Lviv once belonging to Poland. There is also some shared linguistic heritage with many (predominantly older) Ukrainians and Poles both speaking Russian. A smaller number of Ukrainians also speak Polish. Ukraine is also going through a war in the east of the country and an economic collapse that will take years to recover. Poles are genuinely sympathetic to the Ukrainian plight over the situation with Russia and waves of people are already fleeing to Poland, seeking jobs and refuge. The numbers of Ukrainians already arriving/living in Poland’s major cities is very noticeable. Some estimates suggest that the number of unregistered Ukrainians in Poland could be as high as 400,000. Officially, Ukrainians are invited to Poland for temporary or seasonal positions. However, only a small fraction is given residency.

It is safe to say that the Polish society is not very welcoming to the idea of mass immigration. Many Poles look at the effect of immigration on countries such as France and the UK in a very negative way. They hear exaggerated stories of “ghettos” and ethnic tension, and some fear an encroachment of other cultures and identities on their own. [Philippe] Legrain believes that Ukrainian immigration on a large scale would be a good place to start. He states, “If migrants to Poland initially come from places like Ukraine, they will not be that different from resident Polish people, so the cultural shock may be smaller.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Some notes on the Turkmen, Turkey, and this diaspora's future

Earlier today, on my personal blog I noted, after a friend's observation on Facebook that the Turkish shootdown of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 on the Turkish-Syrian border, the pilots successfully escaping in parachutes only to be shot dead was Syrian Turkmen Brigades in Syria. This is obviously a critical issue from the perspective of conflict--Robert Farley's post at Lawyers, Guns and Money, and Leonid Bershidsky's Bloomberg View opinion piece, do good jobs of noting the state things are in. My attention was caught by another issue: Who are the Syrian Turkmen?

Simply put, the Syrian Turkmen are a substantial ethnic minority, apparently concentrated near the Turkish border, amounting to the hundreds of thousands. How many hundreds of thousands? Might it even be millions? There's no firm data, it seems, much as there is no firm data on the numbers of Iraqi Turkmen. What is known is that these Turkish minorities are numerous, that their zones of inhabitation overlap at least in part with that of ethnic Kurds, and that they are politically close to Turkey. As Vox's Zack Beauchamp noted, in the particular case of Syria the Turkmen are opposed to Russia.

The Turkmen arrived in what's now Syria centuries ago, as various different Turkic empires — first the Seljuks, then the Ottomans — encouraged Turkish migration into the territory to counterbalance the local Arab majority. Under Bashar al-Assad's rule, the mostly Sunni Muslim Turkmen in Syria were an oppressed minority, denied even the right to teach their own children in their own language (a Turkish dialect).

However, the Turkmen didn't immediately join the anti-Assad uprising in 2011. Instead, they were goaded into it by both sides. Assad persecuted them, treating them as a potential conduit for Turkish involvement in the Syrian civil war. Turkey, a longtime enemy of Assad, encouraged the Turkmen to oppose him with force. Pushed in the same direction by two major powers, the Turkmen officially joined the armed opposition in 2012.

Since then, they've gotten deeply involved in the civil war, receiving significant amounts of military aid from Ankara. Their location has brought them into conflict with the Assad regime, ISIS, and even the Western-backed Kurdish rebels (whom Turkey sees as a threat given its longstanding struggle with its own Kurdish population). Today, the Syrian Turkmen Brigades — the dominant Turkmen military faction — boast as many as 10,000 fighters, per the BBC, though the real number could be much lower.

The Turkmen role in the conflict has put them directly in Russia's crosshairs. The Russians, contrary to their stated goal of fighting ISIS, have directed most of their military efforts to helping Assad's forces fight rebels. The Turkmen have clashed repeatedly with Assad and his allies in the north — which led to Russian planes targeting Turkmen militants last week.

Turkey was not happy, and called in the Russian ambassador to register its disapproval. "It was stressed that the Russian side's actions were not a fight against terror, but they bombed civilian Turkmen villages and this could lead to serious consequences," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a description of the meeting provided to Reuters.

Could, as Beauchamp suggests, the Turkish attack have been a warning to Russia to avoid attacking Turkey's ethnic kin? It's imaginable, at least.

I'm unaware of research conducted on the propensity of Syrian Turkmen to migrate. I might speculate that, given the intensity of the fighting in Syria, the proximity of Turkmen communities to the Turkish border, and the relatively small cultural distance between Turkmen and Turks, there might be great incentives to migrate. More concretely, British Turkish scholar Ibrahim Sirkeci has conducted research on Iraqi Turkmen, specifically the January 2005 report "Turkmen in Iraq and International Migration of Turkmen" (PDF format) and the January 2011 followup "Turkmen in Iraq and Their Flight: A Demographic Question". In these studies, Sirkeci notes that not only do Turkmen in Iraq have great incentives to leave, but that they can leverage their cultural connections with Turkey to emigrate to Europe and elsewhere. Two press reports from last year note that Iraqi Turkmen have encountered problems crossing into Turkey, but given the mutability of the situation I would not count on this lasting.

At my blog, I said--and still say--that I see a tragic irony in this story. At least in part in an effort to diminish the negative consequences from Russia's support of armed ethnic kin against their parent state in Ukraine, Russia has now come into conflict with Turkey's armed ethnic kin as they fight against their parent state. Terrible conflicts, like the one in Syria or like the lower-intensity conflict in Ukraine, tend to result in permanent dislocations of populations, particularly vulnerable diasporas. After the Second World War, for instance, West Germany's economic success led to the absorption not only of millions of East Germans, but of most of the German diaspora that remained. Less catastrophically, after the fall of the Soviet Union ethnic Russians--and others--emigrated to Russia in large numbers. Curiously, comparatively few Magyars moved to Hungary, perhaps indicating the relative contentment of Magyars in Hungary's neighbouring countries and Hungary's lack of attractiveness as a destination. Especially with demographic and economic changes in Turkey that might make immigration necessary, I find it too easy to imagine that, one day soon, there will not be very many Turkmen left in Syria and Iraq at all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

On the ineffective and immoral proposal of David Frum

A recent post by Shakezula at Lawyers, Guns and Money Canadian-born American political commentator David Frum posted to his Twitter account a proposal to deal with terrorism in Europe.

Alas, subsequent posts on his Twitter feed make it unlikely that this was a proposal he was offering forth in the noble tradition of Jonathan Swift.

