ALTERNATIVES for MASS IMMigration. answering the challenge of the United Nations?

published 28 febr 2011

ALTERNATIVES …to mass extra-european immigration

Ten years after the United Nations warning it is high time for civil society to think matters through.

Ten years ago  the United Nations Bureau for Population surprised the world with what was seen as prognostics on demography in relation to the sustainability of European retirement systems.

The media saw the publication as a strong warning to Europe to allow the immigration of many millions of extra-European immigrants in order to keep the relationship between working and non-working citizens at a prudent level and thus save funding for the pension systems of Europe. They read the statement indeed like dire prognostics rather than as a hypothesis and as a warning.

It was however meant by the a challenge to think matters through. As a recommendation or as a scientific prognostics the UN statement could never have stood on its own feet. French demographer Michele Triballat clearly demonstrated that. The mass immigration from outside Europe would have to be on a scale of hundreds of millions of people, and then not be even sustainable. As “prognostics”  it would have been sheer nonsense. But it was a useful warning

European state and governments leaders did however nothing to reassure their populations against such dire warnings, nor did they take up the challenge to tackle the many interlinked problems which declining demography will cause to the welfare and the productivity of our European continent.

So the intent of the United Nations office came to naught.

What European state leaders should have done ten years ago, is to think through a number of     “ALTERNATIVES” , alternatives to mass immigrations of non-Europeans. To have missed that occasion is a grave default of our leaders and cause of much unrest and anxiety in our populations. They deserved better service.

In fact to avoid massive extra European immigration  a variety of measures can and need to be considered.  How can our continent adapt to as declaning demography ? In which way can we diminish costs, in what manner can we increase productivity of our decreasing populations? How can we maintain our global competitivity in the face of burgeoning China and perhaps even achieve a modicum of growth in such a new situation? And keep the funds to maintain our cultural heritage?

We therefore have every reason and should use any experience in engaging in an genuine reflection on


Why should survival of a society in econommic and cultural decency be impossible with a decreasing population ? Several of us have in our lifetime seen an extraordinary increase in population. I for one saw a nearly doubling of the population of the Netherlands.   Why would it not be possible to adapt in a convenient way to a stationary or even a decreasing situation ?  Our capacities of social engineering may be strongly challenged, but precisely therefore a deeper discussion is needed how to survive with dignity when our populations decline in numbers.

Manners of thinking, of fostering our cultural identity and innovation, even changes in lifestyle may have to enter our discussion.

The list of topics for our consideration would indeed have to be a long one and certainly each of the subchapters would be a daunting to analyse and to fill with useful recommendations. But if the linkages between the topics are explored we may find reinforcing elements which would make an answer to our question possible, under avoidance of mass immigration.

  • Housing and urbanism, transportation between working and living areas. How can they be improved to make our citizens more comfortably productive?
  • Health care, including mental health, social peace. With priority to prevention so as to diminish overall cost to the national systems.
  • Education of children, of young people, giving more scope to the influence of parents in transmitting traditions and values.
  • Continued education of middle aged and older to enhance productivity and adaptation. In fact with decrease in number of workers, the productivity of each must be increased
  • Any other measures and programs  capable of increasing  labour productivity at various levels even outside the work areas, so as to achieve more production with less workers
  • Explore all ways to diminish waste,  and related costs, as efforts in that direction could increase productivity, and lessen costs;
  • Explore the Barcelona Process (Union for the Mediterranean) further fostering “co-development” with our African neighbours
  • See what possibilities “circulatory migration” might offer for limiting settoement in Europe and fostering projects in Africa
  • Questions of bioethics as they relate to demography
  • Integrate the concerns on environment in all our programs. And not only physical environment but also spiritual environment. Questions of  the damage from  pornography
  • Help families in all ways possible in their desire to have more children
  • Help families to achieve closer interaction and support between the generations [i]
  • Reflect on the possibilities but also the margins of and limits to globalization (merchandise, capital, but perhaps different treatment of labour)
  • What kinds of work offer a real scarcity, and what are our options ?
  • Sunday rest must be kept as an abiding bulwark of our civilization, favoring multiside education
  • Retirement schemes should be set on a sounder basis
  • What geopolitical settings are needed, and what military provisions, to forestall conflicts outside Europe which might generate migration flows?
  • The specific role of employers, and of labour organizations should be recognized in all these deliberations.
  • Et cetera ! Possibly the techniques and the art of “systems approach” could tell us how various programs from the above list could have mutually reinforcing results, thus reduce costs so as to make the whole strategy as a whole feasible.


It is this encompassing and multi dimensional discussion which our political leaders have failed to initiate when the United National Population Bureau threw the challenge to us.

It is now after ten years high time to take up the challenge in various articulations of our civil society. We think we have friends in Paris, in Rome and Milano, in Brussels and in other places interested in the question of Europe’s survival in a setting of decreasing population.

We need to foster any possibly useful linkages.

Anton Smitsendonk Paris, Beijing    May 2009

[i] A few years ago Norbert Walter, the chief economist of Deutsche Bank addressed a gathering of our OECD people  on matters of our own future and on questions of development cooperation. At one point he challenged us by saying that perhaps the various contemporary generations should re-learn to live together. He even made  a jocular reference to the long houses which the Vikings in ancient times, the Bataks in Indonesia and Indians in more recent times and even today have known…….. But we can easily think also of the big family houses of yesterday in our own times and countries where decent living together and in mutual respect and relative independence was possible. The heritage of families, and the very capability of families to create “heritage”  should be restored if Europe is to survive. We must find how to relate the objective with the modalitites of our own time and our possibilities

About dutasia

Former Ambassador of the Netherlands, presently National Commissioner for Thailand and for Indonesia in the ICC, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Business Organization. Chairman of China Carbon Forum in Beijing, China.
This entry was posted in Catholic views on immigration, demography, EUROPE, Europe's relations with other continents, EUROPEAN UNION, Immigration into Europe, immigration into the United States of America, Migration issues, philosophy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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