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The impact of European population dynamics on migration policies

Report | Doc. 14143 | 03 October 2016

Committee
Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons
Rapporteur :
Ms Kristin Ørmen JOHNSEN, Norway, EPP/CD
Origin
Reference to committee: Doc. 13766, Reference 4130 of 22 May 2015. 2016 - Fourth part-session

Summary

In contrast to other regions of the world, Europe is particularly concerned by the current “demographic winter”: owing to the decline in fertility, the average global birth rate has reached a record low of 1.5 children born to each woman.

At the same time, Council of Europe countries have the oldest population in the world, due to the high percentage of people aged 65 and over. This trend towards ageing of the European population will accelerate in the future as a result of increasing life expectancy. The resulting reduction in the proportion of the population of working age in Europe creates a need to attract young skilled migrants.

As a consequence, to respond to present population challenges and to make better use of the current important migration influx into Europe, member States need to develop long-term political strategies based on the needs of the labour market, striking a better balance between family and working life and encouraging the rapid entry of regular migrants into the labour market, while responding to their integration challenges.

A Draft resolutionNote

1 The significant changes in the dynamics of the European population in the 21st century call for an assessment of their impact on future migration policies in Europe.
2 The 47 member States of the Council of Europe have a total of 826 million inhabitants, which represents 11.3% of the world population. The average population density in Europe is 35 inhabitants per km², which is lower than the world average (55 inhabitants per km2). There is therefore potential for population growth.
3 Furthermore, in contrast to other world regions, the Council of Europe countries are particularly concerned by a “demographic winter”: owing to the decline in fertility, the average birth rate of 1.5 children born per woman is the lowest in the world. The demographic winter varies in intensity from one country to another, engendering diverging population trends.
4 At the same time, Council of Europe countries have the oldest population in the world, with the highest percentage of people aged 65 and over, and this situation will accelerate in the future also as a result of increasing life expectancy. The resulting reduction in the proportion of the European population of working age creates a need to consider more actively how to attract young skilled migrants to the European labour market.
5 The Parliamentary Assembly believes that to make better use of the current substantial migration influx in Europe, countries of immigration need to develop long-term political strategies based on the needs of the labour market, responding to integration challenges and encouraging their rapid entry into the labour market.
6 The Assembly is convinced that in order to respond to the present population challenges in Europe, a cross-sectorial approach to social, labour market and immigration policies should be applied, and that the human rights and dignity of all people should be put at the forefront of all related policies.
7 The Assembly therefore invites the Council of Europe member States concerned to:
7.1 develop policies to address the European demographic winter by:
7.1.1 promoting social policies which encourage couples to have as many children as they wish;
7.1.2 developing policies to strike a better balance between family and working life, including in favour of women’s and men’s greater participation in the labour market by providing the necessary training programmes, flexible working hours, parental leave systems and family planning assistance, as well as material incentives;
7.1.3 introducing national childcare strategies to encourage young people to combine work and family life;
7.2 develop special policies to curb the negative effects of population ageing by:
7.2.1 introducing labour market reforms in order to encourage the employment of senior citizens, when necessary;
7.2.2 implementing salary and pension system reforms in order to make the employment of senior citizens more attractive, when necessary;
7.2.3 developing employment policies which appeal to young people and preventing the rural exodus of young people;
7.2.4 supporting life-long learning initiatives aimed at increasing the proportion of skilled workers;
7.2.5 fostering health-care policies to increase healthy life expectancy;
7.3 develop, as required, forward-looking migration policies, including safe transport of persons, to attract qualified migrants, in particular by:
7.3.1 conducting sectorial analyses of the labour market to identify where there is a real shortage of skilled labour;
7.3.2 ensuring that all obstacles are eliminated from national legislation for the rapid entry of refugees into the labour market;
7.3.3 creating access to employment for regular migrants, responding both to the needs of host societies and eliminating the black labour market with its associated trafficking and exploitation of migrants;
7.3.4 promoting vocational training for refugees to encourage their integration into the labour market;
7.3.5 facilitating the recognition of the educational diplomas and vocational skills of migrants;
7.3.6 further developing vocational training and language courses for migrants, especially for migrant women;
7.3.7 promoting the successful integration of migrants and their families by revising integration policies to ensure that migrants are not segregated in the host society and that they are involved in the social and cultural life of local communities;
7.3.8 enhancing public information on the economic benefits of legal migration and cultural diversity for society.
8 The Assembly encourages the development of policy co-ordination between the Council of Europe member States in relation to demographic trends and their influence on economic development. It also encourages the relevant international organisations (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the European Union, for instance) to collect data on population dynamics in European countries and carry out comparative studies on population and migration-related issues.
9 Finally, the Assembly decides to come back to this issue on a regular basis.

