Comparative population policy




Hardy, David McGrath

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In the last thirty years an increasing number of governments are taking an interest in the growth rate and age structure of their populations. The chief concern among advanced economies is that pay-as-you-go pension and health care systems for the elderly will be unsustainable as the ratio of younger workers to older beneficiaries shrinks from aging populations. Resistance to reforms such as reduced or delayed benefits, or higher taxes has focused attention on a third option, growing the working-age population. There is a growing consensus on the economic benefits of population growth, a reversal from the 1960s through 80s. Governments try to grow the population through incentives for more children and/or accepting more immigrants. This report compares the population policies of Singapore, the United States, France, and Japan to analyze governments' motives and policy outcomes. Middle-income nations like China and Brazil can learn from the experiences of developed nations to avoid the same predicament in the future. Each government's mix of fertility incentives, immigrants, and guest workers is a product of their economic and political circumstances. The surest way to grow the population, accepting immigrants, is usually the least popular. The most popular is the most unproven, providing benefits for larger families. There is no consensus what the most effective fertility incentives are. Population policy has never been just about the economy, it is steeped in political and cultural visions. Shedding that political baggage is a prerequisite to a more rational, sustainable policy approach to demography.




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