MYTH: Population growth is not a problem as long as it is planned carefully

FACT: No amount of planning can keep up with the current rate of population growth. The cost of infrastructure grows relentlessly with population.

MYTH: Population growth increases the tax base, giving governments more money to spend on infrastructure

FACT: Increased tax revenue from a bigger population does not pay for the infrastructure. 1% growth might increase revenue by 1%, but the infrastructure costs will grow by around 50%.

MYTH: Australia would need to close its borders to stop population growth

FACT: An annual intake of around 70,000 including refugees, skilled workers and family reunion, would allow our population to stabilise in a couple of decades.

MYTH: Decentralisation can stop overcrowding and congestion in our capital cities

FACT: Many regional towns do not have enough reliable water to support significantly larger populations. Nor do their residents want the growth and most don’t offer sufficient employment.

Costly government programs have failed to change the distribution of growth, showing that it cannot deliver on this promise.

MYTH: The government should control how many children we can have

FACT: Australians can choose to have small families. The average is 1.9 children per woman, low enough to lead to population stabilisation if immigration were sufficiently low.

Reducing incentives for large families might lower fertility further, making more room for immigrants and saving many children from being born into poverty.

MYTH: Reducing consumption is the best way to reduce our environmental impact

FACT: It’s not either-or. Every increase in population undoes some of our efforts to reduce environmental impact per person.

Continuous population growth will ultimately overwhelm all our efforts to live less impactfully.

MYTH: Our cities’ growing pains are because governments neglect infrastructure spending

FACT: Governments have massively increased spending on infrastructure in the past 10 years in response to our population surge. That more than accounts for all their deficits. It is the main reason they’re  selling assets and cutting back on social spending.

But it’s still not enough, because population growth is very, very expensive.

MYTH: Without population growth, our workforce would be depleted due to ageing

FACT: Boosting numbers to address the ageing population “problem” will make it even more difficult for future generations, which is why this is referred to as a Ponzi scheme.

In any case, the ageing population is only a temporary adjustment, and stops before there is a shortage of workers. A stable population would give us similar dependency ratios to the 1960s (boom times!) only with more retirees and fewer children.

Retirees actually provide many economic and social contributions. Fewer people ‘of working age’ means fewer unemployed, not fewer workers.

MYTH: Rising property values have made Australians wealthier

FACT: Rising house prices cause inflation, which can make people poorer. And rather than creating wealth, it just shifts it towards the richest. The beneficiaries are the small percentage of people who own or trade investment property, and the banks. Their gains are the next generation’s mortgage debts.

Home owners only benefit if they downgrade to cheaper housing. In the meantime, they’re paying higher rates.

MYTH: A bigger population makes us less vulnerable to invasion
FACT: Military capability is not determined by population. The greater threats to national security are climate change and internal conflict due to too many people competing for jobs and resources. Australia security is greater with food exports and aid programs.
MYTH: We can decouple growth from greenhouse emissions

FACT: There is no evidence to support this myth and it certainly has not occurred historically. Ultimately, every person needs physical resources and energy. Even service sector workers must be fed, clothed, housed and transported.

Construction is very emissions-intensive and is tightly coupled to growth.

MYTH: Unless we restore replacement rate fertility, the population will collapse
FACT: This cannot happen. With a fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman, it would take decades for deaths to overtake births.
MYTH: Economic growth is a function of Population, Participation and Productivity (Three “P”s)

FACT: This is like saying “more people working longer hours for less pay!” It ignores income inequality and quality of life.

Population doesn’t grow the economy per capita. But it does reduce participation through higher unemployment. Productivity is reduced because (resources are more scarce, rents are higher, infrastructure is costs increase.

MYTH: Migrants create more jobs than they take

FACT: This could only be true if migrants were spending more than their local income. Or that their income is very high.

Countries with lower population growth tend to have lower unemployment, and less income inequality (ie better pay for low-wage workers).

Migration often has more to do with importing cheap labour than it does with increasing local wealth. The Australian experience has been that most migrants have been doing low paid work and skill shortages they came to alleviate have become ever worse. 

MYTH: People who want lower immigration are racist

FACT: Unlimited immigration makes sustainability impossible, regardless of race. Many immigrants also want lower immigration, because they value the environment and quality of life in Australia.

Social progressives should want lower immigration, because high immigration enriches the rich at the expense of the poor.

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