Saturday, January 30, 2010

On Russia's brief population increase

Russia's demographic profile since the dissolution of the Soviet Union has been notoriously grim, with terrifically high mortality combining with terribly low birth rates to produce a rate of natural decrease that even considerable immigration couldn't compensate for. Until now.

Russia has registered the first population increase since the chaotic years which followed the fall of the Soviet Union, bucking a long-term decline that has dampened economic growth projections, officials said on Tuesday.

Russia's population increased by between 15,000 and 25,000 to more than 141.9 million in 2009, the first annual increase since 1995, Health Minister Tatyana Golikova told a meeting in the Kremlin with President Dmitry Medvedev.

The rise was helped by a 4 percent decline in mortality rates and an influx of immigrants, mostly from the former republics of the former Soviet Union, Golikova said.

"The difference between birth rates and mortality rates will be covered by a rise in migration," Golikova said in a televised Kremlin meeting, adding that Russia was trying to cut the number of abortions.

"Our abortion rates are comparable to birth rates," she said. Russia registered 1.7 million births in 2009 and 1.2 million abortions.

In addition, as the Population Reference Bureau's Carl Haub noted, births have risen even as mortality has fallen.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has long advocated a rise in Russia’s very low birth rate. In 2007, with his bidding, the government took the dramatic step of providing women with a $9,000 payment for the birth of a second child. The incentive certainly seems to have worked. In 2007, births jumped nearly 9 percent over 2006 and, in 2008, by 6.4 percent over 2007. Russia’s total fertility rate (TFR) now stands at 1.49 (2008), up from its nadir of 1.16 in 1999.

[. . .]

Official demographic data have been released by the state statistical bureau, GOSKOMSTAT, for January 2009 through November (Russia releases vital statistics very quickly). Those show an increase in births for the January-November 2009 period of 2.8 percent, lower than the previous two years but still an increase. At the same time, deaths dropped by 3.7 percent so that natural decrease, birth minus deaths, was “only” -224,310. I say only because that figure was an astounding -958,000 in 2000. So for population to grow in 2009, net international migration will have to offset that -224,310. That certainly seems to be well within reach since net immigration from January to October was reported as 210,446, much of it from Central Asia and other former Soviet republics which the Russians often refer to as the “near abroad.” Based on typical migration patterns in Russia in November and December, about 250,000 net immigration can be expected.

Russia has thus moved into the territory of countries like Germany, Spain, or Italy, where natural decrease in the native-born population is countered by immigration. This is a good thing.

Will this last? Almost certainly not. Leaving aside the possibility that the cash payments, instead of encouraging women to be mothers to more children, actually encouraged them to have the children they were planning on having early, the birth rate's increase is the product of the women born in the last two decades of the Soviet Union. As this 1996 RAND survey points out, well into the 1980s the population of the modern-day Russian Federation exhibited TFRs well in excess of western Europe, hovering around replacement. The fall of the Soviet Union led to a sharp fall in birth rates and this, noted in the St. Petersburg Times, has sharply reduced the numbers of potential mothers.

The number of children under 18 has fallen to 26.5 million now from 38 million in 1995 and 33.5 million in 2000, according to a new report by UNICEF and the State Statistics Service.

“For historical and demographic reasons, the child population in Russia decreased by approximately 12 million over the last 13 years. This is an average of 1 million each year,” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF’s representative in Russia.

“This in itself poses important development challenges, and optimizing the investment in childhood makes it even more important and urgent for the country,” he told The St. Petersburg Times.

[. . .]

“There were a lot of babies born in the 1980s but few in the 1990s, and now we can see the result of the decline,” said Anatoly Vishnevsky, head of the Demography Institute at the Higher School of Economics.

“Later the birth rate started to increase, but not by much,” he added.

Since the number of children is now low, the birth rate will not be able to increase for the next two decades, he said.

“The number of children might increase, but not significantly,” Vishnevsky said, adding that there will not be enough women for reproduction.

