For more than a decade, the Productivity Commission (PC) has debunked the common myth that immigration can overcome population ageing. For example:
PC (2005): “Despite popular thinking to the contrary, immigration policy is also not a feasible countermeasure [to an ageing population]. It affects population numbers more than the age structure”.
PC (2010): “Realistic changes in migration levels also make little difference to the age structure of the population in the future, with any effect being temporary“…
PC (2011): “…substantial increases in the level of net overseas migration would have only modest effects on population ageing and the impacts would be temporary, since immigrants themselves age… It follows that, rather than seeking to mitigate the ageing of the population, policy should seek to influence the potential economic and other impacts”…
PC (2016): “[Immigration] delays rather than eliminates population ageing. In the long term, underlying trends in life expectancy mean that permanent immigrants (as they age) will themselves add to the proportion of the population aged 65 and over”.
In a nutshell, trying to overcome an ageing population through higher immigration is a Ponzi scheme. It requires ever more immigration, with the associated negative impacts on economic and social infrastructure, congestion, housing affordability, and the environment.
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness.
Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.