Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On migration and population in reunification-era Korea

The recent sinking of a South Korean naval vessel off the North Korean coast has once again brought the division of Korea, and North Korea's apparent unpredictability, to the minds of many. Sublime Oblivion's Anatoly Karlin makes the point that, in a second Korean War, North Korea would be so outclassed by South Korea and United States forces that the latter could decide the fate of North Korea almost at will, Chinese opinion aside.

This growing military superiority is the consequence of South Korea's growing economic superiority over the North. Whereas before the Korean War the North was the more industrialized region of the Korean peninsula, in 2010 the South is effectively a First World country that, with its population of fifty million and strong exports, is a global economic power that more than deserves its membership in the G-20 (and arguably more claims than Canada to G-8 membership). The North, in contrast, is a country with a collapsing planned economy, barely recovered from catastrophic famines in the 1990s that killed 10-15% of the DPRK's population, that has become dependent on remittances--both official ones from North Korean guest workers in Russia and from North Koreans living illegally in China--and on industrial cooperation with the South in special economic areas. Both Koreas are officially committed to reunification, but in practice, even if it comes about peacefully, it's going to be tremendously difficult.

Goohoon Kwon's September 2008 Goldman Sachs report hasn't passed without notice. Perhaps optimistically, Kwon concludes that a post-Communist North Korea could prosper, income rapidly converging with the North and by 2050 helping Korea achieved a GDP similar in size or somewhat greater to those of the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany. At present, true, the North's GDP per capita is similar to those of India and Vietnam, and a mere 6% of South Korea's, but the North's abundant and competitive labour force, the potential for synergies between South Korean capital and technology, and "the potentially large gains from productivity and currency appreciation typical in transition economies" could result in a boom. After all, Kwon points out, the rural-urban distribution of the North Korea population and the sectoral development of its economy is similar to South Korea's in the late 1970s.

Isn't a repetition of the miracle possible? It might be well be possible, but likely is quite another matter. Kwon's projection depends not only on an orderly reunification, but a reunification that proceeds well. The problems of East Germany after its absorption into the Federal Republic come to mind. Perhaps the most obviously unrealistic elements of projection comes with the distribution of the Korean peninsula's population. With the South having 50 million people and the North some 24, the North Korean population is a bit under half of the South's. In 2050, in marked contrast, the North Korean population of 28 million--four million larger than in 2010, note--is two-thirds the size of the South Korean population of 2050.

How could this possibly be? Leaving aside the certainty of a sharp drop in fertility, the sort experienced not only be all post-Communist economies but by South Korea from the 1980s to the present, the expanded North's population seems completely unrealistic given the massive differences in living standards between the two halves of the peninsula. Tens of thousands of North Koreans have settled in China despite the risks brought by an illegal status that would lead to their deportation to China. In a reunified Korea, assuming a completely free labour market, why would North Koreans stay in a devastated landscape when a crossing of the DMZ would bring them into a vastly more developed country? Two million East Germans left their own moderately developed territory for the West after reunification. Can anyone seriously suggest that fewer North Koreans would be attracted to a South that's already the destination of a very significant and growing number of immigrants?

This analysis suggests to me that, even after reunification, the two states will remain somewhat separate, and that South Korea will going do its very best to limit migration from the North, allowing the skilled and the 3-D worker and perhaps the pretty people in but limiting the number of other North Koreans. It's not very surprising, really; the overnight entry of millions, possibly more than ten million, of North Koreans into South Korea and its labour markets would have a catastrophic effect on the South, to say nothing of blighting whatever chances the North has for rapid growth and some convergence. I suspect that the South Koreans planning for reunification already expect that the post-reunification North will slowly empty out, as the demographic transition accelerates and migration to the South--and, perhaps, China and overseas destinations--takes off. Their major problems will be in managing the flow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On assisted reproduction and its problems

Pratap Chakravarty's Agence France-Presse article "Gay couples find surrogate mothers in India" caught my attention.