The effect, Haub notes, is extreme.

Russia’s age-sex pyramid took a body blow during the period of high natural decrease. The number of young people moving up the age ladder into the prime childbearing ages is much less than those now in the childbearing years. As of January 1, 2009, there were 6.2 million females in the age group 20-24. The 15-19 age group was only 4.5 million and both the 5-9 and 10-14 age groups taken together totaled 6.5 million. As those younger age groups begin childbearing, births will certainly decline even if the TFR rises. Beyond that, deaths will rise as the elderly population grows significantly in size.

This drop has had a dramatic effect already, on the size of student populations for instance.

While the number of first graders rose from 1.25 million in 2007 to 1.39 million in 2009 — the first increase in 12 years in 2009 — the overall number of high school students almost halved from 20.6 million in 1998 to 13.3 million last year.

The number of high school graduates fell from 1.25 million in 1998 to 900,000 in 2009 and is expected to drop to 700,000 in 2012.

As a consequence, university student numbers are expected to drop from the current 7.5 million to 4 million in the 2012-13 school year.

There just aren't enough Russian women to compensate for this shortfall. Accordingly, Russia's population will soon resume its natural decrease, if at a gentler pace than in the bad days of old. If: There's no telling what migration would do to complicate matters. If Russia stopped attracting immigrants and instead became a major source of immigrants, things could change sharply for the worse.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A few links

Hi, everyone! My apologies for taking this much time off. While I generate some actual content, here's a few links for you to peruse!

  • The Toronto Star reports that many displaced people from Port-au-Prince have found refuge in Haiti's smaller towns and cities.

  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin reproduces economist Paul Romer's argument that Haitians should be helped by letting them immigrate to countries where they will able to prosper, instead of forcing them to stay in their impoverished country while hoping for massive political and economic improvements that may well not come.

  • Elliott Abrams makes a similar argument in the Washington Post, arguing that a much larger Haitian diaspora would be able to send more remittances back to Haiti, thus helping the Haitian economy.

  • The Inter Press Service reports that high rates of poverty have made most of Nicaragua's young want to emigrate, joing a diaspora amounting to 13% of Nicaragua's 5.5 million.

  • reports that a tenth of Italy's foreigners are Moroccan.

  • The New Straits Times's Chi Mei Ling writes about the vast improvements in opportunities that migrants to richer countries could enjoy, and argues that some countries--Malaysia is specifically raised--could do a better job of enabling this improvement.

  • The New York Times takes a look at the controversial nature of daycare and the all-day school system in Germany, steps towards more equal labour-sharing within the household and greater opportunities for women, part of an effort towards boosting cohort fertility. Interestingly enough, East German women raised with the GDR's tradition of female daycare and high rates of female participation in the labour force are wondering why it took West German women so long.

  • Radio Australia describes a major problem facing foreign immigrants in Japan when it notes that out of one thousand nursing applicants from Indonesia and the Philippines, "30 were able to qualify for training in Japan, and of those, just five passed the national exam, giving them the right to work as nurses." Mastering the Japanese language, especially all three of its scripts, was a major problem; without the language, they couldn't get in.

  • In Canada's, the population of the province of Saskatchewan--recently a net exporter of immigrants--has grown as economic opportunities have improved.

  • The Latin American Herald Tribune notes that Chile's birth rate has fallen by more than half since 1950, from "an average of five children each in 1950 to fewer than two apiece in 2007" to a current TFR of 1.8.

  • The Inter Press Service's Chen Siwu and Li Yahong describe the provinces of China's "ant tribe," the well-educated young Chinese who have difficulties finding a job.

  • People in Mali are organizing to help and protect the sizable Malien labour diaspora in Europe, especially in France, lobbying for the regularization of this diaspora's members and helping Maliens deported back to their country.

  • Taiwan News notes the correspondence between Taiwanese women's low participation in Taiwan's labour force and the island nation's low cohort fertility.
  • Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Why Haitians are not going to go to Senegal

    This news item certainly raised some eyebrows.

