Monday, 30 March 2009

Talkback on Population

The concept of the 'population bomb' is so imbedded in our thinking that it does not occur to us that human population growth may end, not because of disaster, but because of other natural processes.(Glen Hiemstra )

Back from a mini-break in Guernsey, I listened to BBC Radio Jersey and was pleasantly surprised to hear Senator Sarah Ferguson say that the "demographic time bomb" was in fact more a a demographic hump, because once the "baby boomers" generation reaches its peak, the elderly population will then start to decline fairly rapidly (even given modern healthcare). She said that really long term planning should plan both for and past the peak population of elderly people. This ties in with the fact noted by Glen Hiemstra in "The Futurist", which is looking at the USA, but has implications wherever there was a "baby boom" in the West, including Jersey:

Generation Y, the 'dot com generation' or the 'millennial generation' is huge. The baby boom was 76 million strong in the U.S. Generation X, those born between 1964 and 1979 was much smaller, at only 17 million (an astonishing drop).

It is the first time I've heard a politician actually mention that "hump" rather than "time bomb" - because of course one of the features of the proposed inward migration is that it will probably increase the duration of that peak, and make the "demographic time bomb" longer - it is easy to see why, because if younger people come to the Island (probably mostly in the range 25-40), they will in turn age, and add the the growing number of elderly. In fact, any simple model shows that you lower the average age in the short term, only by producing a weighting factor that will increase the average age in the long term. The only way this means of combating an increase in average will work is to continue to grow the population by bringing in younger people, which in turn, increases the total population. It looks good in the short term, but in the long term is a mathematical disaster. The model just will not work.

What is really needed is an immigration policy that will ensure immigration takes place only if the birth rate is declining to the point that the total population will start falling (or certainly falling below a critical level). In order to do this, some decent mathematical models based on census information should be developed, and this should as far as possible be adjusted each year by parameters of population change - births, deaths and other measures of immigration from housing, tax, social security, electoral role etc.


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