There are many things that can be said about this proposal. Perhaps the most important, at least from the perspective of practicality, is that it wouldn't work. Most of the perpetrators were in Europe more than two years ago, many seem in fact to have been native-born citizens of one European country or another (France and Belgium). Are we to broaden the scope of this mass deportation--what some, perhaps unfavourable to this cause, might call an ethnic cleansing? How far back shall we go? Who shall determine who gets to stay? Do people of Muslim ancestry in Europe itself, like Bosniaks and Albanians, get to stay? Shall we also include converts? What legal mechanisms will be established to enable mass deportations of sufficient scope, whatever sufficient is?

Moving on from issues of practicality, Frum's proposal is inhumane, and this inhumanity would make things worse. It's difficult to see how any effort at a mass deportation of European residents, including European citizens, based on their religion would not end catastrophically for everyone involved, not least by legitimating the Daesh's rhetoric of an inevitable clash between Christians and Muslims worldwide.

Pew Research Centre's statistical overview of European Muslim populations is worth noting, if you want some quick statistics. What better place to start than with actual data?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Allons, les enfants: a brief note on the Paris attacks of today

News of today's terrorist attacks in Paris reached me almost instantaneously here in Toronto, via a short BBC breaking news feature. It's been terribly sad to see different acquaintances on different social networks reveal their connections to different attacked sites: one actually stayed in an apartment above Le Petit Cambodge, others also had spent time or had loved one in different areas. My thoughts are with the victims.

I owe thanks to Vox's German Lopez for pointing readers like me to a Tweet by one Dan Holliday. Holliday's reaction to the people who would seize upon the refugees entering Europe from Syria as some kind of contagion for terrorist infection.

More to the point, I suspect that the attackers were native to wider Europe.

The Daesh have their own strategy of tension, a desire to help its cause by causing a general collapse in relations between different communities--Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs, in short the people it sees as its natural power base whatever they actually think and everyone else. It's critically important not to let this happen, not to give the Daesh victory here. Their enemy is all humankind. Never forget that.

And now, to conclude, here's the famous performance of "La Marseillaise" from Casablanca. Allons, les enfants, allons.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

On how the relative youth of India will not ensure future prosperity

When I saw the title of Sandrine Rastello's Bloomberg article "India to Emerge As Winner from Asia’s Shrinking Labor Force", I initially expected some naive demographic boosterism, some argument to the effect that India's young population will ensure it of future economic triumphs. Happily, this article was one where the title does not match the subject.

By 2050, the Asia Pacific region will have nearly 50 percent of the world’s total work force, down from 62 percent today, according to Bloomberg analysis of United Nations data.

The shifting patterns will see India account for 18.8 percent of the global work force compared with 17.8 percent today, toppling China from the top spot. China will account for 13 percent, down from 20.9 percent now.

[. . .]

India's super sized labor force is often referred to as its demographic dividend, a key asset on its way to achieving economic superpower status. But there's a lot of catching up to do: its per person income is just a fifth of China's.

One obvious problem for India will be finding jobs for such a large populace. Employment data in Asia's third-largest economy is sketchy but the little we have suggests the labor market is far from vibrant.

A survey of selected companies including those in the leather, car and transportation sectors show employment growth fell to 64,000 new jobs in the first three months of the year from 117,000 in the previous quarter, and 158,000 before that. Not exactly what you would expect for an economy growing at 7 percent.

India also suffers from a skills shortage. About 5 percent of workers have formal skills training, compared with 96 percent in South Korea. Central bank Governor Raghuram Rajan called India's human capital his main medium-term concern.

This is something I've noted here before: In August 2012 I noted this in relation to the United States that might not capitalize on its demographic advantages over other high-income countries, in passing in a January 2013 comparison of high-fertility France with low-fertility Germany, and in January of this year when I compared China with Southeast Asia. Crude demographics is but a single starting point. They are not at all by themselves able to determine everything about the future. In the case of France and Germany, for instance, despite dire demographics Germany has moved notably ahead of France in the past decade. Why might China, even if it has an aging population, manage the same trick versus at least some of its potential rivals?

Thursday, November 05, 2015

On the return of the long-form census to Canada

I did not want to base a post on the speculation earlier this week, but today it has been confirmed. From the Toronto Star:

The mandatory long-form census is back.

Just a day after taking office, the new Liberal government announced Thursday that the 61-question census form — axed by the Conservatives in 2010 — will be reinstated for the 2016 census.

Navdeep Bains, the newly named Minister of Innovation, Science and Development, confirmed the news to reporters on Parliament Hill, declaring that the country needed access to high quality data.

“Today, Canadians are reclaiming their right to accurate and more reliable information,” said Bains, the MP for Mississauga-Malton.

With the 2016 census, communities will “once again have access to high-quality data they require,” he said.

I, for one, am very pleased.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

On a relationship between climate change in the United States and falling birth rates

On my RSS feed, I recently came across a paper looking at the relationship between climate change and (American) demographics. NBER Working Paper No. 21681, "Maybe Next Month? Temperature Shocks, Climate Change, and Dynamic Adjustments in Birth Rates", written by Alan Barreca, Olivier Deschenes, and Melanie Guldi, makes some noteworthy claims. The paper is behind a paywall, but the abstract is at least indicative.

Dynamic adjustments could be a useful strategy for mitigating the costs of acute environmental shocks when timing is not a strictly binding constraint. To investigate whether such adjustments could apply to fertility, we estimate the effects of temperature shocks on birth rates in the United States between 1931 and 2010. Our innovative approach allows for presumably random variation in the distribution of daily temperatures to affect birth rates up to 24 months into the future. We find that additional days above 80 °F cause a large decline in birth rates approximately 8 to 10 months later. The initial decline is followed by a partial rebound in births over the next few months implying that populations can mitigate the fertility cost of temperature shocks by shifting conception month. This dynamic adjustment helps explain the observed decline in birth rates during the spring and subsequent increase during the summer. The lack of a full rebound suggests that increased temperatures due to climate change may reduce population growth rates in the coming century. As an added cost, climate change will shift even more births to the summer months when third trimester exposure to dangerously high temperatures increases. Based on our analysis of historical changes in the temperature-fertility relationship, we conclude air conditioning could be used to substantially offset the fertility costs of climate change.

