Views From Australia and UK : Greater Use of Older Workers + Will Solve Aging Population Issue ; London is no longer an English city

Australia : Greater Use of Older Workers + Will Solve Aging Population Issue

It is important to recognise…that (Australian) Treasury modelling has shown that while higher migration (immigration) will lead to increases in aggregate (total) economic growth, an increase in migration will have a negligible effect on the level of per capita economic growth. It is the latter which is crucial to the economic well-being of the Australian population and thus should be the focus of policy.

Some commentators suggest that it is a frightening prospect that 22% of Australia’s population will be aged 65 plus by 2050. Yet currently, 20% of the German population and 18% of the Swedish population are already aged 65 plus. Both economies are doing well relative to the rest of the developed world, with low levels of government debt to GDP and impressive surpluses in their respective balance of payments, in both cases based on strong export performances. By contrast, the USA with a relatively young population (13% of its population is aged 65 plus) is doing poorly on all of these metrics.

The Germans and Swedes have achieved these outcomes through high labour force participation rates, especially in the older age groups (55 plus) and through their attention to workforce training. There is enormous scope for improvement in Australia on both of these policy dimensions. There has already been a sharp increase in labour force participation rates in Australia. For example, for men aged 55-59 the labour force participation was 71.6 % in 2000 and 79.2% in 2009. For women in the same age group the increase over the same period was from 48% to 63%.

Our labour force projections indicate that if Australia was to achieve the same level of labour force participation by age group and sex as is currently the case in Sweden, there would be robust labour force growth over the next two decades, even with net overseas migration at half the current level.

As to training, the Australian record is very poor relative to Germany and Sweden. The participation rate of 20-24 year old Australian residents in higher education has hovered around the low level of 25% over the period 2004 to 2010. A substantial increase in this participation rate would provide for most of the expected increase in demand for professional workers over the next couple of decades.

Reliance on high levels of overseas migration is not a clever solution to the impending aging of Australia’s population. As our economy adjusts towards low labour intensive resource based industries it makes little sense to promote further population expansion in our metropolitan centres. The focus should be on making more productive use of our workforce and capital in industries that are internationally competitive, rather than squandering these resources in city building.

Prof Bob Birrell, Co-director of the Centre for Population & Urban research at Monash University, delivered the above as part of an address at Global Access Partner’s National Economic Review 2011: Australia’s Annual Growth Summit on Friday 16 September 2011. He has advised successive Commonwealth governments on immigration policy and was a member of the Government inquiry which produced the Evaluation of the General Skilled Migration Categories published in 2006. His most recent publication on Australia’s population outlook is Immigration and the Resources Boom Mark 2 (2011) which is available on the CPUR website at His research focuses on the social, economic and environmental implications of population growth in Australia.


London is “no longer an English city”

Comedian John Cleese has waded into the row over Britain’s immigration policy by saying London is “no longer an English city”.

The Monty Python star says people in the capital now feel like foreigners in a city where the “parent culture has dissipated”.

Cleese, 71, made his comments during an appearance on Australian television.

He is currently in Sydney for a run of sell-out shows at the Opera House.

During the interview, the funnyman was asked what he makes of British culture, particularly after the recent rioting.

He said: “I’m not sure what’s going on in Britain. Let me say this, I don’t know what’s going on in London because London is no longer an English city and that’s how they got the Olympics.

“They said ‘We’re the most cosmopolitan city on Earth’ but it doesn’t feel English.

“I had a Californian friend come over two months ago, walk down the King’s Road and say to me ‘well, where are all the English people?’

Last night, Ukip (UK Independence Party) leader Nigel Farage welcomed Cleese’s comments. “John Cleese has said what an increasing number of people in London are thinking,” he said.

“It is sad, … but people do seem to be feeling that they are becoming foreigners in their own land.

“What makes these comments even more surprising is that Mr Cleese is a well-known Liberal Democrat supporter having starred in their party political broadcasts.

“For him to make these remarks certainly shows a tremendous strength of feeling on this matter. Of course other cultures are welcome but Mr Cleese is right to point out that it should not be at the expense of the parent culture.”

Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of MigrationWatch, said: “John Cleese is an astute man.

“London has of course changed hugely in recent years. He is also not the first to point to the failures of multi-culturalism – the Prime ­Minister has said much the same thing.

“London is not the city I knew as a child and it saddens me that many of the unwelcome developments have largely been the result of mass and rapid migration.”