For gay U.S. businessman Brad Fister, experiencing the joy of fatherhood meant flying half way around the world to India where he first held his baby daughter, born to a woman who had signed away any right to her child.

Commercial surrogacy is a booming industry in India, and in recent years the ranks of childless foreign couples have been swelled by gay partners looking for a low-cost, legally-friendly path to parenthood.

In the United States, laws governing adoption and surrogacy vary from state to state, while in India the service is legal, loosely regulated and — so far at least — non-discriminatory on grounds of sexual orientation.

For Fister and his partner Michael Griebe, a crucial attraction is that surrogate mothers in India are generally willing to renounce any legal claim to the child.

"We decided to have a baby a year and a half ago but the problem in the United States is mothers often do not relinquish the rights to the child," Fister told AFP before leaving the southern city of Hyderabad with his baby daughter last month.

"It was all so simple here and if we decide to have another we would return," he said.

[. . .]

Surrogacy Abroad bills each couple around $20,378 Cdn, including medical charges and the payment for the surrogate who receives around $8,151 Cdn.

An initial miscarriage meant Fister and Griebe spent $40,756 Cdn, but that is still far cheaper than in the United States, where multiple attempts can leave couples with bills of more than $101,890 Cdn.

India IVF clinics claim a high success rate as doctors are allowed to implant five embryos into the uterus at one time. In many other countries, such as Britain, only two implants are allowed.

Assisted reproductive technology has allowed for the wholesale reconfiguration of the family and reproduction. In vitro fertilization can allow couples with difficulties to conceive and produce health children; infertile couples can get sperm or eggs from an anonymous donor to conceive; sperm and eggs can be frozen for later conception; same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples alike can contract surrogate mothers to bear their offspring. Before long, it will be possible to engage in, to produce viable human clones, for instance, or to engage in the eugenic genetic engineering of reproductive cells or perhaps even the fetus. Increasingly large numbers of couples are making use of these technologies, like Denmark where "[o]ne study from 2006 found 40 percent of young Danish military recruits had suboptimal sperm levels. In the land of Lego, 7 percent of all live births in 2007 required "assisted" reproduction."

The usage of these reproductive technologies can be expected to increase over time, as individuals continue to delay family formation and parenting. That's why it's alarming that all of these current and future innovations are taking place, incidentally, without much consistent regulation. Different European states have differnet policies, some much more restrictive than others. Here in Canada, as
Alison Motluk wrote in the most recent issue of Walrus Magazine, shady and possible illegal behaviour is the norm.

A long-awaited law, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, had come into force in April 2004, expressly outlawing the purchase of human eggs. Technically, anyone involved in such a transaction, including doctors and parents, could now be fined $500,000 and be jailed for up to ten years.

In reality, however, the law had done little to stop Canadians from buying human eggs. If anything, with women waiting longer than ever to start their families and gay men increasingly interested in having children, demand had gone up and the market had grown. The law, such as it was, simply forced the activity underground, with unintended and undesirable consequences. Fertility specialists, lacking official guidance from the government, began drawing their own boundaries. Patients had only doctors to rely on for advice. Worst of all, donors became part of a shadow economy, aware they were part of something vaguely illicit and therefore reluctant to come forward when something went wrong. The rare woman who did speak up risked being made the scapegoat of the whole under-the-table arrangement[.]

[. . .]

In the years since the act was passed, however, Canada has found itself in the uncomfortable position of banning the purchase of gametes in principle but not in practice. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, also ban their purchase but have strict enforcement provisions backing the ban. The Canadian law, by contrast, was never completed. The sections dealing with prohibited activities, like the sale of eggs, are done and in force, but certain parts, dealing with activities that are allowed but “controlled” — including the reimbursement of donor expenses — can’t be proclaimed until regulations are produced setting out the details of how the system will work. Those regulations are still pending six years later.