My source, the Bloomberg article "Climate Change Kills the Mood: Economists Warn of Less Sex on a Warmer Planet" written by Eric Roston, goes into somewhat more detail about the claims made.

An extra "hot day" (the economists use quotation marks with the phrase) leads to a 0.4 percent drop in birth rates nine months later, or 1,165 fewer deliveries across the U.S. A rebound in subsequent months makes up just 32 percent of the gap.

[. . .]

The researchers assume that climate change will proceed according to the most severe scenarios, with no substantial efforts to reduce emissions. The scenario they use projects that from 2070 to 2099, the U.S. may have 64 more days above 80F than in the baseline period from 1990 to 2002, which had 31. The result? The U.S. may see a 2.6 percent decline in its birth rate, or 107,000 fewer deliveries a year.

If this is correct, it's tempting to wonder about the extent this would be replicated in other areas of the world. What about other warming areas? Does cooling have a relationship to fertility?

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

On how the 1991 image of the Vlora and its Albanian refugees is being misrepresented

I have a Tumblr account. Tumblr is a platform that is good for sharing images and so a natural adjunct to my interest in amateur photography, but it's also a platform good for sharing--sometimes quite widely--all sorts of links, and for starting all sorts of discussions. On the weekend, I saw the below pop up on my dashboard.

This image caught my attention, not least because I was completely unaware of any such desperate and massive movement of refugees from Europe to North Africa. Yes, there were some refugee movements by Europeans to Africa, this June 2012 article in New African Magazine looking at some interesting Polish communities in East Africa, while the Greek government-in-exile was based in Cairo in an Egypt that had long been a node in the Greek diaspora. Such a large and desperate flight of refugees as indicated in the photo, though, was nothing I'd heard of before. Where would these refugees have come from? Where would they have been going?

That's when I noticed the name on the ship. "Vlora" is one rendition of the name of the Albanian port city of Vlorë. As it happens, that ship is closely associated with one massive flight of refugees, one so noteworthy that it even earned an article in Italian Wikipedia. It's just that it's a different refugee movement from the one described by the above photo's caption.

Someone, I don't know who, engaged in a bit of creative photo editing, converting the colour photo above to a black-and-white one and cropping the image somewhat. That might be justifiable on creative grounds. What is not justifiable, at all, is the lie someone chose to tell about this image, one of the iconic images from the initial mass emigration of Albanians in the early 1990s.

On August 7, 1991, Albanians boarded the Vlora in the hope of heading to Italy on its way from Cuba where it had shipped 10,000 tons of sugar. The real number of people that crammed onto the ship is unknown with some figures ranging from 10,000 to 20,000.

The ship crossed the Adriatic. As the ship approached Italian ground some fell to sea to approach Italy a moment sooner, unable to handle the crushing atmosphere aboard. Others screamed “Italia! Italia!” on the ship.

Thomas Jones also noted this particular falsification at the blog of the London Review of Books this September.

On 7 August 1991, the Albanian ship Vlora docked at the Port of Durrës, twenty miles west of Tirana, with a cargo of Cuban sugar. Thousands of people, desperate to leave Albania in the first throes of its ‘transition’ from communism, boarded the ship and prevailed on the captain to take them to Italy. The Vlora arrived in Bari the next day. According to a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe report from January 1992:

After several hours of waiting in the port of Bari, the Italian authorities allowed the Albanians to disembark for humanitarian reasons and led them to La Vittoria Sports Stadium. As the Italian authorities started forced repatriation using military transport planes and ferries, clashes broke out between policemen and Albanians. The Albanians barricaded themselves in the stadium refusing to return to their country; some 300 succeeded in escaping.

[. . .]

Photographs of the Vlora’s passengers disembarking in Bari have been circulating on the internet this month: first with claims that they show migrants from Libya or Syria heading to Europe now; then, a few days later, with the facts, setting the historical record straight. (I was sent them by someone who thought they were Europeans bound for North Africa during the Second World War.) Falsification can turn out to be a useful reminder of the past, once you’ve identified it.

Another blog, The Cryptic Philosopher, also debunked this misrepresentation of the image in September. Still another blog, looked at a very similar image this September, including a brief documentary on the 1991 Vlora crisis. That blog noted that its variant was being used to represent Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe.

France 24, meanwhile, placed this image in the context of multiple other faked and misrepresented images used in relation to the refugee crisis.

Issues of misattribution are themselves annoying. It's even more annoying if this misattribution is intentional. It's particularly annoying if these images have gone viral. Most if not all of the various sources I encountered debunking this misrepresentation date to September, but I ran into this image entirely independent of these sources at the end of October. I did debunk them, first on Tumblr and later on Facebook, but I have no confidence that those debunkings, or this one, will put an end to the various misrepresentations of the 1991 image of the Vlora. This is a shame: It's already difficult enough to talk about issues without falsehoods confusing the issue.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

What do you think are some overlooked demographic issues?

I would like to assure everyone that I am working on a post in response to yesterday's news that China is shifting to a two-child policy. (Brief reaction: I do not think it will change much, given the consistently low level of fertility in East Asia and Chinese-majority societies. Demographic changes in China will come in other ways.)

In the meantime, I am curious to know what readers might think are demographic issues of note that are not being covered, here, in the larger blogosphere, and in the mass media and academic journals. What's being overlooked?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Some thoughts on the 2015 Canadian election (#elxn42)

Last Monday, the long-awaited Canadian federal election finally occurred and produced a rather remarkable shift.

For comparison, below is another Elections Canada map, this one from the 2011 election.

One obvious result of this shift is that the long-form census will almost certainly be restored in time for 2016. A minor election issue, there seems to be time enough to fix things for 2016. Certainly, as explained by the Ottawa Citizen's Jason Fekete, fixing the census is a cost-effective way for the new Liberal government to prove itself to its supporters.

Statistics Canada is quietly waiting for its official marching orders from a new Liberal government to quickly reinstate the mandatory long-form census and have it ready for 2016.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have promised to restore the mandatory long-form census that the Conservative government eliminated in 2010 and replaced with a voluntary National Household Survey that critics say has significant holes in its data.

The incoming government has also promised to make Statistics Canada “fully independent,” believing Stephen Harper’s Conservatives meddled with the data collection agency for its own political purposes.

Trudeau’s new Liberal government will be sworn in Nov. 4 and is expected to move almost immediately to restore the census to allow Statistics Canada enough time to have it ready for its rollout in May 2016.

