UK Politicians Ducking Issue of Fertility Rates While Focusing on Immigration, Says Expert Demographer

Paul Morland, a demographer and author, has claimed the general election will go by without political leaders addressing the issue of low UK fertility rates.
UK Politicians Ducking Issue of Fertility Rates While Focusing on Immigration, Says Expert Demographer
People shopping on Oxford Street in London, on Dec. 27, 2022. (James Manning/PA Media)
Chris Summers

Politicians should be tackling the dangerously low fertility rates in Britain—rather than just addressing the issue of immigration—or the country risks sleepwalking into a situation where there are not enough people of working age to pay for an increasingly ageing population, according to one of the country’s top demographers.

Demographer and author Paul Morland said fertility rates in Britain were so low the country risked following in the footsteps of Japan, which has a shrinking and ageing population which is threatening its economic future.

In 2021 the fertility rate in the UK, according to the census, was 1.62 and had been well below the required “replacement level” of 2.1 since the 1970s and Mr. Morland said that resulted in not enough British-born people entering the workforce, which meant the tax burden and the financial cost of an ageing population would fall on fewer and fewer people.
On Monday, Home Secretary James Cleverly unveiled a five-point plan aimed at drastically reducing legal migration after figures from the Office of National Statistics showed 1.2 million had come into the country legally in the past two years, compared with 508,000 emigrants.

After the announcement—which is aimed at reducing the number of legal immigrants by 300,000 a year—the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “This is the biggest clampdown on legal migration ever. It doesn’t prevent us going further should we choose to go so in the future.”

Mr. Cleverly said the government would raise the minimum salary for work visas from £26,000 to £38,000 and Mr. Morland said: “It all sounds very nice and I’m all in favour of it, but if the bus doesn’t come because there’s no bus driver or there’s no-one working in your mum’s old age home etcetera ... We’re short of labour because we haven’t had enough children.”

He said the debate over legal immigration—never mind illegal immigrants crossing the English Channel and the controversial Rwanda policy—showed there were intense pressures at force in the UK economy.

‘Government’s Endless Rhetoric’ on Immigration

He told The Epoch Times, “It shows the pressures from business, which shows the fact that there are not enough people coming into the workforce who are British-born, which is why we need all the immigrants, and it shows that the government’s endless rhetoric about cutting immigration after 13 years in power is just rhetoric.”

Mr. Morland, who is writing another book about what needs to be done to tackle the low fertility rates in the Western world, said he was convinced next year’s general election would pass without any political leaders being bold or brave enough to address the issue.

He said: “I’m certain it will pass without any politicians addressing these big topics. I don’t think we’re anywhere near thinking about it or talking about it enough, which is why I’m writing this book, which I hope will come out next year. I don’t expect that book alone to move mountains.”

The book will be a follow up to Tomorrow’s People, which looks at current demographic trends and predicts Africa’s population will explode in the next 50 years while most of Europe and much of Asia will see shrinking and ageing populations.

Mr. Morland said the two main political parties in Britain had different reasons for being shy about addressing the fertility rate issue.

He said: “The Tory party has two elements. There’s a pro-business element, cosmopolitan, what [politics professor] Matt Goodwin would call the ‘new elite’ types, who are probably the bulk of the party. They were the anti-Brexiters—and although Rishi Sunak was actually a Brexiteer—he and David Cameron clearly sit on that side of the party that wants to keep the economy moving, that are essentially globalist and cosmopolitan.”

Mr. Morland said the other wing of the Tory party, “takes seriously its commitments to reduce immigration” but only a handful of them had recognised the link to low fertility rates.

He said Miriam Cates was one Tory MP who was, “doing a great job of spreading the story that we need a family policy as well as immigration policy.”
Total Fertility Rates Trends in Selected Countries. (Data Source: World Bank. Contains open data licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license)
Total Fertility Rates Trends in Selected Countries. (Data Source: World Bank. Contains open data licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license)

But Mr. Morland said the Labour Party was also unwilling to tackle the issue for fear of upsetting feminists.

He said when he wrote an article in The Sunday Times last year suggesting the tax system should be changed to reflect the priorities of parents and the need of society to have more children it got a “very negative response from anyone remotely on the left.”

Left Needs to ‘Reclaim its Pro-Natalism’

Mr. Morland said the left needed to “reclaim its pro-natalism.”

“There used to be a tradition of pro-natalism on the left. Karl Marx was very critical of Thomas Malthus and communist dictatorships used to give medals to mothers for having large families, but today the left has lost touch with its pro-natal heritage,” he added.

Mr. Morland said encouraging women to have more children was a “red rag to a bull” as far as those on the left were concerned and he said: “(Sir Keir) Starmer is not going to touch it remotely. He’s got enough problems, it’s the last thing he’s going to do.”

Mr. Morland and economist Philip Pilkington wrote a research paper last month called “Migration, Stagnation or Procreation: Quantifying the Demographic Trilemma”, and he said a Labour MP was “bullied” out of coming to an event which was discussing the paper.

He said part of the problem was that feminists feared that raising the fertility rate meant going back to the 1950s and reversing the advances in equality which women had made in the last 70 years.

Mr. Morland said: “I’m not advocating going back to a world where the ratio of men to women in universities was about five men to one woman, women weren’t expected to get an education as much as men, and there was discrimination in the workplace. If that’s what we need to get back to high fertility it’s not going to happen and I don’t want it to happen.”

“So we’ve got to reimagine as a society a way in which we can bring together the high fertility of the ‘50s and early ’60s with the rights and opportunities that women have now, and a lot of that has to do with men playing their part,” he added.