As a layman, I've always understood that there is a general consensus amongst economists that "immigration is economically beneficial" to rich Western countries (like Britain) who have aging populations because the influx of young economically active workers contributes to the economy (and tax coffers) and thereby supports the old economically inactive population.

But this seems quite obviously short-sighted. Those immigrants will themselves grow old—and assuming that they remain in their new host countries, they will add to the economic burden of the elderly populations for future generations.

Is such immigration therefore not just kicking today's problems into the future, where it will have compounded and be exponentially worse?

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    $\begingroup$ That's like saying increasing the number of children for a generation is short-sighted $\endgroup$
    – BB King
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ @BBKing: Indeed. Is it? $\endgroup$
    – user23176
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because generally speaking supporters of immigration see it as continuous process rather than a one-off, "let's accept some migrants now". So your argument/presentation seems a bit of a straw man to me. If you can show some economics papers that present it as you did... I'll vote to reopen. $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2019 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ I agree to close - the question as posed is a strawman. $\endgroup$
    – heh
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 17:36

2 Answers 2


I don’t really see the connection you are drawing. As @Fizz has pointed out, immigration usually happens over time and maybe when immigrants grow old there will be more immigrants to support all of the new old. Likewise, in many countries immigrants tend to have more children than non-immigrants, so that will attenuate the aging problem.

If anything it should be something to check case-by-case, but I don’t see any causal relationship between immigration and the “aging problem”. I see how just mechanically these two are related, but I don’t expect the relationship to have any particular systematic pattern.

It feels to me like you are saying that taking more exams is bound to lower your average grade. Of course more exams will impact your average grade, but it really can go up or down depending on many other factors.


Immigration in this context is best seen as the outsourcing of reproduction to the underdeveloped world. This is often a form of free riding on the investments that other societies make in rearing and the conveyance of skills.

It also allows the ruling class to select the best fruits, and typically to deny them any political power, whereas with native reproduction they must deal with all fruits of whatever character and quality. And it acts as a dose of discipline upon the settled working class too, denying them political power.

I can't see that immigrants tend to exacerbate the problem of an ageing population. In fact, they are often amongst the most fecund groups in their first generation, as they import cultures which value and support reproduction more highly and which have not yet internalised the difficulties their children will face in Western societies.

Arguably, their presence does assault reproductive forces amongst the settled population (including amongst the descendants of the same immigrants), but provided this continues to be compensated for by outsourcing reproduction, then there is no skew towards the elderly (although there is a skew away from young children). It does effectively make Western society parasitic rather than reproductive.


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