    Senegal is offering free land to Haitians wishing to "return to their origins" following this week's devastating earthquake, which has destroyed the capital and buried thousands of people beneath rubble.

    Senegal's octogenarian President Abdoulaye Wade told a meeting of his advisers that Haitians are the sons and daughters of Africa, because the country was founded by slaves, including some believed to have come from Senegal.

    "The president is offering voluntary repatriation to any Haitian that wants to return to their origin," said Wade's spokesman Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye late Saturday following the president's announcement.

    "Senegal is ready to offer them parcels of land - even an entire region. It all depends on how many Haitians come. If it's just a few individuals, then we will likely offer them housing or small pieces of land. If they come en masse we are ready to give them a region," he said.

    He stressed that Wade had insisted that if a region is handed over it should be in a fertile area - not in the country's parched deserts.

    Waye even went so far as to proposed the creation Haitian homeland in the African continent, on the grounds that these members of the African diaspora deserved an African home.

    Waye's remarkable proposals were motivated by pan-Africanism and by a belief in the real existence of an African diaspora, created by the forced migration of millions of slaves from the African continent mainly to the Americas but also to the Arab world, eventually forming small minorities in some countries (United States, Mexico, Argentina), pluralities or even majorities in others (Brazil and Cuba in particular), or overwhelming majorities in others, as in Haiti and most of the other island societies of the Caribbean. This sentiment played a non-trivial role in Africa, with resettled slaves creating Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 18th and 19th centuries, Marcus Garvey and many other black intellectuals and politicians in North America and the Caribbean advocating pan-African sentiments, and several of the independent states produced by decolonization actively trying to encourage the return of members of the diaspora, as in Ghana.

    The Castle of St. George d'Elmina and other infamous abodes of the "doors of no return" mark the paths of slaves destined for the Americas. The current Ghanaian government has swung these "doors" back open, hoping to persuade American and Caribbean descendents of the slave trade to live in Ghana.

    Meanwhile, Ghanaian citizens continue to emigrate to North America, Europe, and other parts of Africa. The economic, political, and social woes of the past three decades have created a new diaspora of Ghanaians searching for opportunities elsewhere. As a result, Ghana is often highlighted as a nation struggling with the effects of brain drain.

    This sentiment continues, with the African Union trying to actively involve members of the African diaspora in its affairs and the growth of lobbies in the diaspora (TransAfrica's opposition to South African apartheid being a case in point). Ghanaian journalist Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. applauded Senegal's proposals, contrasting it unfavourably to Ghana's position.

    In any case, whether the most expedient thing to do is for many an emotionally devastated and psychologically traumatized Haitian to simply jump aboard the next flight from Port-au-Prince or mount the deck of the next ship to weigh anchor at Port-au-Prince, no pun is intended here, of course, and literally abandon the virtual shipwreck that is present-day Haiti, after some three- to four-hundred years of staking up domestic existence in the erstwhile Hispaniola, is really beside the point. What matters more than all else is the prompt and timely demonstration of great and enviable leadership such as admirably exhibited by Mr. Wade at Haiti’s most vulnerable and desperate moment.

    In making his landmark offer, President Abdoulaye Wade made it pointedly clear that his was not simply a humanitarian gesture for which Haitians needed to be eternally grateful but, rather, one that was logically and immutably dictated by historical reality: “Haitians are sons and daughters of Africa[,] since Haiti was founded by slaves, including some [who are] thought to [have hailed] from Senegal.”

    Needless to say, Mr. Wade clearly appears to have been fully aware of the fact of the bulk of the ancestors of modern Haitians having originated largely from between Eastern Volta and Western Niger. Still, for the erudite Senegalese premier, an African identity is decidedly more of a corporate, or collective, feature than being merely a topical or geographically parochial phenomenon. Such inclusive stance is no happenstance at all, coming from a bona fide native of the land and nation that produced such intellectual and cultural giants as Messrs. Cheikh Anta Diop, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Alioune Diop and Sembene Ousman.

