Migrants part of solution to aging crisis: experts

Wed May 18, 2011 9:23am EDT
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By Olesya Dmitracova

LONDON (Reuters) - Rich nations need migrant workers to provide and care for their rapidly aging populations, experts said this week, challenging a wave of hostility toward new arrivals driven by the impact of the economic downturn.

Immigration was a recurring theme of a two-day conference at London's Chatham House on managing graying economies, with speakers from the United States, Europe and Japan all in favor, despite the social tensions it can cause.

In Europe, for one, antipathy toward foreign workers and asylum seekers has grown in the last few years because of their perceived pressure on scarce jobs and public services.

An influx of immigrants from north Africa this year triggered by upheavals in the region has added to the tension and prompted plans to temporarily restore border controls, eliminated between most EU states under the Schengen treaty.

The experts said turning away young migrants would be short-sighted as their taxes support an increasing number of pensioners in developed countries who are living longer.

"You take young migrants who were educated abroad and they are generally net contributors to public finances," said Philippe Legrain, a senior policy analyst at the European Union's executive arm.

Fertility rates in the European Union remain too low to secure future pensions for all EU citizens, a European Commission demographics report showed last month.

Such trends, combined with record budget deficits, have already forced governments across Europe to raise retirement ages despite widespread protests, and many countries, including the United States, are eyeing pension reforms.   Continued...