B Explanatory memorandum by Ms Kristin Ørmen Johnsen, rapporteur

1 Introduction

1 The total population in the 47 member States of the Council of Europe stood at 826 million in 2015. This figure represents 11.3% of the world population.
2 Over the last decades, the dynamics of the European population have undergone important changes directly affecting the social and economic development of Europe. Birth rates in Europe have been low for several decades, with an average of 1.5 children born per woman over that period. This is one quarter below the threshold for the “simple replacement of generations”, which is 2.1 children per woman in a Europe with high health standards. This type of sustained low fertility rate has been defined by demographers as a “demographic winter”.
3 The first consequence of this demographic winter is to accentuate the ageing of the population, increasing the proportion of elderly people in society. The rate of “ageing at the bottom” of the age pyramid, as it is known in demographics, is high, given the low levels of generations successively being born.
4 A second consequence, which so far applies only to certain European countries and a growing number of regions, relates to an excess of deaths in relation to births, creating a negative natural balance, known as “depopulation”. This depopulation causes a slump in the population, and therefore desertification, in areas where the net migration count is negative or not positive enough to compensate for this negative natural balance.
5 A third consequence of the “demographic winter” impacts on the workforce. For one thing, it gradually ages as the working-age generations arriving on the labour market are smaller than the previous generations. Accordingly, the proportion of members of the workforce aged 55-64 years may become more sizeable than that of the 25-34 year-olds. At the same time, the intensity of the “demographic winter” may engender a reduction in the workforce.
6 The reduction in the workforce may be counteracted by increased rates of employment, among young people and seniors for example. But this will not necessarily be enough to meet the needs of the economy.
7 The inadequacy of the workforce may mean that immigration is needed – this is known as “replacement migration”. It should further be pointed out that there are various past examples providing an insight into the impact of population dynamics on migration policies.
8 The Parliamentary Assembly has previously tackled the issue of demographic and population trends in Europe in its several of its resolutions and recommendations.Note The latest one is Resolution 1864 (2012) “Demographic trends in Europe: turning challenge into opportunity”. Taking into account recent developments in Europe, in particular the economic crisis and the important influx of migrants, it is high time to analyse the impact of present European population dynamics on migration policies.
9 The present report is based on an expert analysis prepared by Mr Gérard-François Dumont, Professor at Paris-Sorbonne UniversityNote and the findings of a hearing organised by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. It also includes the data collected during the fact-finding mission I made to Germany on 31 May 2016. The conclusions of the mission to the Republic of Moldova (26-27 September 2016) can be found in an addendum to the present rapport.
10 The report presents the salient features of European countries' population dynamics, taking into account inter alia settlement, birth rates, death rates and age structure, and their effects. It analyses the modern-day demographic trends using a few historical examples illustrating the effects of demographic trends on migration policies. Finally, the report discusses to what extent migration can contribute to improving a situation marked by the ageing of the European population and the reduction of the work force.

2 The salient features of European population dynamics

11 The entity formed by the 47 Council of Europe countries has a population with a highly diversified geographic distribution, and its natural change is characterised by a very low birth rate and rapid ageing.

2.1 Very uneven geographic distribution of the populationNote

12 Regarding the populations of Council of Europe member States, the question is whether population density can be considered to leave so little margin for further growth that those countries are obliged to adopt anti-immigration or even pro-emigration policies.
13 The 826 million inhabitants of the Council of Europe member States have at their disposal a total area of 23.835 million km2, making an average density of 35 inhabitants/km2, which is much lower than in India (400) or China (143). It is even lower than the world average (55), slightly lower than in Africa (39), but higher than in America (25). One may therefore deduce from these comparisons that in the geographic entity formed by the member States there are undeniably still margins for population growth.Note
14 It must be pointed out, however, that the Council of Europe counts among its members the world’s biggest country in terms of area: Russia, with 17 098 million km2, namely 13.4% of the ecumene. There are many vast zones within that country that, for topographical or climatic reasons, offer very few possibilities for human settlement. Life there is difficult for the human metabolism due, in part, to low to very low average temperatures all year round and to the fact that much of Russian territory lies within the Arctic polar circle, which means at least one winter day when the sun does not rise at all and several months each year with only a few hours of sunlight each day. In view of its specific geography, therefore, it makes sense to exclude Russia from our examination of the Council of Europe countries’ populations.
15 This leaves a population in the remaining 46 countries of 681 million people living on 6 737 km2. That is two thirds of China’s surface area and double that of India. But it is five times less than that of Africa and almost seven times less than that of America. The average population density of those 46 countries is 101 inhabitants/km2, which is almost twice the world average, but again it is less than for China and much less than for India. From these quantitative data it may be inferred that there are still margins within Europe, all other things being equal, for the population to increase.
16 An examination of the geographic distribution of the population only confirms that conclusion. One characteristic of the geo-demographic entity of the Council of Europe is the very uneven distribution of its population, which shall be considered below first at country level, and then at the level of regions within those countries.
17 The population geography of the Council of Europe corresponds, roughly speaking, to the centre-periphery model,Note the densest region being what is generally known as the “European backbone”. This area extending from the United Kingdom to Italy via Benelux and Germany is composed of countries with a population density of more than 200 inhabitants/km2; in the case of the Netherlands it even slightly exceeds 400 inhabitants/km2.
18 The population density of the European countries on the immediate periphery of that backbone – Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic and France – is lower, between 101 and 150 inhabitants/km2.
19 Beyond that immediate periphery the density falls to 100 inhabitants/km2 or less, but remains above 55 inhabitants/km2. The countries concerned are Bulgaria, Spain, Romania, Ukraine and the Balkan countries. The only exceptions are the Republic of Moldova and Portugal, with a population density, respectively, of 121 and 112 inhabitants/km2.
20 Finally, the population density is particularly low – less or much less than 55 inhabitants/km2 – in the Baltic States and in the northern countries: Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland, part of whose territory lies within the Arctic polar circle.
21 In order to find a population density equivalent to the average for the Council of Europe countries (excluding Russia), namely around 100 inhabitants/km2, we need to go to Turkey and to two of the three countries of the South Caucasus, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia’s population density being less than half that average.
22 However, the highest population density is to be found in two small European countries: Malta – in fact a tiny Mediterranean archipelago – has 1 333 inhabitants/km², while Monaco, the smallest country in terms of area, located not very far from the European backbone, has 40 000 inhabitants/km².
23 At country level, then, there is an overall geographic pattern to the distribution of Europe’s populations.
24 At the level of the regions of Council of Europe countries, the densest areas are concentrated along the above-mentioned backbone; this is the case for Germany’s Rhine regions, for example. At the level of the regions the differences in population distribution are much more marked: they are the result of policy decisions, of urbanisation and of migration from unattractive towards more appealing regions.Note
25 On the one hand, the population density exceeds 1 000 inhabitants/km² in small, highly urbanised regions such as the United Kingdom’s Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and, of course, London areas or Germany’s three city-states (Stadtstaaten), Bremen, Hamburg and Berlin. The Île-de-France region around Paris has a density close to 1 000 inhabitants/km², one of the legacies of France’s centralist policies.
26 On the other, population density is relatively high in European regions whose attractiveness derives from their economic dynamism or perceived quality of life; this is the case of certain coastal areas (Community of Valencia, Catalonia, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Liguria) and continental regions (some Swiss cantons, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Piedmont and Lombardy).
27 Conversely, the population density in Europe’s northern regions is very low. This is also true of non-coastal areas without any big towns and from which there has been a rural exodus, such as Spain’s Castilian regions and France’s Massif Central.
28 Consequently the Council of Europe countries do not form what in demography is meant by a “monde plein” (full world). There is undeniable potential for population growth, in particular in sparsely populated regions. That additional population could come either from an excess of births in relation to deaths or from migration. Accordingly, it is important to establish whether natural demographic change is leading to population growth in the Council of Europe countries, which in turn requires us to look more closely at birth and death rates.
29 In several other regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian sub-continent, demographic changes are experiencing a so-called “demographic transition” period, in which there is a shift from high to lower birth and death rates.Note In other regions which have completed their demographic transition, such as America, democratic changes remain dynamic. In contrast, the Council of Europe countries are, on average, particularly concerned by unprecedented demographic changes with a “demographic winter” situation which requires the framing of appropriate policies.

