It is indeed true that the decline in the populations of many countries will change attitudes to immigrants as Stephen Bush argues (Opinion, May 31).
However, immigration is not the answer it first appears. The International Organization for Migration estimates that there are 272mn migrants in the world today. These are people living in a country in which they were not born.
Of these, 41.3mn are refugees. These numbers, sadly, have not been updated to include the people fleeing from the war in Ukraine.
This seems like a large number, but 272mn only represents 3.5 per cent of the global population. That percentage has remained remarkably constant. It seems that the vast majority of people want to stay “at home”. There is no accelerating trend of migration. Most of the recent growth has come from the refugees of the wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. People pushed from their countries tend to stay close. They are not beating on the doors of Europe but are in refugee camps waiting to go home.
Migration is also organised along geographic corridors. South America provides a continuous migrant flow into the US and Canada. Of the international migrants within Europe, 37 per cent come from other European countries. The balance comes from north Africa and the Middle East. For a country looking for migrants, the whole 272mn is not therefore available.
Having attracted the migrants a country then has to keep them. A recent study by the University of Washington suggests that 45 per cent of all migrants return home. They go back to their families and “good food”. Mexican migrants within the US provide an interesting example. The number declined by 7 per cent between 2010 and 2019. Prior to that between 2005 and 2010 as many Mexicans went home as arrived.
The population of countries such as Italy and Spain is forecast to decline by 50 per cent by the turn of the century. Attitudes to migration will change but this will not be enough to solve their problems. Attracting and keeping immigrants will be the new competition.
Visiting Professor of Management
Bayes Business School,
City, London University,
London EC1, UK