    The major problem with all this in terms of migration to the African continent, apart from the very salient fact that "black" identity is an exceptionally amorphous thing with potentially very little or no relevance to the people whose allegiances it claims and the reality that "African diaspora" as a catch-all term actually effaces the very real fact of multiple stronger diasporic identities under its aegi, is that there's no economic incentive for Haitians to go there. According to 2007 data, Haiti ranks 149th in the world on the Human Development Index with a rating of 0.532. Senegal, one of West Africa's most developed countries, ranks 166th with a HDI of 0.484. Notwithstanding Senegal's somewhat greater income, this will not create a significant Haitian movement to Africa, especially with much closer and richer potential destinations like the United States and Canada. Besides, this kind of sentiment tends to not amount to anything serious--pan-African sentiments certainly haven't improved the reception given to migrants from the Sahel to coastal West Africa. Waye's proposals have been generally criticized by Senegalese and so, partially retracted.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    On Haiti's diaspora

    It's difficult to underestimate the tragedy of Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti. I first learned of the catastrophe in the comments of this Marginal Revolution post, where Tyler Cowen was talking about how tourism was slowly taking off. With tens of thousands of dead and the country's infrastructure and capital destroyed, it's difficult to see how Haiti can recover.

    If it does, the Haitian diaspora will play a critical role in financing a recovery. Haiti, like other Caribbean countries, is an island nation with a history defined by demographics: the destruction of the indigenous populations, the forced settlement of African slaves and the migration of Europeans attracted by prosperity of the sugar economy, followed by economic decline and migration. Haiti's independence came quite early, as African slaves revolted against brutal French rule and held off successive invaders for more than a century to become the second independent state of the Americas and the first modern black republic. Perhaps because of the subsequent depopulation--perhaps a third of the country's population died in the war--and Haiti's self-identification as a homeland for the African diaspora, the nation was briefly a destination for free African-American immigrants. By the early 20th century, Haiti's terrible poverty and political instability changed this altogether, with the beginnings of seasonal migration to the sugar cane fields of Cuba and the Dominican Republic, followed by a shift to North America.

    The population growth rate in Haiti's rural areas has been lower than the rate for urban areas, even though fertility rates are higher in rural areas. The main reason for this disparity is outmigration. People in rural areas have moved to cities, or they have emigrated to other countries, mostly the United States and the Dominican Republic. An estimated 1 million people left Haiti between 1957 and 1982.

    Many of the emigrants in the 1950s and the 1960s were urban middle-class and upper-class opponents of the government of François Duvalier (1957-71). Throughout the 1970s, however, an increasing number of rural and lower-class urban Haitians emigrated, too. In the 1980s, as many as 500,000 Haitians were living in the United States; there were large communities in New York, Miami, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Thousands of Haitians also illegally emigrated to the United States through nonimmigrant visas, while others entered the United States without any documentation at all.

    The first reports of Haitians' arriving in the United States, by boat and without documentation, occurred in 1972. Between 1972 and 1981, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) reported more than 55,000 Haitian "boat people" arrived in Florida. The INS estimated that because as many as half of the arrivals escaped detection, the actual number of boat people may have exceeded 100,000. An unknown number of Haitians are reported to have died during their attempts to reach the United States by sea.

    Though poorer than earlier immigrants, the boat people were often literate and skilled, and all had families who could afford the price of a passage to Florida. About 85 percent of these boat people settled in Miami.

    [. . .]

    Since the early twentieth century, the Dominican Republic has received both temporary and permanent Haitian migrants. The International Labour Office estimated that between 200,000 and 500,000 Haitians resided in the Dominican Republic in 1983. About 85,000 of them lived on cane plantations. In the early 1980s, about 80 to 90 percent of the cane cutters in the Dominican Republic were reported to be Haitians. Through an accord with the Haitian government, the Dominican Republic imported Haitian workers to cut cane. In 1983 the Dominican Republic hired an estimated 19,000 workers. Evidence presented to the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Slavery revealed that the Dominican Republic paid wages that were miserably low and that working and living conditions failed to meet standards set by the two governments. According to some reports, Haitian cane cutters were unable to leave their workplaces, and they were prevented from learning about the terms of the contracts under which they had been hired.