2.2 A “demographic winter” for birth rates almost everywhere

30 In the mid-2010s, the average birth rate in Council of Europe member States was lower than on any other continent:Note 11 births per thousand inhabitants, as compared with a world average of 20. It can be noted that this rate is almost on a par with that of China, whose birth rate decline has admittedly been exacerbated by its coercive demographic policy. It is higher than that of Japan, whose birth rate has fallen considerably these last few decades and which has a particularly large elderly population thanks to a life expectancy that is among the highest in the world. The low average birth rate in Council of Europe member States can be clearly illustrated by comparing two percentages: the Council of Europe countries account for 11.3% of the world’s population but only 6.3% of births, namely 9.3 million births in 2015 out of a world total of 147 million.
31 The low average birth rate in member States is due mainly to a decline in fertility,Note which has fallen these last few decades to an average of 1.5 children born per woman. The total fertility rate in Europe fell from 2.65 children per woman at the beginning of the 1950s to 1.5 in the 2010s, bearing in mind that given the quality of health-care in Europe, it would take 2.1 children per woman in order simply to replace each generation, in other words for 100 women in one generation to be replaced by the same number of women in the next generation 30 years later. At the end of the 1970s, the term “demographic winter” was used to describe this situation of a fertility rate that is lastingly well below the replacement threshold.Note
32 This “demographic winter” is a natural demographic system that shows variations between the different areas, corresponding in part to geographic criteria. Indeed, the latest data on the geography of fertility (2015) reveal contrasting situations. Only one country has a fertility rate that exceeds the replacement threshold: that country is Turkey, with 2.2 children born per woman. Azerbaijan has the same fertility rate, but given its relatively high mortality before the age of adulthood the replacement threshold is 2.27 children per woman. The highest fertility rates – or should we say the least low – are found above all in northern Europe (Ireland, Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark and Finland), France – western Europe’s biggest country by surface area – and Russia, where fertility has increased since the 2000s.
33 Conversely, very low fertility rates (less than 1.4 children per woman) are found in southern Europe (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain, Greece, Portugal) and eastern Europe (Republic of Moldova, Poland and Romania). Republic of Moldova, in fact, is a country with the fastest shrinking population in the world.Note
34 Between the two we find low fertility rates of 1.5 or 1.6 children born per woman in some 15 countries such as Germany, Austria, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, etc.
35 The differences in fertility from one European country to another can be explained by country-specific cultural, economic, social and also political factors. Generally speaking, countries that spend more on family policy have higher fertility rates, while those with weak family policies have very low fertility rates.
36 The low average fertility rate in Council of Europe member States is likely to cause a population decline. Indeed, a fertility rate of 1.5 children per woman means that a cohort of 100 women, i.e. 100 women born the same year, will be followed 30 years or one generation later by a cohort of only 71 women. Admittedly, the mean projections for 2050 predict not a population decrease but stagnation, with 831 million people in 2050, compared with 826 million in 2015. But that non-decline can be explained mainly by two favourable assumptions: longer life expectancy and migration.
37 In order to address the “demographic winter”, the Council of Europe countries should ideally pursue policies and deliver services enabling couples to choose the number of children they wish to have and, in particular, to strike a balance between their family and working lives, which is likely to increase the birth rate.

2.3 Mortality: a particularly favourable context

38 In the 2010s, the Council of Europe countries as a whole are seeing a rise in the number of deaths, which reached 9.3 million in 2015, or 18.2% of deaths worldwide (51 million). This is by no means due to a deterioration of living conditions: quite the contrary, in recent years the life expectancy of both sexes has risen. However, the more elderly people there are, the more deaths there are also. Hence the main reason for the increased mortality is the increase in the number of people of an age to die, since, as J. M. Keynes put it, “in the long run we are all dead”.
39 Reduced mortality, which equates with a longer life expectancy, is the result of four main factors:
  • a better, more complete, rich and varied diet, in particular due to progress in farming techniques and improved transport, and therefore trade, possibilities;
  • improved hygiene;
  • progress in the field of medical and pharmaceutical technologies and health-care systems;
  • more extensive use of machinery, and therefore less arduous working conditions.
40 The geography of the mortality of Council of Europe countries can be approached from the angle of life expectancy.Note Women’s life expectancy is equal to or higher than 79 years in all the northern and western countries, and in most of the eastern and southern countries including Cyprus, Georgia and Turkey.
41 A lower life expectancy – less than 79 years – is found in only a minority of countries: Bulgaria, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Serbia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
42 In all countries, men’s life expectancy at birth is lower than women’s, with the biggest differences in Latvia (9 years), Lithuania and Ukraine (10 years) and, lastly, Russia (11 years).
43 Of course it is to be hoped that the decline in child, adolescent and childbirth mortality – which, it must be said, has been quite marked these last few decades – will continue. However, given the already very low rates, any further progress is unlikely to have a major demographic impact. The life expectancy of the elderly may also increase further, but no significant population growth should be expected from this.
44 However, there is a real risk that improved life expectancy could halt in the event of a deterioration in health systems, health insurance and hygiene practices. For example, the possible increase in high-risk behaviours (smoking, drugs, alcohol, etc.) could have detrimental effects on life expectancy and, because of the young age of the persons engaging in such behaviour, lead to an increase in the number of potential years of life lost. To address this risk, it is essential to improve health education. In addition, there must be greater vigilance and reactivity of the public authorities vis-à-vis the industry sector to ensure that the quality of food for humans and animals (food additives, crop-protection products, cosmetic products, endocrine disrupters), and of the environment in which people live (air, water, etc.) is maintained. Decreasing excessive mortality at working ages will also lead to healthier and more numerous labour forces, thus reducing the need for labour migration.