The unproclaimed sections of the law suggest that reimbursement will only be permitted for very specific expenses and by people expressly licensed for the purpose. However, without the regulations, the various players have been left to interpret the law on their own. Some would-be parents travel to countries where eggs can be legally purchased. Of those who stay in Canada, some still employ egg donors but rely on the grey areas in the law. The $7,000 Heather Cox was paid for her second donation, for instance, was called a reimbursement for concrete expenses — even though, according to her, she negotiated the fee up front and was never asked to provide receipts.

I don't have any easy solutions. Increasing the regulation of these technologies is a good idea, but if costs fall as a result of technological innovation and growing demand, and these routines become easier, how invasive will these regulations have to be? As Motluk recounts, already couples and donors and labs are willing to violate the law for their goals. And what about couples who leave one country to conceive in another--what can be done, should be done, here?

Monday, March 15, 2010

"The demographic situation in Russia in 2008"

The invaluable Livejournal blogger demographer was kind enough to link to an overview of the latest Goskomstat figures on Russia's population profile. There is a lot of interesting stuff there.

  • Russia's population is stabilizing, largely thanks to the rate of natural decrease, well, decreasing sharply. As Scott and me noted earlier, the deficit of women of childbearing age will impact negatively on birth rates (as opposed to fertility rates), but a slowing down is good for everyone.

  • Migration is playing a secondary but still important role, with decreasing emigration from Russia and increasing immigration from the former Soviet Union with Central Asian states being particularly prominent sources. Armenia particularly, but also Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Tajikistan seem to be contributing migrants out of proportion to their shares of the ex-Soviet population.

  • The Central Federal District comprising Moscow and environs is overwhelmingly the main draw for internal migration (three quarters of the total), with areas of Russia from the Urals east to the Pacific and the Volga Federal District for international migration. Somewhat surprisingly to me, the North Caucasus Federal District is recorded as a net receiver of migrants, along with the Central and Northwestern Federal District.

  • 14% of the population is older than 65, and 58.2% in 2008 (57.8% in 2007) are of working age. There's still unfavourable trends like the gap in life expectancies between women and men on the order of a decade, whether in Moscow or in the North Caucasus.

  • The only places with above-replacement fertility are ethnic republics like Tuva and Altai. I'm tempted to draw comparisons with other territories populated substantially or mostly by groups Canadians would call First Nations--the territory of Nunavut, for example.
  • Saturday, March 13, 2010

    A few news links

    Over the past couple of weeks, I've come across a lot of interesting population-related news links. Here they all are!

  • China Daily's Lin Shujuan writes about how a huge diaspora from Qingtian county (in eastern Zhejiang province) has, through settlement in western Europe, has helped make that newly wealthy county profoundly globalized.

  • IceNews reports on the heavy emigration from Greenland, especially among the young and educated of that island, that threatens the island's viability for independence.
  • ]
  • At The Australian, Bernard Salt points out that Australia's recent trend towards a population in the 34 million range in a generation's time is quite recent and the discussion was triggered by a single document.

  • The New York Times writes about how growing demand for labour in migrant-sending areas of interior China is causing labour shortages in coastal China.

  • Last month, Polish radio reported that 25% of Poles in Iceland (almost all very recent immigrants) are unemployed, versus 9% of native Icelanders.

  • In 2009, Iceland Review reports that Iceland saw the net emigration of nearly five thousand people, most heading to other Nordic countries and a quarter to Poland.

  • Blic reports on how Serbia is trying to prevent brain drain to the West via spending on scientists' facilities and homes.

  • The Albanian Times writes about how Greece's economic crisis is hitting Albania by pushing Albanians migrants in Greece out of paid employment and possibly even back to an ill-prepared Albania.

  • South Korea's Chosun Ilbo reports on the continued low period fertility rate in South Korea, and the increasing tendency to postpone marriage and childbearing.

  • Switzerland is continuing to see strong population growth, driven mainly by immigration.