New Wrinkles on Global Aging

Immigrants Can't Reverse the Graying

According to a recent report issued by the European Commission, immigration, even if massive, would not resolve Europe’s aging problems—particularly the retirement crisis. This is a highly sensitive issue at a time when populist political parties have gained some favor among people who are worried by a major increase in crime, which is often associated with immigrant populations.

Immigration issues are even more crucial since Europe, faced with a rapid aging of its population, has in the past relied on immigrants (for example, in Germany) in order to ensure its economic development.
In its 2002 report “The Social Situation in the European Union,” the commission has estimated that the “net positive flow” of entries into the EU was 700,000 people in 1999 and 2000, representing an annual growth rate in the population
of 0.2 percent.

By the year 2050, the commission estimates, the combined population of the 15 current members of the EU would increase “significantly,” with fertility rates of 1.8 (versus 1.4 presently) and a net annual immigration gain of 1.2 million people. However, “Even net annual immigration gains of 1 million linked with fertility rates higher than the present rates would not be enough to change the rate of dependence related to old age by 2050 (the proportion of the population over 65 divided by the population age 15 to 64, which is currently 0.24).

“Immigration may help fill certain specific gaps in the European labor market—but there is no way we can halt or reverse the process of the significant aging of the population in Europe,” the commission concludes.