2.4 The geography of natural growth rates

45 The ratio of births to deaths in 2015, comparable to that of previous years, therefore signifies demographic stagnation, in other words an equivalent number of births and deaths.
46 However, and with reference to the Population Reference Bureau’s data for 2015, the natural demographic systems divide the Council of Europe countries between those that show positive natural population growth, namely more births than deaths, and those with zero or negative growth. In geographic terms, the latter are to be found in central and eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Hungary, the Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic and Russia), northern Europe (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland) and southern Europe (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Serbia). These countries are suffering the cumulative effect of a particularly low fertility rate combined with a less than average life expectancy. In western Europe there is only one country – Germany – with negative natural growth.
47 Conversely, in 2015 there were only two Council of Europe countries – Turkey and Azerbaijan – with a clearly positive natural growth rate, that is to say equivalent to the world average (1.2 per 100 inhabitants).
48 In the Council of Europe countries where the natural growth rate is positive but much lower than the world average, the fundamental reason for this positive rate is almost always what is known as demographic inertia. What this means is that the analysis of a population must take account of demographic changes hidden in the sex and age structure of the population (the age pyramid). For example, there are Council of Europe countries (Denmark, Austria, Luxembourg or Switzerland) that have natural population growth – that is to say an excess of births in relation to deaths – in spite of a much reduced fertility rate, due to an age pyramid that (still) gives them a relatively high proportion of women of childbearing age.Note
49 The trend as regards natural population change within the member States is clear: unless there is a strong increase in the fertility rate, life expectancy or migration, the population will decrease due to the effect of ageing.

2.5 Accentuated ageing of the population

50 The entity formed by the Council of Europe countries has the oldest population in the world due to the high percentage of people aged 65 and over.
51 The main reason for the ageing of the European population is what is known as “ageing at the bottom” of the population pyramid, caused by a big drop in the fertility rate. As a result, there are smaller generations of young people, hence a smaller percentage of young people in the population, while the percentage of elderly people is increasing. In parallel to this phenomenon there is another cause of ageing: improved health and hygiene standards together with a better standard of living, leading to “ageing at the top” of the pyramid, in other words increased life expectancy for the elderly.
52 Migratory movements are a third factor that may impact the rate of ageing of a population. In the case of the Council of Europe countries, migration is a factor that slows down ageing of the population since the majority of immigrants are young. Indeed, the propensity of working-age individuals to emigrate to Europe for economic reasons (in search of a job or better, more highly paid work, or a better standard of living) is inversely proportional to their age. The Latin Americans, Africans and Asians who come to Europe to provide personal services such as childcare or assistance to the elderly, for example, come from the younger working-age generations. The same is true of the immigrants who work in the building and public works sectors.
53 A generally young age is also characteristic of the asylum seekers who emigrate to Europe and, even more, of candidates for family reunification, who are mainly women and children. The same applies to students from other continents. Moreover, as can be seen from the regularisation of illegal immigrants in several member States these last few decades, the average age of these people is generally well below the average age of the population in general.
54 Migration limits the ageing of the population in another way, in that it involves a higher proportion of individuals of an age to have children, and their fertility rate is often higher than that of the host population. The European migration system therefore contributes to reducing the age of the population, but the increase in the rate of ageing both at the top and the bottom of the pyramid to a large extent offsets that effect.
55 The ageing of Europe’s population seems likely to accelerate in future, since demographic projections generally suggest that the effects of the first two factors studied – ageing “at the top” and “at the bottom” of the pyramid – will intensify: the birth rate will decline, even in the case of a slight increase in the fertility rate, due to a reduction in the number of women of childbearing age, and the elderly will live longer.
56 A fourth factor with a similar effect is the demographic legacy: the generations now reaching retirement age are larger than the previous ones, which were smaller in size due to the world wars.
57 However, the rate of ageing varies considerably from one member State to another. There are wide gaps between the highest rates – to be found in Italy (with 22% aged 65 and over in 2015) and Germany and Greece (21%) – and the lowest ones, in Turkey (8%) and Azerbaijan (7%). These gaps are due to variations in the intensity of the different ageing factors: changes in fertility levels and the timing of childbearing, differences in the way the life expectancy of the elderly is evolving and in the level it has reached in the different countries, differences in the demographic legacy and differences as regards the migration system and the age structure of immigration and emigration flows.
58 Since the intensity and rate of ageing vary widely among the different European countries, the spectrum of economic, social and political consequences is also very broad. Judging by the trends at the start of the 21st century, the highest rates of ageing in the future are likely to be in eastern Europe, due to very low fertility rates and the potential there for increases in the life expectancy of the elderly, together with the failure to attract a young migrant population that might offset the ageing process.
59 The member States having recorded a considerable exodus of their younger working-age generations should pursue employment policies to enhance their economic appeal and reduce rural depopulation which, in view of its magnitude, harms both their demographic balance and their economic dynamism.

