Friday, June 19, 2009

What are the distant islands of the EU like?

I'd like to point people towards the French-language PDF, coming from INED's ongoing Population et Sociétes series, "Population et développement de l'Outremer de l Union européene". As I blogged recently about Tonga and the South Pacific, in March of this year on the French Caribbean islands, and in December 2007 about Canada's Prince Edward Island, islands almost by definition are relatively marginal and small areas, this marginality and smallness often triggering population movements--mainly emigration--which can take on great size relative to the islands' populations.

The European Union is, of course, European, but the past overseas expansion of many of its member-states has created a situation where literally millions of European Union citizens live outside of continental Europe. France has the largest extra-European population, numbering more than two million, but Spain, Portugal, Britain, and the Netherlands also have large numbers of citizens outside of Europe. Almost all of these citizens live on islands--or, in the case of French Guiana, territories that may as well be islands. What, author Jean-Louis Rallu asks, is happening to these islands?

For starters, all of these islands, save the Portuguese Azores and Madeira, are experiencing at least some notable population growth, whether because of natural increase (the French overseas territories) or immigration. This population growth can take on significant proportions, with Mayotte and French Guyana growing so quickly that their populations will double in a bit more than two decades, and immigration from neighbouring poor countries--Brazil, Surinam, Morocco, Comores--playing a significant role. Aging is proceeding quickly, whether because of natural population aging or the immigration of the retired, while unemployment is frequently high on account of a lack of local industry and--as I wrote in March--subsidies from the metropole that undermine local economies.

Anyway, go read it (if you read French, at least). You'll find it worth it.

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