“We will immediately restore the mandatory long-form census, to give communities the information they need to best serve Canadians,” says the Liberal platform.

(I would note, parenthetically, that this year as in 2011, I voted for the NDP candidate in my riding. In 2011, the NDP candidate won; in 2015, the same parliamentarian, incumbent, lost.)

I noted in my post here on the 2011 election that this year's election revealed and crossed some interesting fault lines. The split between Conservative and non-Conservative MPs in the Greater Toronto Area, for instance, mirrored fairly deep splits of class and ethnicity, the better-off downtown voting for non-Conservative candidates and the suburban peripheries voting for Conservative candidates. This year, the Liberals swept the entire Toronto area, and then some.

I also noted that the NDP came from nowhere to become the dominant political party in Québec, even all of French Canada. I speculated that, between its existing English Canadian base and its new dominance in French Canada, the NDP could well be on track to replace the Liberals as one of Canada's two natural parties of government. This did not happen. While the NDP does retain a strong presence in Québec, and likely has potential for recovery now, years after the taboo of a NDP presence in Québec was spectacularly breached, the party is going to take a long time to recover across Canada.

This Tuesday, I put together a collection of links about the election, noting (for instance) the disenchantment of many Canadians--including right-leaning Canadians--with a Conservative government they saw as betraying their interests for its own benefit, the renewal of the connections of newer immigrant groups with Liberals, and so on. All of these things produced what, by any account, is a Liberal landslide, one that took the Liberals from third party to governing majority and even saw the Liberals make inroads into areas of western Canada like Alberta lost since the 1960s.

What will come next? Will the splits of old recur, and how? Follow this blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Some links on the Syrian refugee crisis

  • This CBC report, noting the extent to which ISIS tries to police the intimate lives and everyday business of people living in the territories it controls, demonstrates that there will be very many incentives for large numbers of refugees to continue to flee Syria.
  • The Boston Globe's photo blog The Big Picture had photos from the refugee crisis, including the famous heart-rending photo of young Alan Kurdi's limp body.
  • Although the numbers of Syrians who have found refuge if not formal refugee status in the Gulf States are not trivial, Bloomberg was correct in noting that many Syrian refugees saw more hope in Europe than in the Gulf. Thomas Piketty has argued that the European Union's acceptance of refugees, particularly that of Germany, bodes well for its future. A post today made at Lawyers, Guns and Money by Adam Luedtke makes useful points, first that the numbers of Syrian refugees reaching Europe is smaller than the number of Yugoslav refugees two decade ago.
  • As noted by The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer and as also observed by Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen, South America could become a major destination for Syrian refugees. A lack of official support means this is unlikely to happen, even in countries like Argentina, Brazil and Chile with large Syrian-origin populations.
  • In Canada, meanwhile, the official response has become an election issue. The story of the aforementioned Kurdi family, with family connections in Vancouver, added complications for Canadian immigration minister Chris Alexander, as have contested allegations that the Prime Minister's Office has sought to restrict the flow of Syrian refugees. Scott Gilmore of MacLean's argued that Canada could increase is intake twentyfold, while author Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer in The Walrus looked at Canada's intake of Indochinese boat people in the 1970s.
  • On my native Prince Edward Island, meanwhile, there was some interest in taking in forty Syrian refugee families. One family has come in, with perhaps more to follow.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

On Population Matters, the Syrian refugee crisis, and the United Kingdom

While I was reading my RSS feed the other day, I came across an Open Democracy essay by Adam Ramsay with the eyecatching title of "The charity which campaigned to ban Syrian refugees from Britain". The British charity Population Matters, concerned with demographic trends in the United Kingdom and potentially unsustainable populations there, has opposed the resettlement of Syrian refugees there.

Amnesty has called on the UK and other EU countries to 'significantly increase the number of resettlement and humanitarian admission places for refugees from Syria'. Yet the UK has Europe's fastest growing population and England is one of Europe's most densely populated countries. People have difficulty finding homes and jobs and even getting a seat on public transport. Our cost of living is rising as our growing population requires ever greater expenditure on infrastructure projects to meet this growing demand. It is becoming ever harder to protect our environment and to limit our contribution to climate change as numbers climb inexorably.

Instead, the UK and other EU countries should continue to support migrants from the Syrian civil war and other conflicts in the countries adjacent to those conflicts. In addition, the international community should consider intervening in long running conflicts with regional implications.

This Ramsay has connected the underlying themes of racism and xenophobia which, he argues, are present in this movement.

Population Matters has long called for “zero net-migration” to the UK: essentially, “one in, one out” - a position more extreme than the BNP. It's not just them. Last year, the Swiss organisation Ecopop (as in “ecology” and “population”) launched a referendum campaign calling for net immigration to be cut to 0.2% of the country's population. Swiss people need, as they put it, “lebensraum”. In their January 2015 magazine, the Swiss referendum campaign was the top item in Population Matters “international movement” section.

It's not just their extreme views on migration which are controversial. Among Population Matters' six policy proposals for the recent general election was a suggestion that child benefit and tax credits should be scrapped for third and subsequent children. With child poverty as high as it is in Britain, it must have been the only charity in the country celebrating as Osborne subsequently cut tax and universal credits for third and subsequent children. Many were surprised by the Chancellor's decision, but, as Polly Toynbee put it, “there was always a eugenic undercurrent in Tory thinking: stop the lower classes breeding.”

Of course, none of this is new. Malthusian arguments have been used to justify brutal policies ever since the British civil servant responsible for Ireland, Sir Charles Trevelyan, wrote that the great famine there was an “effective mechanism for reducing surplus population”.

This genocidal tradition is, of course, not represented in contemporary Malthusianism. But the broader questions of race and gender are uncomfortable for them. The organisation wraps itself in the flag of women's empowerment and concern for global poverty, and I am sure that for most of those involved in it, those are genuine worries. But any interrogation of these issues ends in a deeply problematic place. George Monbiot, as ever, puts it in the clearest terms: “People who claim that population growth is the big environmental issue are shifting the blame from the rich to the poor”.