2.6 A double inversion of the age pyramid

60 Another demographic characteristic of the member States is the shape of their age pyramid, resulting essentially from changes in the birth and mortality rates. The world population, logically enough, has a pyramidal age structure, while the age pyramid of the Council of Europe countries presents at least two major differences. The first is the much larger size of the oldest generations, with a preponderance of women, due to Europe’s longer life expectancy and women’s greater longevity as compared with that of men.
61 The second is the narrow base of that age pyramid, since the generations under 20 are much smaller than the working-age generations, due to the lower fertility rate. Consequently, we have a double inversion of the pyramid, with more older than younger people in general and a larger number of older than younger people within the workforce.
62 As a result, several countries are experiencing a reduction of their workforce and some, like Germany, are coming out in favour of what has been termed, since the publication of a United Nations report in 2000, “replacement migration”. The Eurostat figures indicate wide variations in the trend of the 15-64 age group between 2005 and 2015: +23.0% for Luxembourg, due exclusively to the contribution from migration, +15.4% for Turkey owing to its natural dynamics and -14.6% for Latvia. Some 20 Council of Europe countries saw a decline in their population within that age group. After Latvia, the countries with the biggest decreases in their workforce – more than 7% – were Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania. And in spite of the contribution made by migration during the period from 2005 to 2015, Germany’s population in the same age group declined by 2.72%.
63 It is true that a reduction in the workforce can be counteracted by increased rates of employment, for example among young people and senior citizens. But this will not necessarily be enough to meet economic needs. Other countries have experienced an increase in their workforce due either solely to migration – this is the case of Switzerland, Austria and Italy – or thanks to migration combined with a smaller decline in the fertility rate over previous decades, as in France and the United Kingdom. The fact is that, in European countries with comparable economic systems, wealth creation is correlated to the size of the workforce or, more specifically, the employed workforce. For example, France’s gross domestic product (GDP) is six times higher than that of Belgium because its workforce is six times larger.
64 To assist in the reflection concerning the impact of population dynamics on migration policies, some examples may be drawn from the past in order to place the issue in a historical perspective.

3 Historical examples that illustrate the effects of population changes on migration policies

65 History provides many examples of migration policies founded, amongst other things, on population dynamics, whether in terms of population level, births or deaths.

3.1 Population level and migration policy

66 Looking back in history, authors such as Plato and Machiavelli already called for the application of variable migration policies according to population changes. Plato, in his Laws, advocated fixed population levels. For example, he called for the number of households in the City of Athens to be maintained at 5 040 and suggested a whole series of public measures for achieving that. He was in favour of encouraging emigration if the birth rate was deemed too high, or conversely, a pro-immigration policy if the birth rate could not be increased. Machiavelli, in Florentine Histories (1520-1526), advised the princes and republics to maintain “an abundant population” everywhere. But, depending on the available resources, he advocated adopting emigration or immigration policies.
67 In reality, many countries, considering their population too small in relation to their economic potential, have had recourse to migration policies that boost immigration. During the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century, Brazil, for example, was keen to attract large numbers of immigrants from Europe, a movement which reached its peak between 1900 and the 1914-1918 war. Similarly, 19th-century Argentina encouraged European immigration, in some cases by giving away land for free or renting it at very low prices. The United States’ use of migration policy to promote European immigration is well known. The country’s selective immigration policy was based on two types of regulation: firstly, prohibitions according to origin, with fixed quotas to deter or ban non-European immigrants (the quotas were abolished only in 1965) and, secondly, a system of filtering immigrants applied, for example, from 1892 to 1954 at Ellis Island in New York Bay, which was the principal gateway into the United States for the 12 million people who passed through it. Among the pro-immigration policies adopted, notwithstanding the above-mentioned prohibitions supplemented by bans on certain categories of individuals (anarchists, polygamists, etc.), mention must be made of the legal security that the United States offered immigrants, with the granting of American nationality to children from the moment of their birth according to a system of jus soli that is still in force today.
68 In the 20th and 21st centuries, well-known examples are Canada and Australia, two very sparsely populated countries, with population densities, respectively, of 4 and 3 inhabitants/km2. Each year, the Canadian Parliament votes a law fixing the number of immigrants that the country is prepared to receive under its selective immigration policy. Among the countries keen to encourage immigration in recent decades reference must be made to Gabon, a very sparsely populated country (7 inhabitants/km2) that does not have the workforce to develop its economic potential, in the ore-mining sector and the timber and related industries, for instance.
69 Conversely, there have been examples of densely populated countries discouraging immigration and, in particular, the return of their emigrants. After attaining independence in 1947, India, for example, wanted its emigrant communities, representing several million people, to be integrated into the States that had emerged after the collapse of the British Empire. For example, many Indians living in Burma and Malaysia were encouraged to adopt the nationality of those newly independent States, and therefore discouraged from returning to India and adding to its population. Subsequently, in 1972, the Indian Government again showed a considerable reluctance to take back its overseas emigrants by refusing the return of the 50 000 or so Indians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin’s government. Many were consequently obliged to seek refuge elsewhere, in particular in the United Kingdom.

3.2 Birth rate and migration policy trends

70 Birth rate dynamics also have an impact on migration policies. A very low birth rate will lead to a shortfall in the working population 20 years later. There have been cases of countries trying to offset such a shortfall by means of replacement migration. 19th-century France, for example, had an exceptionally low birth rate and hence a small workforce. It therefore decided to encourage immigration, at the time essentially from Europe. In 1851, for example, it strengthened its policy of keeping the children of foreign parents in France by adopting the law of double jus soli, in other words by automatically granting French nationality to all persons born in France of a foreign parent also born in France.
71 Conversely, in countries with a high birth rate, governments do little to discourage emigration, even though it reduces their human resources, particularly those most active, given that it is the 18-30 age group that is the most affected. Of all the African countries which have, in recent decades, experienced a high birth rate that has stimulated population growth, none has had a government that adopted measures to limit emigration. Moreover, very little action has been taken to combat the people smugglers who not only exploit human misery, but also in some cases deprive countries of their most highly skilled workers (doctors, engineers, etc.).