    Emigration helped moderate Haiti's population growth. Furthermore, annual remittances from abroad, estimated to be as high as US$100 million, supported thousands of poor families and provided an important infusion of capital into the Haitian economy. At the same time, emigration resulted in a heavy loss of professional and skilled personnel from urban and rural areas.

    The continued immiseration of the Haitian economy after the 1980s has certainly not decrease the economic incentive for leaving the country, even with the ever-present risk of death, most recently evidenced by a 2009 shipwreck of a boat of Haitian migrants in the Turks and Caicos. What former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide called the tenth département plays a critical role in Haiti's economy. Migration helps ameliorate terribly low level of human development with remittances providing funding for children's education, while consumption of goods plays a critical role.

    Where do Haitians live? Haitians live in the countries with which they have foreign relations, with the United States, with the Dominican Republic, with its Caribbean neighbours, with Francophone aid partners like Canada/Québec and France. The modern diaspora is concentrated particularly in North America, with major concentration of Haitian migrants in the United States in New York City and Florida's Miami-Dade County, in the latter community, geographically closest to Haiti, most visibly in the Little Haiti neighbourhood. The Haitian diaspora in Canada is concentrated overwhelmingly in Québec. Québec's historically close relations with Haiti, the other large officially Francophone society in the Americas, a traditional destination for Québec's foreign aid and a source of Francophone immigrants. Canada's Governor-General, Michaëlle Jean, was born in Haiti herself. More than 1400 Canadians are missing in Haiti. The islands of the French Caribbean also have large numbers of migrants. In the Dominican Republic, meanwhile, pervasive racism renders the lives of Haitians and of Dominicans of Haitian descent exceptionally difficult. In 1937, in fact, Trujillo's genocidal Paisley Massacre killed tens of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, as chillingly described by Edwidge Danticat in her 1999 novel The Farming of Bones.

    Haitians in the diaspora, especially those of foreign citizenship, as observed in 2005 by Ericq Pierre, face a difficult situation, with suspected disloyalty coexisting with their homeland's dependence on their prestige and their moneys.

    Although the legislation on nationality leaves many issues open, things are even more complex on the emotional level. It appears that when you change your nationality, for any reason, you somehow feel still more Haitian, still more deeply a native son, especially if you keep some roots in the country. Unfortunately, in the eyes of current laws, one is not completely so. It’s unfair; it’s frustrating; but that’s the way it is until the rules of the game are changed.

    The naturalized Haitian feels in his heart that he has never stopped being Haitian, so he generally pays little attention to the legal ramifications that his naturalized condition can have for him in Haiti itself. When he is in Haiti, he rarely wears his adopted nationality on his sleeve. He generally reveals it only when forced to do so, and only to get out of a tight situation. Some even hide it like a shameful disease.

    There are several reasons for this, of which a few are rightfully linked to the uncertain status of the naturalized person who returns to live in his native country. A naturalized person is assured to stay in his adoptive country, not return to live near-permanently in his native country. That carries clear risks. These “hybrid” countrymen, who are not entirely Haitian nor entirely foreign, are more often than you would think victims of the arbitrary and high-handed behavior so common in Haiti. In addition, Haitian politicians are suspicious of a member of the diaspora who wants to go into politics. They consider him as taking the foreigner’s side.

    Don’t they say that there was an unwritten rule under the François Duvalier regime that allowed those exiled Haitians who wanted to go into politics to quickly be regranted their citizenship as soon as they set foot back on Haitian soil? Unfortunately, the idea behind this “generosity” was the power to throw these exiles into prison with no obligation to report to the authorities of their adopted country. Thus, more people than we think have fallen victim to their dual nationality.