This article got quite a lot of attention, in the comments at Open Democracy, in the blogosphere (see the Bright Green blog), and eventually from Population Matters. In "7 reasons why some progressives don’t get population", Chief Executive Simon Ross responded to the criticisms. For instance:

Migration is running at unprecedently high levels and is the British public’s greatest concern. People can see the impact of one of Europe’s highest levels of population density and population growth, particularly in London and the south east – a growing insufficiency of affordable housing, conveniently located education, responsive healthcare and comfortable transport. These all hit the poorest hardest. However, progressives typically consider themselves internationalists, with a hearty welcome for others, and so would rather not address the issue. We think there has to be limits to migration for any society concerned about environmental sustainability. That doesn’t mean no immigration. If well managed, UK emigration of 300,000 each year provides plenty of leeway for admitting some refugees while achieving balanced migration. That said, the huge numbers involved, with three million fleeing Syria alone, preclude migration being a solution for most.

I would note that, in fact, no one has proposed resettling the three million Syrians in the United Kingdom. I would also note, after Ramsay, that countries where Syrian refugees are concentrated, particularly Jordan and Lebanon, are facing absolutely and proportionally much greater stresses than the United Kingdom in Ross' implied scenario with fewer resources.

More broadly, I would also observe that Ross' scenario actually doesn't prescribe very specific for the Syrian refugees. What, exactly, are they supposed to do? Should they stay in Jordan and Lebanon, perhaps seek resettlement elsewhere, perhaps return to Syria? Ross' essay talks at length about how everyone is responsible, but it also provides no concrete solution. Earlier in his essay, Ross talks about the world of the ideal versus the world of the material, but he addresses neither in regards to the Syrians. This leaves me profoundly suspicious. I'd find a straightforward statement that the refugees should be left to hang more honest, in truth, than the statement that something could possibly be done, hopefully, if all goes well.

What do you think of this?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Two links on the census in Canada and on public institutional memory

As Canada prepares next month's federal election, the governing Conservatives being opposed by a variety of other political parties, the census that the Conservative government undermined is a simmering issue for reasons described in Donovan Vincent's Toronto Star article "Reviving the census debate".

Researchers, public policy advocates, statisticians, business groups, economists — and the Liberal and NDP parties — continue to call for the mandatory long-form questionnaire to be brought back, arguing that important statistical data is getting lost.

In a package of recently proposed reforms on transparency, the Liberals are promising to immediately restore the mandatory long form if they form government in the Oct. 19 federal election.

And Jean Ong, a spokesperson for the NDP, said in a statement that the party has long advocated for the restoration of the long-form census and continues to do so.

The lost data has massive implications for public policy decisions, business planning and a host of other areas, proponents of the mandatory long survey say.

Yet so far, the census hasn’t been in the spotlight on the campaign trail. But could it become an election issue?

Paul Jacobson, a Toronto economics consultant who relies heavily on census data for his work, believes it should. He says business planning is being seriously harmed by the new census data collection system.

“All the money in the world given to business surveyors could not replace the (mandatory) long form, period. You need a mandatory survey to get the quality of data you need to make good comparisons in small areas. That’s how you do business planning,” Jacobson says.

Stephen Toope, president of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, a national public policy advocate for Canada’s scholars, students and practitioners in the humanities and social sciences, says the “essence of the concern” about not having the mandatory long-form census is the impact on public policy.

“Thinking about questions around immigration, social service, children’s health and what kind of investments need to be made and where they need to be made — if we don’t know who is where, it’s very difficult to make informed policy decisions,” Toope says.

This is part of a broader disturbing trend in Canadian governance, away from the collection of vital data and towards increasing inaccessibility. The implications of this was described ably in Anne Kingston's front-cover article in MacLean's, "Vanishing Canada: Why we’re all losers in Ottawa’s war on data". The census is not alone in being gutted.

Stories about government data and historical records being deleted, burned—even tossed into Dumpsters—have become so common in recent years that many Canadians may feel inured to them. But such accounts are only the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. A months-long Maclean’s investigation, which includes interviews with dozens of academics, scientists, statisticians, economists and librarians, has found that the federal government’s “austerity” program, which resulted in staff cuts and library closures (16 libraries since 2012)—as well as arbitrary changes to policy, when it comes to data—has led to a systematic erosion of government records far deeper than most realize, with the data and data-gathering capability we do have severely compromised as a result.

Statistics Canada no longer provides a clear snapshot of the country, says John Stapleton, a Toronto-based social policy consultant. “Our survey data pixelates—it’s a big blur. And the small data, we don’t know if it’s right.”

How many Canadians live in poverty now, compared to 2011? We don’t know; changes in income-data collection has made it impossible to track. Austerity measures, ironically, have resulted in an inability to keep track of the changes: StatsCan used to provide detailed, comprehensive data on salaries and employment at all levels of government; now we can’t tell where, or how deep, the cuts have been.

Disappearing data is only one part of a larger narrative of a degradation of knowledge—one that extends from federal scientists being prevented from talking about their research on topics as mundane as snow to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission being forced to take the federal government to court to obtain documents that should have been available under Access to Information. The situation has descended into farce: Library and Archives Canada (LAC), entrusted with preserving historic papers, books, photographs, paintings, film and artifacts, was so eroded by cuts that, a few years ago, author Jane Urquhart was unable to access her own papers, donated to LAC in the 1990s.

The result is a crisis in what Canadians know—and are allowed to know—about themselves.

Without accurate and dependable sources of data, Kingston documents how difficult it is for Canadians to know what has been happening with their country, and to respond to these changes with useful actions. If Canadians lack good data on poverty among First Nations, for instance, or on particular types of pollution, or indeed on the effectiveness of past government policy, this makes it all the more difficult for Canadians to respond effectively. I would speculate that, if a government does not want to act in a particular area and wants to make it more difficult for people and governments to act in this area in the future, poor data collection would inhibit this.

The census, in Canada, is an election issue. I really hope that this issue will have serious consequences for the government that made it so.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

On Joe Daniel, Syrian refugees, Eurabia, and the Canadian elections

Joe Daniel, Conservative MP for the Toronto riding of Don Valley East, has today caused something of a stir. As reported by the Toronto Star's Tim Harper, in talking to his constituents Daniel ended up talking about Eurabia. Yay.

On the same weekend Conservatives expedited a refugee processing system in a nod to what they called “Canadian generosity,” one of their candidates seeking re-election was telling voters about an “agenda” to move Muslims into European countries.

And that is something Joe Daniel doesn’t want to see in Canada.

In a video obtained by the Star, Daniel offered this warning to voters in Don Valley North: “So I think there is a different agenda going on in terms of these refugees.