3.3 Mortality and migration policy trends

72 Death rate dynamics also have an impact on migration policies. Countries whose population has declined due to a high mortality rate can use migration policies to attract workers. After losing 1 350 000 young men in the First World War and finding itself with two million wounded whose productivity was limited or non-existent, France, for example, introduced policies to attract workers from other countries, whether neighbouring or not, such as Poland. Another example: after the Second World War, Belgium signed agreements with Italy for the recruitment of Italian workers. A protocol signed in Rome on 23 June 1946 and its annexes of 26 April 1947 enabled Italian workers to be recruited in Italy, where they underwent medical tests before being taken by train to the main stations in Wallonia.
73 A high death rate resulting from a pandemic in one country may have the opposite effect of prompting neighbouring countries to close their borders in order to prevent immigration. During the cholera epidemic from August 2008 to July 2009 in Zimbabwe, for example, Botswana reinforced the 500 km-long electric fence along its border to prevent the possible entry of Zimbabwean carriers of the disease.
74 These examples show that various countries have used or are still using migration policies in which their population dynamics play a role.

4 Can migration solve population problems in Europe?Note

75 Looking at the table in Appendix 3, representing natural movements and migration throughout Council of Europe member States, it is evident that even taking into account an important increase in migration flows into Europe in recent years, provoked inter alia by the influx of refugees, the European population dynamics have not been influenced significantly. Thus, it is unlikely that migration alone will solve the demographic decline in Europe.
76 However, migration could be considered as a contributing factor in counterbalancing population ageing in Europe. Many European countries will not be able to sustain their social and welfare systems without an increase in a number of working taxpayers. About 20% of the population of Germany, for example, is over the age of 65 and the natural growth of the population is negative. To address this problem, the German Government is spending about €250 million per year on family subsidies in an attempt to reverse the trend, but with little success. However, due to the resettlement of refugees during the last two years a slight population increase has been registered. Nevertheless, even with the present level of inflow of migrants, the decade’s long tendency of population decline would be difficult to reverse. Furthermore, it has been challenging for Germany to integrate so many refugees into their labour market. This is due to the fact that the large majority of the refugees arriving in Germany over the last years come with low skills and little education. This is a challenge, since Germany is more in need of filling vacant skilled jobs than low-skilled jobs.Note
77 The problem is that while focusing on finding a solution for the issue of refugees and their integration, there is no well-developed governmental strategy on how to encourage the natural growth of the population and to bring in qualified migrants to fill skilled job vacancies.
78 One should also bear in mind that Europe will compete with such countries as Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand for qualified labour forces. These countries of traditional immigration have positive population growth and very attractive labour markets. To compete with them, it would be very important to rebuild trust on migration issues among the European population. In many European countries, people overestimate the number of migrants in their countries and are afraid that migrants will take their jobs. Data from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) shows that permanent migration from third countries to European countries is low and much lower than to the United States. However, net migration from outside the European Union drives the population dynamic in these countries.Note
79 In the long term, an influx of young migrant workers could play a positive role in tackling demographic problems in some European countries, in particular in covering a lack of skilled workers to contribute to GDP growth and pension financing. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to develop policies creating favourable conditions for migrants to participate in the labour market. These policies should be based on comprehensive sectorial analysis of the labour market to identify the real needs in migrant labour. It is also necessary to eliminate all obstacles in national legislation hampering a quick access of qualified refugees to the labour market.
80 Bilateral agreements between migrant sending and receiving countries should be encouraged in order to reduce the costs of migration and ensure legal employment opportunities, social and health security coverage of migrants. It will also help to eliminate the black labour market and prevent the exploitation of migrants.
81 Apart from creating legal opportunities for refugees’ faster integration into the labour market, the receiving countries should promote vocational training for refugees who do not have the skills required by the labour market. For highly educated migrants, it is important to facilitate the recognition of their educational and vocational diplomas and skills.
82 Finally, although a decent job is the best integration incentive for migrants, the receiving countries should revise their integration policies to ensure that migrants are not segregated in the host society, but involved in the social and cultural life of local communities. It is also important to encourage the participation of women migrants in the labour market. This will help their integration and hinder segregation. Special integration programmes for women, including language courses, vocational training and introductory courses to the culture of the host countries, should be developed. The local population should also be better informed of the economic benefits of legal migration and cultural diversity for their society. They should be encouraged to accept the different cultural and religious identities of migrants, as long as they are not against the law or in contradiction with fundamental human rights values. At the same time, national legislation should foresee strict measures against all forms of discrimination, racism and xenophobia.

5 Conclusion and recommendations

83 In view of the very uneven geographic distribution of the population throughout Europe, States must take account of their specific demographic situation in seeking to correct this distribution.
84 With birth rates which are close to a demographic winter almost everywhere, it is desirable to promote policies that enable couples to have the number of children they wish for, because this is liable to increase birth rates. To this end, suitable policies (“family” policy, working/family life balance requiring care facilities for young children, etc.) must be pursued so that potential parents can decide on the number of their children freely and any obstacles in this respect are removed.
85 The fact that mortality rates are particularly favourable compared with other regions of the world must not be taken for granted. Action must be taken to maintain that situation and, indeed, further improve healthy life expectancy. As the right to health is a human right, it is necessary to continue efforts to improve health and hygiene, in particular through health education, while also strengthening health systems and supervision of the use of chemicals (plant protection products, cosmetics, endocrine disruptors, etc.).
86 Although migration cannot be a permanent solution to Europe’s demographic challenges, proactive migration policies could improve the situation. To make better use of the current important migration influx in Europe, receiving countries need to develop long-term political strategies based on the needs of the labour market, responding to integration challenges for migrants and encouraging their rapid entry into the labour market.
87 Through its body of legislation, each country has a migration policy, even if it is not explicitly described as such. Just as they do for foreign, economic or social policy, it is legitimate that States should give thought to the migration policies that best serve the common good and the interests of their populations. That process of reflection must be founded on values such as those enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5). It must also be guided by the principle of reality, which means that a country must have a good understanding of its population dynamics and the needs of its labour market.Note
88 Given the increasing population ageing and in some cases population decline, individual countries’ migration policies need to be adapted, which means, for instance, introducing policy incentives for young people to remain in their countries of origin where high emigration rates are observed, thus limiting the effects of ageing.
89 The demographic winter varies in intensity from one Council of Europe country to another, engendering diverging population trends. Accordingly, migration policies should not necessarily be the same for all countries, but fit the specific dynamics of the population concerned.