    In fact, not until the adoption of the legislation governing the privileges granted to native Haitians and their descendants who have acquired another nationality ( Ref: Le Moniteur of August 12, 2002 and Claude Moise Editorial in Le Matin of October 7-10, 2005), it was obvious that Haitians who have adopted a foreign nationality were among the members of the universal diaspora the ones who were the most downtrodden and abused by the laws of their country of origin. But other forms of exclusion are still in force. The Haitian authorities seem to be interested in them only when they bring back awards for excellence or when they send money. Then they rush to invite them to Haiti to appear in public with them and exhibit them proudly as very special specimens of Ayiti Toma.

    If Haiti is to recover, it will need foreign help, including help from its diaspora. It certainly will grow larger: Canada has already fast-tracked Haitian immigrants, while pressure towards the same end is growing in the United States. In the end, a Haiti detached from the globalized economy by its poverty can only be aided by being brought back into globalization's networks. These include globalization's migratory networks.

    Wednesday, January 06, 2010

    On Russian immigration to China and false common knowledge about demographics

    I've earlier blogged about the slim likelihood that Chinese immigrants are going to "colonize' and take over the Russian Far East. In the final installment of a five-part Foreign Policy/Slate series on China's role in Russian border zones, Joshua Kucera suggests that the balance of power between the two countries is such that, rather than Chinese populating Russia, Russians are moving across the Amur to a dynamic China.

    In 1989, the opening of the border between Russia and China raised Russian fears of a "yellow peril": millions of Chinese citizens flooding north into relatively unpopulated, but richly endowed, Siberia. Some contrarian publications even went so far as to suggest that Russia should just accept the inevitable and sell the whole territory to China.

    Demographically, it makes sense that Chinese people would flock to Russia. Look at it in economic terms, though: China's economy is booming, and its prospects seem limitless. Meanwhile, Russia is highly dependent on uncertain oil and natural gas reserves. Professionals already make more money in China than they do in Russia, and as China's economy grows, blue-collar wages will likely outpace Russian pay. So, rather than Chinese people moving to Russia, isn't it more likely that Russians would move to China?

    I asked this question of many Russians in the Far East, and I usually got the same answer: It's already happening. Thus far, the Russian migration to China seems to be only a trickle. But it's not hard to imagine that this is just the start.

    The energy in Suifenhe, a relative backwater, is so much greater than in Vladivostok-a city three times the size-that taking the four-hour bus trip across the border is like switching from black-and-white to color. The road from Vladivostok becomes progressively worse the closer you get to the border, and the land is almost empty of people. As soon as you cross the border into China, there is a massive shopping mall with red cupolas, an apparent nod to Russian architecture, and an international-standard Holiday Inn.

    The mall is part of what was supposed to be a joint Chinese-Russian free-trade zone, where people would be able to come to shop and tour visa-free. But all Russia has built on its side of the border is a church, which Chinese tourists photograph through the chain-link fence.

    The day I arrived was one of the biggest celebrations in recent Chinese history: the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Still, at the many construction projects around the city's center, workers were on the job until after dark. I thought back to Vladivostok, where a huge suspension bridge is under construction. It is supposed to be ready by 2012, when the city plays host to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Ostensibly, this is a priority project overseen from Moscow, but when I mentioned to my translator that I hadn't seen anyone working on it, she smiled. "Yes," she said. "We notice that all the time."

    Heilongjiang, for all that its economy suffers from a predominance of heavy industry, is attractive indeed.

    But in addition to the many Russian tourists, there is a growing population of Russian expatriates living in Suifenhe. One, a journalist named Stanislav Bystritski, is a former reporter for a Vladivostok TV station. He moved here five years ago and produces two Russian-language shows on local Suifenhe TV, one oriented toward Russian tourists and one for Chinese people who want to learn about Russia and the Russian language.

    [. . .]

