The idea that Australians should have more kids

Recently, the idea that Australians should have more children (eg Costello’s line: one kid for the mum, one for the dad and one for the country) has been more prevalent than for a couple of decades, and some related research on male fertility as a function of time has appeared in the media in the last few days (SMH – Young men told to make babies now and the ABC – Male fertility drops with age).

Whatever the benefits of Australians having more children (whether it’s the awful argument of ensuring a large enough workforce or otherwise), nowhere have I heard how having more children is acting in accordance with sustaining the life support systems of the Earth. It just isn’t enough to just look at the direct impacts on Australian society of more people in Australia.

If at any time Australia needs more people, could it perhaps attract them from the 6 billion or so who currently don’t live here with carefully tweaked incentives? We’ve recently seen that many people want to come and work here (under the union-maligned work visas).

Unfortunately, a broad view of these sorts of questions doesn’t appear very often. Carl Sagan wrote about our “identification horizons” (eg here), and I wonder if sometimes our identification horizons are far too small.

Please discuss.

6 Responses to The idea that Australians should have more kids

  1. I suspect it’s a case of working out the opportunity cost of increased immigration, and the opportunity cost of increased reproduction. Which would be easy if we knew how to facilitate the latter.

    Good post.

  2. Scott says:

    I suspect that the real desire behind the government’s push to increase fertility are non-economic and social. They want more ‘anglo’ babies.

    My concern with the incentives that have been pushed (the baby bonus) is that the people who are making the most out of it are the people at the lower end of the socio-economic scale with poor parenting skills.

  3. Pip Pomegranate says:

    Ooh, your last remark is a bit close to the wind Scott. You could equally argue that the baby bonus is squandered on those who just use it to buy another plasma or pay off the credit card they maxed buying clothes for themselves.

    I don’t know if we have to bother working out opportunity cost issues. Surely that’s just fun for econometricians?

    I think it’s unethical to be worrying so about our Anglo population, when there are teeming millions who are suffering dreadfully elsewhere in the world. The only problem with topping up our population with migration is that we target skilled migrants, which means that we are basically ripping off the development of other countries who might have spent a fortune giving them a world-class education, only to lose them to an affluent country like our own. Indian doctors are a case in point. Chinese engineers another case in point.

    I say we shouldn’t worry about breeding our own, but should be worrying about training our own. Then we can be really fair and ethical and invite unskilled folks to come here and be trained too. Those unskilled folks will create jobs for Australian trainers, and form a class of energetic and grateful first generation migrants. What is it they call them in America? The Model Minorities (that is, Asians).

  4. Pip Pomegranate says:

    Not that I think China and India need special favours. But we also rip off doctors from third world countries.

  5. Nexus 6 says:

    One interesting thing about Australia is that we actually support an estimated population of 100 to 150 million (including the 20 million that live here) with our agricultural output. Not being an economist, I’m not sure what happens when a larger proportion of agricultural output is redirected to supporting our own population rather than being turned into export dollars. Current account deficit would suffer, I guess.

    In the strict sense of sustainability, Australia certainly can support a higher population, particularly if we do away with water-intensive crops like cotton and rice. Not sure I’d really want too many more but it would be nice if the age demographic of the population could stay fairly similar to what it is today.

  6. Sacha says:

    Nexus, you have to think about sustainability in terms of the whole world – you cannot separate out sustainability inside australian borders from the whole world – you’ve got to do whole world thinking, not individual country thinking.

    Here, one question is, is creating more people in the world (and for us, Australia) acting in accordance with the life support systems of the planet? I don’t have the answer to this, but to me it’s the key question.

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