“Whereas at the same time Saudi Arabia is putting up money for 200 mosques in Germany I think the agenda is to move as many Muslims into some of these European countries to change these countries in a major way.

“That is something that I certainly don’t want to see happening in Canada. I think Canada is the greatest country in the world.”

A later CBC report quotes his manager as saying these reports are taken out of context.

Daniel's comments were circulated online days after the Conservatives announced an expedited process to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by September 2016, in an effort to move past criticism the government wasn't doing enough to help ease the crisis.

In a phone interview with CBC News, campaign manager Didar Khokhar said it was ultimately up to Daniel to explain his comments, but immediately went on to say they were "taken out of context."

"He was touching upon the controversy that has seized Europe," Khokhar said Wednesday afternoon.

Khokhar said Daniel gave a brief speech during a barbecue with some 30 people in attendance, where he touted the government's record on the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

"He made the comments in passing," Khokhar said.

Both news agencies feature the video in question. The CBC"s version is below.

Readers should make their own judgement.

I rather dislike the introduction of unfounded Eurabian conspiracy theories into the Canadian elections. That such potentially dangerous falsehoods are apparently being passed off casually by candidates at meet-and-greets is appalling. I will note that Daniel at least apparently chooses not to own up to this. I'll also note that Daniel himself is of immigrant background, both to parents of Malayali background in Tanzania, product of the Conservative Party's effective outreach to "new" immigrant communities. Might, I say only partly jokingly, the propagation of nativist and xenophobic myths by these people at least show that integration is working in some skewed way?

More, about Syrians and Canada's elections, later this week.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On francophone immigration to Toronto and Ontario

Back in July 2008, as part of a long post on the gradual assimilation of most Francophone minorities in Canada outside of Québec ("Demography and culture: French Canada's fall and Québec's isolation"), I mentioned in passing the possible role on Francophone immigration in bolstering Francophone numbers. The numbers involved would of necessity have to be substantial, especially given the strong pressure for Francophone minorities in the rest of Canada to shift to English. Even so, Francophone immigration to Canada is a real and growing phenomenon, and while Québec is the obvious focus of this migration--around a hundred thousand French immigrants are in Montréal alone--it is also a reality elsewhere. Here in Toronto, as Selena Ross' article in The Globe and Mail mirrored at noted, this has had a significant impact on the number of French-medium schools in Toronto. As Francophones continues to immigrate to Ontario and older-established Francophones start to make use of these facilities, the numbers of students keep rising.
Despite guarantees in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, French-only schools in Toronto have historically been few and far between. For decades, a real fear for many francophones settling in Hogtown has been that they would fail to pass on their language and culture to their offspring.

A once-in-a-generation opportunity is starting to change that, and it promises a bigger cultural shift in Toronto. As enrolment in English-language schools declines, a crop of school properties is being put up for sale and the region’s two French school boards have jumped to buy. What no one predicted is the snowball effect that has followed each new school opening, drawing “invisible francophones” out of a reluctant assimilation and making new connections between them.

Lianne Doucet, a mother of three in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood, laughs and lowers her voice to a spooky register. “We always say, ‘We’re all around you.’”

The cultural isolation of Toronto-area francophones – whether by mother tongue or schooling – can be so extreme that many don’t know that Section 23 of the Charter promises French-language K-12 education for their children. The Toronto area’s first French-language school board was created in 1988, and there are now two serving the region, one public and one Catholic. Still, nearly 30 years later, the secular board, the Conseil Scolaire Viamonde, must diligently advertise its schools to get the word out, superintendent Sylvie Longo said.

It has had a lot of ads to put out lately: 12 new schools in the past eight years, with four more under construction. The board’s Catholic counterpart, the Conseil Scolaire de District Catholique Centre-Sud, has opened 10 in the same time span. The two boards’ enrolment rose respectively by 33 and 16 per cent from 2008 to 2014.

That’s in sharp contrast with the shrinking English system. The Toronto District School Board’s enrolment dropped by nearly 5 per cent in the same period.

And still, French schools consistently fill up faster than predicted. École Élémentaire La Mosaïque opened in Toronto’s Danforth area in 2008 and has already had to rezone, unable to fit in all the eligible children. École Ronald-Marion in Pickering opened in 2013 and now needs portable classrooms to meet demand, while a French Catholic school in Stouffville is at full capacity and hasn’t even opened yet.

“When we build schools, they come,” Ms. Longo said.

Toronto may be one of the world’s most diverse cities, but within Canada, it’s also a bastion of English – and Quebec, a more obvious destination for francophone immigrants, is just a few hours away. Who are the tens of thousands of Toronto-area residents itching for all-French education?

Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement's January 2014 report "Ontario Francophone Immigrant Profile: Immigration Trends & Labour Outcomes" (PDF format) took a look at the basic dynamics of Francophone immigration to Ontario.

From 2001 to 2012, francophone immigration nationally accounted for on average 9.9% of all immigration to Canada. Excluding Quebec, francophone immigration, on average, accounted for 4.1% of all immigrants. Francophone immigration to Canada remained stable with no average decrease or increase per year. When Quebec was removed, there was a slight decline.

[. . .]

[. . .] The average percent of francophones to Ontario (as a proportion of all immigrants) was 2.5%. This percentage ranged from a low of 1.9% in 2002/2003 to a high of 3.4% in 2010. Over the past two years, the percent francophone immigration has hovered around an average of 3.2%. There was an average growth of 0.1% per year, which is above both the national average growth (0%) and the national average growth without Quebec (-0.1%).

The provincial government has stated an interest in boosting Francophone immigrant numbers to 5% of the total. The promotion of immigration into Francophone minority communities actually has been a goal of the federal government and many provincial governments, a way to try to slow down or even reverse the language shift I described back in 2008. One factor of note in this goal, as the Ryerson report observes, is that the communities chosen by Francophone international migrants in Ontario do not necessarily correspond to the communities where Francophones currently live.

In order to gain an understanding of how francophone immigrants are contributing to existing francophone communities, a profile of francophone immigration to traditional francophone centres was constructed based on the 2011 National Household Survey. Traditional francophone centres are defined as places in Ontario with large French speaking populations relative to the total population. The CMAs [of Greater Sudbury, Hawkesbury, Ottawa-Hull, and Timmins] were chosen because they have high populations of francophones relative to the total population, ranging from 15.8% to 64.3%. In comparison, non-traditional francophone centres such as Toronto and Hamilton, which have received higher absolute numbers of francophone immigrants, only had francophone populations that accounted for 1.3 to 1.6% of the total population.

