Ageing – a once in a species opportunity

Ageing is a natural trend towards an increase in the proportion of older people in our population and will continue until the Canadian population stabilizes.

This is not a crisis but merely part of the much larger demographic transition which has accompanied the development of our modern societies. In this transition, life expectancy has increased from under 40 years in the 1700s to nearly 80 and the number of children per woman has decreased from 6 to near 2 or below.

Ageing may have taken place in previous populations through history but it would have been the result of extreme events like wars, famines etc. which removed large portions of the young. In the 21st century, ageing is a trend that is almost certain to become permanent barring extreme events.

And while population stabilization will create challenges for business-as-usual models, overall it holds out tremendous potential to help mitigate some of humanity’s most pressing problems.

On a planet being destroyed by over consumption, ageing offers powerful support for conservation efforts. Lower resource demand reduces the desperation levels of nations seeking ever more resources to maintain growth.

Cheap labour will become a thing of the past as society and the economy place far more emphasis on productivity to maintain the flow of vital goods and services being produced by a smaller proportion of the population.

After the Black Plague reduced England’s population by between 30% and 50% in the mid-1300s, real wages for labourers doubled. Firstly there was a shortage of labour and secondly, crop areas were reduced to the most productive fields while less rich soils were allowed to recover with extended fallow periods.

Therefore the typical solution to a nation’s resource shortages – invading another country for their resources – becomes a great deal more difficult as the key ingredient in any army is a large pool of willing and angry young men. As populations stabilize, young men will make up a smaller share of the population and their higher levels of prosperity and hopeful prospects will make them far less willing to fight in foreign wars.

Also, their contribution to the nation will be far more critical and they will be seen as being much less expendable. The battlefield tactic of cannon fodder, or “meat waves”, will die along with the economic equivalents of cheap labour and growth at any cost.

This demographic transition features:

  • lower fertility rates
  • longer life spans
  • higher proportions of seniors
  • lower population of young people
    • higher wages for young people
    • higher employment levels for young people
    • more affordable housing
    • adding up to a much smaller pool of desperate and angry young men likely to willingly join a foreign war
  • lower consumption
    • no need for additional infrastructure
    • less material consumption by older population
    • lower need for resources outside of one’s own borders

All these factors add up to less need and lower ability to wage aggressive, imperial wars. (Are you listening Vladimir??) This a first in history on a planetary basis. Perhaps now we can figure out how to switch our priorities from aggressive actions involving the exchange of high velocity steel with our neighbours to cooperative development where building broad-based, sustainable societies is the top priority and not seen as a threat to any other nation.

Possibly, just possibly we could embark on an era of cooperative development rather than a mentality winners and losers where the objective is to beggar thy neighbour.

Ageing is inevitable and simply cannot be held at bay except by exponential population growth continuing forever. The high population growth necessary to counter ageing cannot be supported endlessly by fiscal deficits with the expectation that “growth will pay for it” or by importation of cheap labour which fill tax-negative jobs, in itself a deficit generator.

And then there is the consideration of a finite planet even now in distress.

Growth does not pay for past deficits as a larger version of a debt producing fiscal structure adds on even larger debts going forward. Witness the last 50 years where Canada placed first in population growth in the OECD and last in productivity increases, equality increases, GHG emissions reduction and housing affordability.

Very high levels of immigration have been touted as a “fix” for an ageing population. The advertized objective of this “fix” is to maintain forever the age structure and the rate of growth of the baby boom period. I.e. make it the 1950s forever.

Attempting to boost immigration to levels which will run ahead of the ageing wave will see ever-increasing levels of immigration with little effect on the age structure.


  • The age structure of our immigration stream is not different enough to “youthenize” our population

  • Ageing is a global phenomenon

Understanding the nature of the changes and modifying our expectations of endless growth are the challenges which all countries will have to meet. Canada is fortunate in that many advanced societies are decades ahead in this transition and are providing an excellent reference for the development of policies which will allow us to deal successfully with the transition to demographic stability.

The best means of dealing with a shift to a higher proportion of seniors is to boost job quality and flexibility along with wage rates. People must be encouraged to be healthy and the concept of working at some level well past the age previously thought of as “retirement age” must be embraced.

In other words, we should stop subsidizing cheap labour business models with endless immigrant flows and instead invest in our people and encourage business models which support higher productivity (and wages) and allow for flexible working conditions. The successful business models will provide living wages and job opportunities that Canadians want to fill. 1950’s business models based on cheap labour will fade from the commercial marketplace.

Neither Business-as-Usual nor Business-as-it-Once-Was is sustainable. Make sure your media sources and your political representatives are clear on the need for well-informed progressive change in Canadian public policy. “More of the same” is not a viable strategy as the past 5 decades have shown.

Ageing remains the pillar of promotion used to hype mass immigration, the real objective being to subsidize cheap labour employers and make developers and debt mongers rich at everyone else’s expense.

Putin is a primitive and a holdout from the age of imperialism employing meat wave attacks to get the results he wants- more land and a bigger economy. Similarly, Trudeau and Ford employ cannon-fodder economics, sacrificing the welfare of their people for a bigger commercial economy and inflated asset valuations for their sponsors. They are leaders who have run out of ideas on how to make life better for their citizens and consequently devote themselves to the pursuit of more at any cost.

Instituting a pro-growth policy in the face of the demographic transition and environmental decline is clearly suicidal and even now, support for endless population growth is eroding in both boardrooms and newsrooms. It never existed in the general population. Canadians oppose the Century Initiative goal of 100 million by 2100 by a ratio of 5:1. See the results of our large Opinion Poll.

Ageing is both a challenge and a great opportunity whereas continued population and consumption growth is both the easiest path for politicians and the most critically damaging for our society and future generations.

One way to establish who your elected politicians and media sources are working for is to ask them their position on ageing. Act accordingly.

For reference:

Jason Kenney in his Backgrounder for his immigration hearing in 2011
“That being said, research underscores that immigration is not a viable remedy for population ageing. A 2009 study by the C.D. Howe Institute concludes that improbably huge increases in immigration (i.e. from the current 0.8% to nearly 4% ** of the population) in the short term would be required to stabilize Canada’s current old-age dependency ratio.”
Backgrounder - Stakeholder Consultations on Immigration Levels and Mix
Library of Parliament - Immigration to Canada pdf PRB0350-e - Page 9
“Finally it is worth noting that in 2000, the UN Population Division conducted a study of whether replacement migration could solve the problem of population ageing and decline. Using a scenario that simulates the migration required to maintain the dependency ratio the study concluded that the level of immigration to offset population ageing would have to be much higher than in the past. For example the United States would have to admit 592 million immigrants between 2000 and 2050 to keep its dependency steady. The population of the United States was 274 million in 2000. This would mean nearly 11 million immigrants each year, compared with 1.5 million at present – not a very realistic scenario”
Compound Growth = guaranteed failure.

Compound Growth = guaranteed failure.

Canada’s current rate of immigration of 2% (doubling every 35 years) sees our population grow to 160 million by 2100 and to 1.3 billion by 2200 and growing forever afterwards. This is not a plan which would survive any kind of scrutiny; it is a promo piece of fog to keep on kicking the can down the road to allow the immigration lobby to continue to reap immense profits until the wheels fall off.

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Ageing is a natural trend towards an increase in the proportion of older people in our population and will continue...