Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture
2015-09-01 16:13:44 -

Because the EU’s newer members from Eastern Europe have little or no experience or history dealing with an influx of thousands of immigrants, I can understand why some of their citizens are afraid, and believe the current wave of immigration is a threat to their countries’ economic and social society stability. But that fear is also blinding them to the long-term economic benefits that come about thanks to immigration.


Previously I have written about the negative economic consequences associated with declining populations. In fact, history tells us that no nation has ever been able to grow economically while its population was declining. Instead of growing, its economy contracts because demand for all goods and services (except healthcare) falls, and innovation withers. A contracting economy also threatens a nation’s social stability because it reduces government revenues for providing services and increases the welfare tax burden on the remaining workers.


On the other hand, Nobel Prize-winning economist Simon Smith Kuznets observes that “more population means more creators and producers, both of goods along established production patterns and of new knowledge and inventions.” While a growing population places a strain on government services such as education, it also provides more tax revenues to pay for those services. Furthermore, a growing population reduces the tax burden on workers by spreading the costs of welfare benefits across a larger population of younger workers.


When a country’s fertility rate drops below the replacement rate of 2.1 live births per woman, the negative effects on its population will be seen within 20-40 years, depending on how low the birthrate goes. So the only way a country can offset a declining birthrate among its native citizens and prevent a population decline is through immigration. However, the EU members fighting most vigorously against admitting more immigrants are the countries with the lowest fertility rates that would benefit the most from accepting more, instead of fewer, immigrants.


In the last two decades we have seen countries like Russia and Japan crippled by the effects of a declining population. Both countries are grappling with the problem of having fewer younger citizens to provide for the needs of increasing numbers of older people. While we have plenty of demagogues here in America – like the guy with the same name as the British slang for flatulence – who love to bash immigrants and blame them for many of our nation’s ills, our economy is stronger than the EU’s because of the positive impacts on our economy from both irregular and legal immigration.


Before my wife returned to Syria to grieve the sudden passing of her father with her family, we spent an evening visiting with a Syrian family that has been in America for a little over a year now. My wife became acquainted with this family when their daughter Aya participated in one of my wife’s workshops to empower young women by teaching them self-defence and leadership skills. While Aya’s parents expressed concern for my wife’s safety while she was in Damascus, you could tell from their questions that they also secretly envied her.


Much like my wife’s dearly departed father, Sameer and Keira sorely miss Syria and fervently hope to one day be able to return home and rebuild their lives in the land they love. Before the civil war broke out they were both dentists in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. But after three years of war they decided to immigrate to America to protect the lives of their three school-age daughters. Today Sameer works in a warehouse for $8 an hour so it’s pretty obvious he is not here for economic reasons, but rather for the sake of his wife and daughters’ safety.


Nor is Aya’s family alone. Shortly before she flew to Beirut, my wife called one of her friends to let her know she was returning home for a few months. But she was taken when her friend told her that she was in Kos, Greece and her parents had paid smugglers the equivalent of €1,000 for seats on a boat that had crossed the Mediterranean from Bodrum in Turkey. She told my wife that they had never wanted to leave Syria and hoped to one day return, but that Kos was only the first stop on a 2,500km journey by foot to their final destination in Germany.


Can you imagine what it is like to travel 1,200km by foot from Syria to Bodrum and face another 2,500km of illegal border crossings – in Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria – to get to Germany? Are we seriously worried that they will take some low-paying job away from us if we give them asylum? These migrants deserve our respect and admiration for what they have overcome and we should welcome them with open arms when they arrive in our country, wherever that may be.

TAGS : Immigration European Union Syria migrant crisis
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