Appendix 1 – Populations and population density of the Council of Europe member States (alphabetical order)Note

 

States

Area

(thousands of km2)

Population

mid-2015

(millions)

Density

inhabitants/

km2 2015

Population projection 2050

(millions)

1

Albania

29

2.9

100

2.8

2

Andorra

0.5

0.1

160

0.07

3

Armenia

30

3.0

100

2.5

4

Austria

84

8.6

102

9.5

5

Azerbaijan

87

9.7

111

12.1

6

Belgium

31

11.2

361

13.1

7

Bosnia and Herzegovina

51

3.7

73

3.2

8

Bulgaria

111

7.2

65

5.8

9

Croatia

57

4.2

74

3.6

10

Cyprus

9

1.2

133

1.4

11

Czech Republic

79

10.6

134

11.1

12

Denmark

43

5.7

133

6.3

13

Estonia

45

1.3

29

1.2

14

Finland

338

5.5

16

6.1

15

France (metropolitan)

552

64.3

116

72.3

16

Georgia

70

3.8

54

4.7

17

Germany

357

81.1

227

76.4

18

Greece

132

11.5

87

9.7

19

Hungary

93

9.8

105

9.4

20

Iceland

103

0.3

3

0.4

21

Ireland

70

4.6

66

5.8

22

Italy

301

62.5

208

63.5

23

Latvia

65

2.0

31

1.4

24

Liechtenstein

0.2

0.04

200

0.05

25

Lithuania

65

2.9

45

2.4

26

Luxembourg

3

0.6

200

0.7

27

“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

26

2.1

81

1.8

28

Malta

0.3

0.4

1333

0.4

29

Republic of Moldova

34

4.1

121

2.9

30

Monaco

0.001

0.04

40 000

0.05

31

Montenegro

14

0.6

43

0.8

32

Netherlands

42

16.9

402

17.9

33

Norway

385

5.2

14

6.7

34

Poland

313

38.5

123

34

35

Portugal

92

10.3

112

9.1

36

Romania

238

19.8

83

16.4

37

Russian Federation

17 098

144.3

8

134.2

38

San Marino

0.06

0.03

500

0.03

39

Serbia

88

7.1

81

6.1

40

Slovak Republic

49

5.4

110

5.0

41

Slovenia

20

2.1

105

2.0

42

Spain

506

46.4

92

43.7

43

Sweden

450

9.8

22

12.4

44

Switzerland

41

8.3

202

9.0

45

Turkey

784

78.2

100

93.5

46

United Kingdom

243

65.1

268

77.0

47

Ukraine

604

42.8

71

32.3

 

TOTAL

23 833

825.8

35

830.8

TOTAL without RUSSIA

6 735

681.5

101

696.6

Appendix 2 – Population and population density of the Council of Europe member States (in descending order of density)

 

States

Area

(thousands of km2)

Population

mid-2015

(millions)

Density

inhabitants/

km2 2015

Population projection 2050

(millions)

1

Monaco

0.001

0.04

40 000

0.05

2

Malta

0.3

0.4

1 333

0.4

3

San Marino

0.06

0.03

500

0.03

4

Netherlands

42

16.9

402

17.9

5

Belgium

31

11.2

361

13.1

6

United Kingdom

243

65.1

268

77.0

7

Germany

357

81.1

227

76.4

8

Italy

301

62.5

208

63.5

9

Switzerland

41

8.3

202

9.0

10

Liechtenstein

0.2

0.04

200

0.05

11

Luxembourg

3

0.6

200

0.7

12

Andorra

0.5

0.1

160

0.07

13

Czech Republic

79

10.6

134

11.1

14

Cyprus

9

1.2

133

1.4

15

Denmark

43

5.7

133

6.3

16

Poland

313

38.5

123

34

17

Republic of Moldova

34

4.1

121

2.9

18

France (metropolitan)

552

64.3

116

72.3

19

Portugal

92

10.3

112

9.1

20

Azerbaijan

87

9.7

111

12.1

21

Slovak Republic

49

5.4

110

5.0

22

Hungary

93

9.8

105

9.4

23

Slovenia

20

2.1

105

2.0

24

Austria

84

8.6

102

9.5

25

Armenia

30

3.0

100

2.5

26

Albania

29

2.9

100

2.8

27

Turkey

784

78.2

100

93.5

28

Spain

506

46.4

92

43.7

29

Greece

132

11.5

87

9.7

30

Romania

238

19.8

83

16.4

31

“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

26

2.1

81

1.8

32

Serbia

88

7.1

81

6.1

33

Croatia

57

4.2

74

3.6

34

Bosnia and Herzegovina

51

3.7

73

3.2

35

Ukraine

604

42.8

71

32.3

36

Ireland

70

4.6

66

5.8

37

Bulgaria

111

7.2

65

5.8

38

Georgia

70

3.8

54

4.7

39

Lithuania

65

2.9

45

2.4

40

Montenegro

14

0.6

43

0.8

41

Latvia

65

2.0

31

1.4

42

Estonia

45

1.3

29

1.2

43

Sweden

450

9.8

22

12.4

44

Finland

338

5.5

16

6.1

45

Norway

385

5.2

14

6.7

46

Russian Federation

17 098

144.3

8

134.2

47

Iceland

103

0.3

3

0.4

 

TOTAL

23 833

825.8

35

830.8

TOTAL without RUSSIA

6 735

681.5

101

696.6

Appendix 3 – Natural movements and migration throughout Council of Europe member States

