Recently, I listened to an interview of Lant Pritchett. He is a developmental economist who worked for 20 years at The World Bank and is affiliated with Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government. The topic for the interview was the news that the global population had declined. In the interview, he noted that “The reaction is often ‘ho hum’ as the rates are slow and hence the issue seems small and in the future.” But he added that without proper planning and policy, the “falling birth rates could upend economies.”
The issue is exacerbated because of where the declines are occurring. “According to the United Nations, two thirds of all people live in countries where the average birth rates are lower than the replacement rate.” Pritchett added “You go from having lots of people in the labor force to support the elderly [to] equality of people in the labor force and people in the aged population, and that just has never happened in the history of the world. And it’s not clear it’s a sustainable way to sustain the social contract we have in which the young support the old.”
While this is concerning, there are solutions. In many parts of the developing world, youth populations are still growing. And these countries struggle to create enough jobs to sustain that increase in working age adults. At a macro level, the solution seems simple – immigration. People from those countries with growing labor forces and not enough jobs move to places where the labor force has declined.
But as we all know, the words simple, rational, and immigration rarely find themselves in the same sentence. The politics around immigration, especially from the developing world, are complicated. In the US, the government has acknowledged that our immigration policy and system has not worked well for decades yet there has been little progress in solving the problem. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, a 2021 Gallup poll found that 75% of Americans think that immigration is beneficial for the U.S., but a majority felt that illegal immigration was a threat to our security.
Pritchett believes that temporary visas for workers could be part of the solution whereas others think that the temporary visas lead to exploitation and that permanent visas are the solution. It’s likely that a solution will have both permanent and temporary visa components. The first steps likely require the dissemination of this information to raise the alarm and put pressure on law makers to find a solution. The skeptic in me wonders how this can happen given the lack of progress over decades while the optimist in me remains hopeful. Let’s hope my optimism wins out.
Take care and stay safe.
Homecoming by Kate Morton
Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek in the grounds of a grand and mysterious house, a local deliveryman makes a terrible discovery. A police investigation is called and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most shocking and perplexing murder cases in the history of South Australia.
Many years later and thousands of miles away, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for nearly two decades, she now finds herself laid off from her full-time job and struggling to make ends meet. Until a phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital.
At Nora’s house, Jess discovers a true crime book that chronicles the police investigation into a long-buried event: the Turner Family Tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1959. It is only when Jess skims through the pages that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous scandal — a murder mystery that has never been resolved satisfactorily.An epic novel that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, and how we protect the lies we tell. It explores the power of motherhood, the corrosive effects of tightly held secrets, and the healing nature of truth.