Amongst the traditional francophone centres, only Ottawa-Hull attracts a considerable proportion of francophone immigrants. Indeed, Ottawa-Hull was the second largest CMA destination for francophone migrants in Ontario. Outside of Ottawa-Hull, francophone immigrants are not settling in traditional francophone centres in Ontario but rather in traditionally-considered Anglophone cities like Toronto, Hamilton, and Windsor. Could this be part of some larger francophone movement towards non-traditional francophone centres? The latest results from the 2011 National Household Survey indicate that the answer is no. A comparison of the geographic distribution of francophones immigrants versus all francophones finds different patterns in their settlement. Shown as a per cent of the total of each group, a larger proportion (on average, 2.3%) of non-immigrant francophones reside in traditional francophone centres (such as Ottawa, Timmins, Sudbury, and Hawkesbury). Indeed, by this measure Timmins is the fourth largest francophone centre in all of Ontario.

According to this cursory NHS analysis, francophone immigrants show a spatial distribution that is consistent with the findings of this report. The largest proportion of francophone immigrants reside in Toronto followed by Ottawa and Hamilton. It is also interesting to note that a slightly larger proportion (3.5%) of francophone immigrants live in Ottawa as opposed to non-immigrant francophones.

Ottawa, it should be noted, not only is the second-largest city of Ontario by population with a Francophone population of its own both proportionately and absolutely large, but it is part of the National Capital Region, including strongly Francophone Gatineau on the Québec side of the Ottawa River. The other communities named--Timmins, Sudbury, Hawkesbury--are relatively smaller centres in the north and east of Ontario. If international migrants are not moving to these communities and are instead opting for Ottawa and the cities of southern Ontario, this might well note their sensitivity to poor economic conditions.

Is this working? In the specific case of Ontario, possibly. Statistics Canada's profile of Canadian Francophones noted that not only did Ontario's Francophone population grow between 2006 and 2011, but it nearly maintained its proportion of the total population. Selena Ross' article, quoted above, does suggest that international Francophone migration might well galvanize Francophone consciousness generally. Then again, as noted above, it's not clear that this international migration can do much for the older Francophone communities in the province. The November 2002 report "Official Languages and Immigration: Obstacles and Opportunities for Immigrants and Communities" notes that there are any number of ways in which Francophone international migrants can just not have a successful experience, with a lack of common ground between migrants and natives spoiling the project.

Monday, September 07, 2015

What do you think will be the outcome of the Syrian refugee crisis?

Over at my blog, I asked my readers what they thought about the Syrian refugee crisis. This is a week to ask people what they think of this, after all: Between photos of dead children and reports of Germans welcoming refugees by the trainload, the issue has been getting a lot of press this week.

If I was to make any predictions about where this would all end up, I would be willing to commit to the statement that, in coming decades, Syria is going to become one of those countries to which millions of people around the world--millions more, I should say--trace their ancestries. Given the unpleasantness of the Assad regime and the Islamic State and the devastations associated with civil war, there are going to be very good reasons for Syrians to want to leave their homeland for some time to come. They may be neighbours, like Turkey and Lebanon; they may be in the same hemisphere, like Germany or Sweden; they may be on the other side of the planet, even.

I would also be willing to commit to the argument that few of these refugees will return. They will have had very good reasons to leave Syria, and there is little reason to think conditions in their homeland will improve enough to attract more than a few people. One thing we have found from refugee displacements in the past two decades is that, unless displaced refugees return quickly, they will be displaced. Depopulation can be permanent, even when the fighting has stopped.

Beyond that, I'm reluctant to make any predictions. Do I think that the plight of Syrian refugees will improve significantly, perhaps on the model of what happened to the boat people of Indochina? Maybe. Do I think this might lead to lasting global changes, for good or for ill? I am skeptical.

What do you think the end results of all this will be?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Some more updates

  • Expanding on the theme of a March 2011 post looking at Bangladesh's demographic developments, The Wire compared human development in India and Bangladesh. Despite still being poorer per capita than India, Bangladesh consistently does a better job than its larger neighbour.
  • The Dragon's Tales linked to an AFP article noting how sustained below-replacement fertility has finally started to lead to changes in China's educational system.
  • The Bloomberg View noted in June that France's demographic structure, consistently younger than Germany's, gives it an advantage assuming it could change its policies somehow.
  • Declining fertility in Malaysia across ethnic boundaries is a thing.
  • Slate is one agency of many to comment upon the ethnic cleansing of people of Haitian background from the Dominican Republic.
  • The Inter Press Service notes concerns that Venezuela, in its economic breakdown, might become a failed state. This is one reason why, incidentally, as noted by the Power and the Money's Noel Maurer, a Venezuelan campaign to extend citizenship to inhabitants of western Guyana--claimed by Venezuela--is not working.
  • Al-Monitor noted the serious problems of ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria settled in Armenia.
  • Bloomberg notes that Israeli hoteliers don't want African migrants deported, in that they want to have their workers.
  • Al Jazeera observes concerns that migration from Cuba might pick up with the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States.
  • Friday, July 24, 2015

    On "The Wetsuitman"

    I recently came across an English-language article in Norway's Dagbladet, "The Wetsuitman". Written by Anders Fjellberg and featuring photos by Tomm W. Christiansen and Hampus Lundgren, it's a superb if very sad piece of investigative journalism that takes two wetsuit-clad bodies found on the shores of the North Sea and uses them to examine such phenomena as Syria's war refugees and the desperate attempts of migrants to enter the United Kingdom from France. That it does not provide easy answers to any of the situations it describes is a strength, as there are none.