States

Birth rate 2015 ‰

Mortality rate

2015 ‰

Births

2015

thousands

Deaths

2015

thousands

Natural growth

2015

Rate of natural growth %

Rate

of migratory growth ‰

Albania

12

7

35

20

15

0.5

-6

Andorra

9

4

1

0

0

0.5

-7

Armenia

14

9

42

27

15

0.5

-6

Austria

10

9

86

77

9

0.1

6

Azerbaijan

18

6

175

58

116

1.2

0

Belgium

11

10

123

112

11

0.1

5

Bosnia and Herzegovina

7

9

26

33

-7

-0.2

0

Bulgaria

9

15

65

108

-43

-0.6

0

Croatia

9

12

38

50

-13

-0.3

-2

Cyprus

12

6

14

7

7

0.6

-12

Czech Republic

10

10

106

106

0

0.0

2

Denmark

10

9

57

51

6

0.1

7

Estonia

10

12

13

16

-3

-0.2

-1

Finland

10

10

55

55

0

0.0

3

France (metro)

12

8

772

514

257

0.4

0

Georgia

14

12

53

46

8

0.2

-2

Germany

8

11

649

892

-243

-0.3

5

Greece

9

10

104

115

-12

-0.1

-1

Hungary

9

13

88

127

-39

-0.4

-3

Iceland

13

6

4

2

2

0.7

3

Ireland

15

6

69

28

41

0.9

-5

Italy

8

10

500

625

-125

-0.2

2

Latvia

11

14

22

28

-6

-0.3

-4

Liechtenstein

9

7

0

0

0

0.2

4

Lithuania

11

14

32

41

-9

-0.3

-4

Luxembourg

11

7

7

4

2

0.4

19

“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

11

10

23

21

2

0.1

0

Malta

10

8

4

3

1

0.2

3

Republic of Moldova

11

11

45

45

0

0.0

-1

Monaco

6

7

0

0

0

-0.1

13

Montenegro

12

10

7

6

1

0.2

-1

Netherlands

10

9

169

152

17

0.1

2

Norway

12

8

62

42

21

0.4

7

Poland

10

10

385

385

0

0.0

0

Portugal

8

10

82

103

-21

-0.2

-3

Romania

9

13

178

257

-79

-0.4

-4

Russian Federation

13

13

1 876

1 876

0

0.0

2

San Marino

9

8

0

0

0

0.1

5

Serbia

9

14

64

99

-36

-0.5

-2

Slovak Republic

10

9

54

49

5

0.1

0

Slovenia

10

9

21

19

2

0.1

0

Spain

9

9

418

418

0

0.0

-2

Sweden

12

9

118

88

29

0.3

8

Switzerland

10

8

83

66

17

0.2

11

Turkey

17

5

1 329

391

938

1.2

3

United Kingdom

12

9

781

586

195

0.3

4

Ukraine

11

15

471

642

-171

-0.4

1

TOTAL

11

11

9 306

9306

0

0.0

2

Appendix 4 – Infant mortality, fertility, composition by age and life expectancy in the Council of Europe member States in 2015

States

Infant mortality rate ‰

Fertility rate

Children/

women

Replace-ment level

%

-15 years

%

65+ years

Life expectancy of men

Life expectancy of women

Albania

7.9

1.8

2.12

19

12

76

80

Andorra

3.4

1.3

15

18

Armenia

9

1.5

2.18

19

11

72

78

Austria

3

1.5

2.07

14

18

78

84

Azerbaijan

11

2.2

2.27

22

6

72

77

Belgium

3.8

1.8

2.07

17

18

78

83

Bosnia and Herzegovina

5

1.2

2.09

15

16

72

78

Bulgaria

7.6

1.5

2.09

14

20

71

78

Croatia

4.1

1.5

2.08

15

18

74

81

Cyprus

5

1.4

2.08

17

12

78

82

Czech Republic

2.4

1.5

2.07

15

17

76

82

Denmark

4

1.7

2.07

17

19

79

83

Estonia

2.8

1.5

2.08

16

19

73

81

Finland

2.2

1.7

2.06

16

20

78

84

France (metro)

3.5

2.0

2.07

19

18

79

85

Georgia

10

1.7

2.15

17

14

71

79

Germany

3.3

1.5

2.07

13

21

78

83

Greece

3.7

1.3

2.08

15

21

78

83

Hungary

4.6

1.4

2.08

15

18

72

79

Iceland

1.7

1.9

2.05

20

14

81

84

Ireland

3.7

2.0

2.09

22

13

79

83

Italy

2.9

1.4

2.07

14

22

80

85

Latvia

3.5

1.6

2.08

15

19

70

79

Liechtenstein

3.3

1.5

-

15

16

81

84

Lithuania

3.8

1.7

2.08

15

18

69

79

Luxembourg

3.1

1.5

2.06

17

14

80

84

“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

10

1.5

2.08

17

13

73

77

Malta

5.5

1.4

2.08

15

16

80

84

Republic of Moldova

10

1.3

2.10

16

10

68

76

Monaco

1.4

13

24

Montenegro

4.4

1.6

2.10

18

14

74

79

Netherlands

3.8

1.7

2.07

17

17

79

83

Norway

2.4

1.8

2.07

18

16

80

84

Poland

4.2

1.3

2.08

15

15

74

82

Portugal

2.8

1.2

2.08

14

19

77

83

Romania

8.8

1.3

2.10

16

17

71

78

Russian Federation

9.3

1.8

2.10

16

13

65

76

San Marino

2.2

1.5

15

18

84

89

Serbia

5.7

1.6

2.08

14

18

73

78

Slovak Republic

6

1.4

2.07

15

14

73

80

Slovenia

2.1

1.6

2.07

15

18

78

84

Spain

2.9

1.3

2.08

15

18

80

86

Sweden

2.2

1.9

2.08

17

20

80

84

Switzerland

3.9

1.5

2.07

15

18

81

85

Turkey

11

2.2

2.12

24

8

75

79

United Kingdom

3.9

1.9

2.07

18

17

79

83

Ukraine

9.6

1.5

2.11

15

15

66

76

TOTAL

5.9

1.7

2.1

16.6

16.1

74

81

;