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Thursday, June 20, 2002


Italy is at present the second oldest country on the planet (the honour of being first currently goes to Japan). Belgium and Italy are currently the runners up behind Japan, in government debt to GDP ratio, and Italy is faced in the mid-term with a serious drought of new labour market entrants, shortage of young people, mounting social security and health costs, and the serious possibility of a Japan style growth slowdown (if not actual reduction/deflation). So what does the Italian government propose to do? You got it, clamp down on immigration:

"Immigrants from non-European Union countries could be fingerprinted and some illegal immigrants jailed for a year under provisions of a bill passed by Italy's lower house Tuesday — part of a promised crackdown.....The bill also calls for the immediate expulsion of illegal immigrants and would also allow authorities to put them in jail for up to one year if found back on Italian soil after being expelled once...."We need to show people who want to arrive here illegally that we are able to kick them out," said Berlusconi ally Umberto Bossi, whose Northern League party has been accused of being against foreigners...Italy, a country of about 56.3 million people, has about 1.2 million immigrants — one of the lowest rates in the European Union. But many Italians blame immigrants for the crime rate and support the center-right's tough line that helped bring Berlusconi to power last year.

Some experts, however, point out that with Italy's low birth rate and a shrinking work force, the country needs immigrants to keep its economy going. And immigrants often take jobs that many Italians shun, such as harvesting fruit, washing dishes in restaurants, caring for the elderly and cleaning offices and houses."

Obviously my point here is not to defend illegality. But it needs to be borne in mind that the majority of imigrants currently arriving on Europe's shores, are coming for economic reasons, because there is work here, because we need the people who are coming,

The problem is that Italy has no credible programe, a la USA, for the responsible introduction of immigrants. And the numbers Italy needs if it is to avoid implosion are truly mind shattering. The UN population division estimates that without immigration (or with only minimal imigration) Italy's population will actually FALL by 28% (or by some 16 million people) between now and 2050 (and remember this country has only some 56 million people). In it's report on Italy's population problems the UN runs through five possible scenarios for their imigration needs. LINK to replacement migration, the case of Italy PDF

Two of these involve either (i) maintaining a constant working age population (15 - 64), ie no decline in potential workforce. In this case the UN estimate Italy needs - wait for it - 19.6 million imigrants between now and 2050, or

(ii) maintaining the 'support ratio' (that is the proportion of those working to those who are not) at it's present level (thus maintaining the present level of welfare and health services). This would involve - now really hold your breath - a total of 122 million immigrants between now and 2050 (remember Italy's present population is only some 56 million) Obviously this isn't going to happen, so neither is welfare Italian style going to be maintained.

But there's more. The kind of dynamic equilibria that characterise modern G7 style economies involve some fairly complex balancing processes which are pretty sensitive to dramatic changes in key parameters (or subject, in economists jargon, to substantial non-linearities). So what is going to happen when this particular ship touches its iceberg, among other things are the imigrants going to want to come to a country suffering an Argentina style recession, or come to think of it, are they going to want to come to a country that makes them feel so unwelcome, treats them like criminals, and whose actions, when it still had the time and opportunity to act, were so cruel, unjust and totally without compasion.
Discuss Why Italy Needs Imigrants

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