TORONTO, July 2, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The C.D. Howe Institute, a Canadian public policy think tank, issued a study last Thursday on the problem of demographic change in increasingly-aged Canada.
The study argues that immigration alone will not offset the effects of Canada’s increasing ratio of dependant elderly to workers. The authors assert, rather, that “later retirement, higher fertility, and faster productivity growth are more powerful tools to ease the stress of demographic change on Canadian living standards.”
According to the study, “current fertility and immigration rates, moderately rising life expectancy, and historical productivity increases can be expected to depress workforce growth, boost the ratio of Canadians 65 and over to those of working age (the old-age dependency ratio) and depress growth in incomes per person.”
The institute contests the popular solution of immigration, seen by many as “an elixir of youth.” “Despite some popular commentary,” the study states, “offsetting or even noticeably mitigating these trends through increased immigration alone would require unrealistic increases in total immigration levels.”
Instead, the authors make three recommendations. First, to raise the standard retirement age from 65 to 70. “Advances in longevity,” they say, “and shifts toward later workforce entry and less physically demanding occupations mean that the equivalent of working until age 65 in 1970 is now working until at least age 70. Yet, for a variety of reasons, people are retiring earlier than they did in 1970.”
Second, they recommend raising the fertility rate. The authors quantify this suggestion by recommending that Canada raise the rate from its current level of 1.54 children per woman to the replacement level of 2.1. Wary of this “politically controversial” issue, however, they avoid suggesting policy initiatives in this area. Reportedly, in a radio interview conducted in Alberta, C.D. Howe President and C.E.O. William Robson avoided the central problem of fertility decline, calling it a “radioactive issue.”
Third, they recommend boosting productivity growth, i.e. the increase in real output per potential worker, by one percent.
Avoiding controversy, the authors sidestep the central issues of Western demographic change. Commentator Rory Leishman of the London Free Press notes that, while the authors do not suggest how legislators should encourage fertility, “at least one part of the solution is obvious: A major reduction in the catastrophic increase in abortions over the past 40 years.”
“According to Statistics Canada,” he continues, “there were 28.3 induced abortions for every 100 live births in Canada in 2005, down from a peak of 32.2 in 1998. While the downward trend is encouraging, it’s hardly sufficient. Our politicians will have to take decisive action to curb abortion. Few reforms could do more to eliminate a huge amount of suffering and death.”
Boosting a country’s birth rate through judicious policies is not without precedent. In recent years France has made a concerted effort to boost fertility. Its birth rate is 1.9, high by Western standards; however, it is still lower than replacement level. As LSN reported in 2006, France has implemented various initiatives, such as graduated tax breaks, and financial incentives for families, including discounts on transportation and family activities.
It’s amazing really. Fiscal conservatives are supposed to face the economic facts squarely, but when it involves abortion and its ruinous effects on Canadian society, they won’t touch it.
So what good are their observations, if they don’t connect the dots? Even when the moral and the economic spheres collide, as they always and inevitably will, their cowardly ways won’t allow them to call a spade a spade. Not only, therefore, are they unwilling to engage the moral issue, they won’t even stay true to their own economic principles by telling the truth, even though it may be an inconvenient one that challenges their old, sacred sexual cows.