The Corner

Trouble in Paradise (3)

Open Europe:

A new ARD-Deutschlandtrend poll shows that 51% of Germans are afraid of the large number of refugees coming to the country – a 13 percentage point increase compared to last month. This coincides with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity rating dropping by 9 percentage points to 54%, which is her lowest score since December 2011. The rating of CSU Chief and Minister President of Bavaria Horst Seehofer, who has been criticial of Merkel’s refugee policy, has increased by 11 percentage points to 39%.

It’s worth noting that Merkel’s approval rating still stands at over 50 percent, and with the exception of some grumbling within the CSU (the further right half of Merkel’s coalition) and some careful comments from Germany’s (powerless) president there is still very limited opposition within the political class to the broad approach that Merkel has been taking. As we saw with the introduction of the euro (most Germans, a people wiser than their rulers, opposed dropping the Deutsche Mark), in Germany it’s the Groupthink of the political class that counts.

Meanwhile, back in the real world (the Washington Post reports):

CALDEN, Germany — This German town renowned for its rococo palace threw open its doors to arriving waves of refugees. Donations from clothing drives filled four garages. The volunteer fire department pitched in to build a tent city at the airport that now teems with 1,400 migrants. But like other Germans in a country that has rolled out the welcome mat for Europe’s largest wave of asylum seekers since World War II, residents here are having second thoughts.

That is especially true after the riot. In this quaint municipality of 3,000 inhabitants, the chaos started at lunchtime Sunday when a 19-year-old Albanian cut in the food line at the town’s new tent city, prompting a reprimand from a 43-year-old Pakistani. Pushes degenerated into punches. Soon, 300 migrants wielding pepper spray and metal pipes were attacking each other in rival mobs. A caravan of ambulances and SWAT team vans careened down streets lined with gawking residents. More than 50 police officers struggled for hours to restore order, with three hospitalized with injuries, according to witnesses and local officials….

On Wednesday night and early Thursday, violence broke out at two refugee centers in the northern city of Hamburg, including one incident involving 100 migrants wielding wooden planks as weapons, according to Hamburg police…

Some in Germany also worry that they are importing ethnic and religious tensions from the refugees’ homelands. German police unions, for instance, are calling for separate housing for asylum seekers along religious or ethnic lines after what officials described as an “attempted lynching” of a 25-year-old Afghan Christian in the central city of Suhl in August. A group of Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian men, officials say, chased the Christian man after he tried to flush pages of the Koran down the toilet at a refugee center. Six police officers were wounded trying to stop the mob.

“This has been a big shock,” said Fred Jaeger, the Suhl police spokesman. “Never before have our police been physically attacked like this.”

Fred Jaeger, I suspect, is beginning to realize what Merkel has done.

Meanwhile there’s news from Sweden, the “humanitarian superpower”. 

The Local reports:

Sweden’s government has promised to boost funding for refugees in its next budget, but with its forecast for new arrival numbers in 2015 set to be reached this month, official calculations are being called into question. While other Scandinavian countries have sought to limit immigration in the wake of the global refugee crisis, Sweden’s government has committed to providing extra funding and maintaining its open borders.

But the country’s capacity for dealing with the large numbers of asylum seekers heading to the Nordic nation was called into question on Friday, as new figures emerged about the rush of new arrivals. According to official statistics quoted by the TT news agency, 73,000 people had applied for asylum in Sweden by the end of September, close to the 74,000 expected in the country in the whole of 2015. Last month alone, 24,306 people sought asylum in Sweden, a historically high figure that included 1,300 people on one single day.

 ”It is clear that it will cost us more money than we thought,” admitted Sweden’s Minister for Migration Morgan Johansson, just weeks ahead of the Social Democrat-Green coalition’s budget announcement.

Do you think?

Not to worry, over the longer term, immigration is, as ‘everyone knows’, just what Europe’s ageing societies need to fund their welfare states. 

Well, no…

In a carefully-argued and subtle piece for the Financial Times, Martin Wolf takes a look at the numbers and their implications (with, I’d add, rather more subtlety than Jeb! a man whose dim, dated understanding—to give it too kind a word— of the way that economic growth and immigration are connected grows more obsolete by the day) for the EU. This must-read piece is pay-walled, and I hope to discuss it at more length on another occasion, but for now, just note this:

[I]mmigrants lower the ratio of the retired to those of working age (the old-age dependency ratio). But the impact on dependency, at least with current levels of immigration, is modest. To lower it substantially requires enormous inflows.  In 2014, there were 29 dependants aged 65 and over for every 100 people of working age. According to the UN, keeping this ratio below a third would require immigration [into the EU] of 154m between 1995 and 2050, with far more thereafter: immigrants age, too, after all.

Consequently, a big reduction in dependency ratios demands huge inflows. One might argue that a continent with so few children must accept such a transformation of its population.

One might, but….


Consider other possible economic impacts. The OECD looked at the fiscal impact of cumulative waves of migration in the past 50 years in member countries, and concluded it was on average roughly zero

There are many reasons why mass immigration is not the answer to the ‘problem’ of an ageing welfare state, but they include this: The numbers cannot possibly add up. 


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