    Friday, July 03, 2015

    Some news links: Greece, China, Japan, Hong Kong

    I thought I'd share three clusters of news links on subjects I've been following here, and one oddity.
    • As Greece heads towards a catastrophic meltdown, the theme of emigration from Greece is one of several being explored by the international press. The Guardian and Bloomberg suggest that all kinds of professionally-trained Greeks are looking for a way out of their country, that newspaper later looking specifically to the Greek community in New York City while Reuters notes the dynamics of the Greek community in Australia's second city of Melbourne. (Migration within the Eurozone has not been such a major theme, at least in the English-language media I regularly read, but I don't doubt it's a reality.) With even the best-case predictions for Greece's economic recovery being decidedly dire and the large-scale flight of Greek professionals doing nothing to make this better, I think it's safe to predict that whatever the outcome of this crisis, Greece for the next while will be most notable as a place future generations of immigrants will come from.
    • Japan, meanwhile, is facing rapid aging. The Asahi Shinbun notes that the national population fell by more than a quarter-million people, the biggest losers being rural prefectures and the only gainers urban ones (and the outlier of Okinawa). This shrinkage, accompanied by a rapid shrinkage of the work force, is leading to increased pressure on benefits to seniors, while working mothers continue to face problems on the job and in life.
    • In adjacent China, the prospect of labour shortages is looming. Marginal Revolution noted earlier this week the costs imposed on the Chinese labour market by protections. This, along with the disappearance of China's rural surplus labour as a consequence of below-replacement fertility and migration, makes me think any number of futures are possible for China demographically. This includes the possibility of international immigration.
    • Finally, the Irish Times was one newspaper among many that reported on a half-joking proposal in 1983 by people within the British government to resettle millions of Chinese in Northern Ireland if they so wanted it. (The Guardian goes into more detail about the specifics of the proposal.) This proposal seems at the time to have been a joke born of frustration with the complex situations of Northern Ireland and Hong Kong, yet it raises an interesting question: Why didn't the United Kingdom have programs to attract immigrants from Hong Kong in the years before the handover to China, like other countries around the world

    Friday, June 19, 2015

    Notes on the emergent western Balkan route of migrants

    The Guardian was one news source of more than a few to report on Hungary's plans to build a fence along its border with Serbia to keep out migrants coming from Serbia.

    Hungary has ordered the closure of the EU country’s border with Serbia and the construction of a fence along the frontier to keep out migrants, the foreign minister said.

    “The Hungarian government has instructed the interior ministry to physically close the border with Serbia,” Péter Szijjártó told reporters on Wednesday.

    He said the ministry had been ordered to “begin preparation work for a four-metre-high fence along the length of Hungary’s 175km [110-mile] border with Serbia.”

    [. . .]

    Serbia is not yet a member of the European Union, though it has started accession talks, while Hungary is part of the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone. This means that, once in Hungary, migrants can easily travel onwards to other countries in the zone.

    Last year, Hungary received more migrants per capita than any other EU country apart from Sweden, with the number shooting up to almost 43,000 people from just 2,000 in 2012.

    These migrants, it should be noted, are not migrants from Serbia. Substantial numbers of Serbians have moved north into Hungary, ethnic Hungarians from the Serbian border province of Vojvodina and otherwise, but their migration is not as politically controversial as others'. Most of these migrants, rather, are coming from outside of Europe, making use of a land corridor stretching from the Greek border to the Hungarian to try to get into the Schengen zone.

    The western Balkans route has become prominent only recently, a consequence of other routes becoming more difficult and perhaps also of new regional crises in the eastern Mediterranean. Data from Frontex notes the surge.

    The irregular migration trends in the Western Balkans region underwent rapid changes following the introduction of visa-free travel within the European Union. In just four years, the region transitioned from being largely a source country for irregular migration to mostly a transit area of irregular migrants from Greece.

    In 2012, nationals from the Western Balkans were increasingly found abusing various forms of legal travel, detected either during border checks or while already in the European Union. The misuse of international protection provisions in Member States and Schengen Associated Countries was by far the most prevalent. In 2012, there were almost 33 000 asylum applications submitted by citizens of the five newly visa-exempt Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), or 53% more than in 2011. The number was the highest since the introduction of visa–free travel in the region and accounted for 12% of the total number of asylum applications in the European Union. Other abuses of legal travel channels were linked to overstay in the European Union. More precisely, there were roughly a fifth more detections of Western Balkans’ nationals illegally staying in Member States countries – this group included mainly Kosovars, Serbs and Albanians. The latter group was also the most commonly detected nationality using document fraud to illegally enter the European Union/Schengen area from a third country in 2012. Almost one fifth of all detections were linked to the Albanian nationality, largely using counterfeit entry/exit stamps intended to hide overstay.

    The year 2013 witnessed an unprecedented increase in the migratory flow at the Hungarian-Serbian border. During this period, almost 20 000 migrants illegally crossed the Hungarian-Serbian border section and nearly all of them applied for asylum after crossing. The nationalities reflected the dual typology of this route and included residents of Kosovo, Serbian nationals but also Pakistani, Afghan, Algerian Moroccan nationals as well as sub-Saharan Africans, many of whom had been living in Greece prior to travel.

    In all, detected illegal entries on this route have risen from 3090 in 2009 to 43 360 in 2014.

    This route has started to acquire press coverage. Glen Johnson's report of the 22nd of April in The National ("Migrants exploited every step of the way on Balkans route to Europe"), Karin Schmidt Martinez's report at, or Simona Sikimic's Middle East Eye article "From Syria to Serbia: The migrants' Balkan backdoor". The below illustration of the western Balkans route comes from Sikimic's excellent piece.

    The most affecting article I've come across is an Associated Press article by Dalton Bennett and Shawn Pogatchnik, published in Canada's National Post as "European dreams become nightmares: Africans seeking new life make epic trek through Balkans’ back door". The two followed a group of migrants, mainly Francophone Africans, on a nightmarish trek north through the former Yugoslavia. This is strongly recommended reading.

    The walls are sweating in the safe house in Thessaloniki, Greece, a windowless basement apartment with no furnishings, two bedrooms and a camp-style cooker on the floor. It’s the end of February, and an African smuggler has brought 45 clients to this base camp to escort them on off-road paths through Macedonia to Serbia. Among the group are 11 women, including two with 10-month-old children.

    The smuggler, a former soldier, agreed to allow an AP journalist to accompany them on condition he not be identified because what he’s doing is illegal.
    He goes from migrant to migrant, checking their readiness for the journey to Serbia. By car, it would take less than five hours. On foot, it’s an estimated 10 days.

    When some giggle at his questions, he sets a stern tone: “Shut up. This isn’t a joke once you’re out there. If you think it’s funny, I’ll send you back to Athens.”

    He’s taken three other groups on the route, and charges those on this trip a wide range of prices, depending on their ability to pay but averaging around $500. Discounts apply if they help him keep the others supplied and disciplined. Kids go free.