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Immigration Policy Check

Random thoughts for today…. As much as it pains me to say this, Sen. Rick Santorum made a very valid point regarding the American population this morning on TV, and it immediately brought to mind what is going on in Japan.

He said that if it wasn’t for the immigration policies of the United States, we would likely see a decrease in new births, resulting in less children among the population. He’s right and the facts support his statement. The last census revealed that Hispanics accounted for more than 1/2 of the population increase between 2000 and 2010 (Source: http://2010.census.gov/news/releases/operations/cb11-cn146.html). Less non-Hispanics are having children because it is expensive to have them, the job market situation doesn’t support them and the economic outlook makes it difficult for potential parents to consider this as a viable option.

So back to my thoughts on Japan relative to this. According to the report that came out in early January 2012, the Ministry of Health states that the population contracted at its fastest rate since 1947 – post WW2. There is a full generation of young adults that have the lowest population numbers since statistics were kept. If this doesn’t indicate a need for immigration reform, I don’t know what does. Clearly immigration efforts can bolster a population and to some extent, a portion of its economic prospects. More children creates more possibility for tax revenues to support government entitlement programs like national healthcare (or Medicare in the US). The issue for Japan is a loss of its “Japanese-ness” as a result of immigration. Perhaps there is a fear that by opening the floodgates and allowing foreigners into the country in higher numbers, that uniqueness that is Japan will somehow disappear. They might have it all wrong.  In a country like Japan where the pervasiveness of the culture is in everyday activities, speech and interactions, it is nearly impossible in my mind that they will lose all sense of this. It is ironic somehow that there would be a concern for this considering how quick the Japanese are to adopt borrow-words from other cultures/countries and how easily they “Japanize” things like food and entertainment.

This population problem in Japan will continue to be an issue unless they change the incentives for native Japanese to have children OR they change their immigration policies. And even then, this will take at least 1 full generation to reverse the decline. Open the immigration gates for a little while, Japan. Get some “fresh” blood that is adapable, willing to learn the language and can provide services that aren’t a drain on the already troubled economy. There’s no shortage of talent out there these days & I’m sure many will be willing to have some kids to boot.

In the same token, I don’t see the US population declining anytime soon, but I do see a shift in the demographic continuing. Soon we’ll all be speaking Spanish as the newest mandatory language!

Really. I’m serious.