    He echoed what I had heard in Blagoveshchensk and Vladivostok-Russians come to China because it is easier to get a good job and easier to do business. "So many Russian businessmen say it's easier to work here, there is so much less corruption and bureaucracy," he said.


    Viktor, a Russian engineer who moved here at the beginning of 2008, is working on a pollution-control technology that has excited more interest in China than it did in Russia. "The Chinese are more interested in innovative projects, so there are more opportunities here," he said. His wife, Natasha, works as a technician with Suifenhe's pioneering (and, to a civil libertarian, rather ominous) "electronic security" system, in which surveillance cameras all over town are controlled from a spotless control room in a glass-fronted building called the Suifenhe Cyberport. She says she wants her 4-year-old son to be raised "in Chinese traditions," and she is making sure he learns Chinese.

    "People are so friendly here, I feel so comfortable," she said. "This is my new home."

    None of this is controversial. People regularly move from places with relatively few opportunities to places with more opportunities all the time, even if it means crossing national borders and any number of cultural boundaries. Chinese contract workers may, as I noted earlier, work in the Russian Far East for extended peridos of time, while Russians may move across the border.

    I am struck by Kucera's sentence "Demographically, it makes sense that Chinese people would flock to Russia." How does that work? If the income gap was in Russia's favour, if Chinese migrants had unrestricted access to Russian border areas, and if labour mobility in the Russian Far East was such that Russians didn't move in while Chinese stayed, you might have a Sinicized Russian Far East. If Russia itself was an attractive destination for Chinese migrants, things would look different indeed. But it isn't, and I'm left perplexed by Kucera's use of the word "demographically." Nothing in income differences, fertility rates, or migration trends would predict massive Chinese migration north. Heilongjiang's 30 millions outnumber the people of the Russian Far East five-to-one and live in a province with a much higher population density, but population density is irrelevant to migration: does Germany's high population density propel mass migrations to less densely populated France and Poland?

    Demographics matter. People who pay attention to demographics, it must be noted yet again, should take care to examine common knowledge to see if it actually reflects what's going on. Chinese immigration to Russia is but a single example of this.

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010

    How emigration made Barbados rich

    The Caribbean Sea's islands are perfect arenas for the study of the interactions between populations and economies. The Caribbean Sea's integration into the world economy in the 15th and 16th centuries saw complete replacement of the pre-Columbian population by vast numbers of migrants, voluntary and otherwise, from Africa and Europe, these migrants forming slavery-based plantation societies which played critical roles in sustaining Old World economies. The decline of these economies over the 19th and 20th centuries, as slavery's abolition diminished the superexploitation of local labour forces and competitors arose on continental mainlands, triggered new waves of migration, as contract labourers came from parts of the world as distant as India and Indonesia and, later, as relatively and absolutely large numbers of migrants left for colonial and quasi-colonial metropoles: the United States, Canada, Britain, France. Even as large and historically prosperous a country as Cuba has seen massive emigration, of such a volume that like its neighbour Jamaica its population is projected to decline over the next few decades. The generally small and relatively isolated economies of the Caribbean islands, along with continued strong ties to metropoles, is sure to encourage large-scale emigration and sustained underdevelopment.

    Barbados, however, is an exception. A high-income economy that has helped Barbados become a prosperous regional centre for banking and tourism, Barbados is a relatively small island state that has managed to beat the odds. How? Over at his excellent blog, Noel Maurer has written a four-part examination (1, 2, 3, 4) of the question of how Barbados, a century ago a neglected British colonial basket case on the verge of state failure, managed to escape this. It turns out that the mass recruitment of Barbadian workers to work on the Panama Canal may have been key.

    By 1913, the Isthmian Canal Commission had brought in 19,900 Barbadians, not including the many women who followed their husbands and a continuing (if less well-recorded) migration as construction work continued after the Panama Canal’s offical opening in 1914. In fact, the Canal would not be fully open to commercial traffic until 1920.

