Immigration as a strategy for growth, dynamism and progress

Last year my article “Immigration as a strategy for growth, dynamism and progress” was published the journal Krisòf (Volume XX-4, 2019). Kristòf is for sale at local bookstores. In this blog is a summary of this article.

Without effective policy response, Curaçao will be confronted with a serious problem as its population increasingly becomes out of balance. This means that proportionally there are more economically non-contributing seniors and fewer working age adults and children to contribute now and in the future. We also need to consider that under normal circumstances it’s almost impossible to reverse depopulation once the birthrate stays under the replacement level of 2.10 births per woman (here it is 1.7).

A complicating matter is the fact that at this stage people tend to feel that the short-term effects of population decline are small and negligible. Politicians are therefore more likely to postpone policy response because of the periodic cycle of elections which makes them focus on short term, day-to-day matters only. However, the population decline puts the sustainability of our society and economy in danger.

Our population challenges are complex and multi-faceted, and have far-reaching effects. There are no simple solutions. We’ve seen that the ability of public policies to control birth rates and efforts to encourage return migration of our citizens abroad (our diaspora) are limited at best. How can we reverse this decline? Immigration appears to be the only realistic solution. Immigration not as an act of charity or desperation, but as a deliberate population strategy for growth, dynamism and progress.

We know that allowing more immigrants remains a politically sensitive issue. We need first of all to create awareness of the population changes we’re facing. We also need to take this issue seriously at the highest political ranks by creating a population unit -possibly with the support of the UN Population Fund- in the Ministry of Planning as well as a Central Planning Bureau consisting of people from government, academia and private sector that can make educated forecasts and predictions about future demographics especially when considering crucial policy-making processes. To make this possible we need more quality demographic data. The key worries here are lack of detailed migration data and generational time series. Also, there needs to be a link between demographics and immigration policies. We know for example that Hispanic immigrants tend to have higher birth rates.

When discussing demographics one should not only consider statistics if our goal is to have a population strategy in place which contributes to sustainable growth, dynamism and innovation. In the old days we’ve seen that opening our country to immigrants was credited with a dynamic economy, brain gain and vibrance. But, we also need to carefully consider our past regarding segmentation based on ethnic lines. Even though history seems to indicate that immigrants are more accepted here when they have blended in and speak our language, we need to have a conversation about how much we expect them to give up of themselves to become one of us. Can they keep their heritage, their culture, their language, their taste in music? Who has the recipe, who decides? By the way, the same could be said of our returning diaspora who undoubtedly has been influenced by outside influences. Do we want assimilation, integration or a common set of values that unite us?

Large inflow of immigrants with no strategy and policy in place can easily turn into a nightmare. Key to a successful immigration policy is balance. It makes perfect sense to take in young immigrants in phases to allow us time to expand and optimize our land use and infrastructure to overcome current strains in order to accommodate a larger population. Additionally, key decisions regarding our education, health system and reforms of our antiquated structures must be taken. Foreign

Last year my article “Immigration as a strategy for growth, dynamism and progress” was published the journal Krisòf (Volume XX-4, 2019). Kristòf is available at the bookstores of Mensing and Bruna. In this blog I share a summary of this article.

Without effective policy response, Curaçao will be confronted with a serious problem as its population increasingly becomes out of balance. This means that proportionally there are more economically non-contributing seniors and fewer working age adults and children to contribute now and in the future. We also need to consider that under normal circumstances it’s almost impossible to reverse depopulation once the birthrate stays under the replacement level of 2.10 births per woman.

A complicating matter is the fact that at this stage people tend to feel that the short-term effects of population decline are small and negligible. Politicians are therefore more likely to postpone policy response because of the periodic cycle of elections which makes them focus on short term, day-to-day matters only. However, the population decline puts the sustainability of our society and economy in danger.

Our population challenges are complex and multi-faceted, and have far-reaching effects. There are no simple solutions. We’ve seen that the ability of public policies to control birth rates and efforts to encourage return migration of our citizens abroad (our diaspora) are limited at best. How can we reverse this decline? Immigration appears to be the only realistic solution. Immigration not as an act of charity or desperation, but as a deliberate population strategy for growth, dynamism and progress.

We know that allowing more immigrants remains a politically sensitive issue. We need first of all to create awareness of the population changes we’re facing. We also need to take this issue seriously at the highest political ranks by creating a population unit -possibly with the support of the UN Population Fund- in the Ministry of Planning as well as a Central Planning Bureau consisting of people from government, academia and private sector that can make educated forecasts and predictions about future demographics especially when considering crucial policy-making processes. To make this possible we need more quality demographic data. The key worries here are lack of detailed migration data and generational time series. Also, there needs to be a link between demographics and immigration policies. We know for example that Hispanic immigrants tend to have higher birth rates than other groups.

When discussing demographics one should not only consider statistics if our goal is to have a population strategy in place which contributes to sustainable growth, dynamism and innovation. In the old days we’ve seen that opening our country to immigrants was credited with a dynamic economy, brain gain and vibrance. But, we also need to carefully consider our past regarding segmentation based on ethnic lines. Even though history seems to indicate that immigrants are more accepted here when they have blended in and speak our language, we need to have a conversation about how much we expect them to give up of themselves to become one of us. Can they keep their heritage, their culture, their language, their taste in music? Who has the recipe, who decides? By the way, the same could be said of our returning diaspora who undoubtedly has been influenced by outside influences. Do we want assimilation, integration or a common set of values that unite us?

Large inflow of immigrants with no strategy and policy in place can easily turn into a nightmare. Key to a successful immigration policy is balance. It makes perfect sense to take in young immigrants in phases to allow us time to expand and optimize our land use and infrastructure to overcome current strains in order to accommodate a larger population. Additionally, key decisions regarding our education, health system and reforms of our antiquated structures must be taken. Foreign workers need to be allowed according to local needs.

Last but certainly the most urgent is to do the right thing by ensuring that policies applied to migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in Curaçao meet our obligations under international law. And more than anything, we should fulfill our moral obligations to treat other humans with dignity and compassion.

Alex David Rosaria (53) is a freelance consultant active in Asia & Pacific. He is a former Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and UN Implementation Officer in Africa and Central America. He’s from Curaçao and has a MBA from the University of Iowa. (USA).




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