Falling fertility rates means fewer workers
By DAWN WALTON
CALGARY -- Immigration will become one of
the most crucial issues of the century for countries such as Canada that have
declining birth rates, according to the demography guru at the United
Joseph Chamie, director of the UN's population division, said a decline in
fertility rates will mean labour shortages for industrialized countries unless
immigrants step in as replacement workers or residents start having more
"It will be the hot topic for many countries," he said in an interview
yesterday, after speaking to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
"[There will be] competition for talented, skilled, unskilled and
As a result, Mr. Chamie predicts that in the not-so-distant future many more
people will move from country to country.
Statistics Canada this week revealed census
figures that show the country's fertility rate at 1.5 children, representing the
average number of children a woman will have during her lifetime.
That's far lower than a rate of 2.1 children per woman needed to maintain the
At the current rate, the country's population, which now stands at a little
more than 30 million, will stop growing within nine years, an expert suggested
earlier this week.
Before the census was released, the UN
predicted Canada's population would reach 40 million by the year 2050.
Canada is not alone in facing potential population problems.
In the 1950s, women worldwide had an average of five children during their
That global figure has dropped to 2.7 children, according to the UN. Italy
and Japan, for example, have even lower fertility rates than Canada.
A lot of people are holding off having children and are having fewer of them
as women increasingly focus on their careers and education, and as contraception
has become more widely available, Mr. Chamie explained.
"This is a concern for many governments because of the declining, aging
population," Mr. Chamie said.
"People making small, individual decisions, [are] having enormous national
and global consequences," he said. Governments, he added, are beginning to
consider the implications of what's going on in the bedroom.
A population decline affects not only the labour force, but schools,
pensions, investment, consumption, taxation rates and individual households.
Mr. Chamie noted that countries such as Germany, which in the past has been
reluctant to open its borders to immigration, are now considering relaxing
immigration policies in order to prop up their population base.