    The ultimate migration turned out to be much bigger than 19,900. In 1901, Barbados had a population of 195,558. In 1921, it had a population of only 156,744. Extrapolating from existing birth and death rates, the population of the island should have been 220,412 in 1921, implying a net outmigration of 64,000 people.

    The departure of so many workers had the effect of boosting wages in for the workers remaining in Barbados, while the remittances sent back by the helped transform the country.

    First, it bolstered the growth of smallholders. In 1897, an estimated 8,500 small proprietors held a bit less than 10,000 acres. By 1912, 13,152 smallholders owned plots. Assuming that the average size of holding remained constant, this represented an increase in smallholder ownership of 5500 acres, or over 22 square kilometers, five percent of the land area of Barbados. By 1929, the number of smallholding households had further increased to 17,731. Land ownership on the island remained astoundingly concentrated, but the percentage of Barbadians who owned property rose from 18% in 1897 to 40% by 1929.

    Second, it supercharged the Barbadian banking system. Barbadians opened 16,094 new accounts in government savings banks between 1906 and 1913, and deposits increased 88%. In 1920, deposits per person surpassed $11. That was a level of financial penetration about half of contemporary Spain and two-thirds of Italy; very high for a country as poor as Barbados. It prefigured the island’s emergence as a regional banking center a half-century later.

    Third, it prompted the emergence of a Barbadian social insurance state. The “friendly society” served as a form of insurance pool. For a weekly fee of 10 to 12 pence, the societies provided their members with sickness insurance, unemployment insurance, death benefits, free scholarships to household members, and an annual “bonus.” In 1901, there were 101 societies; between 1907 and 1910 a further 110 were founded, peaking at 260 in 1920. Their membership grew from 13,933 in 1904 to 46,207 in 1920. The 1921 census found that 156,312 people lived in households belonging to a friendly society. That was 94 percent of the population. Alongside the friendlies were the “landships,” which provided similar services along with ceremonial drills and uniforms modeled on the Royal Navy. Infant mortality continued to lag the rest of the Caribbean until the 1950s, but the societies aided a huge increase in literacy, to 93 percent by 1946.

    With a more egalitarian distribution of property and wealth, and increasing economic and social capital generally, Barbados was able to prosper in a way that its once-peer Jamaica could not. After Barbados became independent, sound macroeconomic policies helped the country continue to develop, and incidentally develop the demographic profile of a developed society.

    In the past, emigration played a large role in stabilizing Barbados' population. From the end of World War II until the 1970s, Barbados exported its unemployed, as did the Windward Islands. Between 1946 and 1980, its rate of population growth was diminished by one-third because of emigration to Britain. The United States replaced Britain as the primary destination of emigrants in the 1960s because of Britain's restriction on West Indian immigration.

    In spite of continued emigration, Barbados began to experience a net inflow of workers in 1970, most coming from other Eastern Caribbean islands. By 1980 demographic figures began to stabilize because migration to Barbados had lessened, probably for economic reasons, and a relatively small natural population growth rate had been achieved. By the mid-1980s, expected real growth rates, adjusted for migration, remained below 1 percent.

    Barbados' example is a fascinating one, inasmuch as it demonstrate the potential of migration to transform its sending society. A century ago, Barbados was a poor island overpopulated relative to its economic capacity; now, the legacies of a mass migration have helped the country become a rich, desirable destination, transcending the insular status that would have hampered its growth. I think it's accurate to say that in an ideal world, one marked by the unhindered mobility of labour between sending and receiving countries, Barbados' example could be replicated around the world. By definition, after all, migrant-sending countries and regions are sources of immigrants because they lack opportunities for their workers, and certainly the prospects of labour shortages in those countries well advanced in the demographic transition could create gaps. Again judging by Barbados' example, it's probably those relatively small countries and regions with relatively close and positive ties to migrant-receiving countries that will prosper the most. Perhaps Moldova and Albania will manage to rocket into the First World quickly after all.