Letters to the editor in response to the IGR 2021

Many SPA members wrote to the papers to express their views in regards to the latest Intergenerational Report and the commentary that followed.  Below are our favourites including Jenny Goldie,  National President and Dr Alan Jones,  National Committee.



Participation Rate Will Lift Us, Not Population

In their article about the 2021 Intergenerational Report, Peter McDonald and Jeromey Temple argue for a strong permanent immigration rate to avoid having three million temporary migrants in the country in 2061 (‘‘ IGR’s population forecasts rest on ‘brave’ migration assumptions’’ , June 29), because the latter would be “politically unsustainable” .

What is likely to be politically unsustainable is another 13 million people in the country, irrespective of whether they are native born, temporary migrant or permanent migrant. Rapid population growth brings a raft of problems such as housing unaffordability, high youth unemployment, congestion, pollution, loss of natural habitat and difficulty in achieving greenhouse reduction targets. Total GDP will rise with a bigger population but there is no guarantee it will translate into bigger GDP per capita, a better measure than total GDP of living standards.

Of the three Ps (population, productivity, participation), McDonald and Temple argue that the greatest of these is productivity. They correctly note that as we move to a more service-based economy it is difficult to achieve productivity increases, unlike manufacturing, where robotics can make a huge difference. What they fail to acknowledge, however, is that productivity falls in cities that grow past a certain size and, rest assured, our major cities will be the ones that absorb most of the extra 13 million people.

Recent research by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has found that traffic jams and unaffordable housing are the cause of an apparent decline in economic growth and productivity in the capital cities. The report says that when workers confront growing housing expenses, households may be unable to relocate to where they can earn a better salary. At the same time, some businesses have difficulty obtaining employees or contractors they want at rates that allow them to remain competitive in a global market. Endless growth of our cities may not be such a good idea after all.

And let us not forget participation. As the percentage of people of working age declines from 6 to 2.7 people compared to people over 65 (as the IGR projected), wages will rise and people will be more inclined to join or rejoin the workforce – to participate. Perhaps in the end, of the three Ps, the greatest will be participation

Jenny Goldie, Sustainable Population Australia, Deakin West, ACT



Full marks to Ross Gittins for explaining some basic economics that dispel the ill-founded panic about our decreased immigration and population growth and the increased ageing of Australia’s population (SMH 30 June). Some basic ecological demography is also relevant; no population can grow forever. Once the carrying capacity is exceeded, our life-support systems decline to the detriment of future generations and nature in general. This is happening now and yet senior politicians and bureaucrats cling to the populate or perish, growth at all costs dogma.

A hopeful sign arises from the lived experience of Aussies who suffer the unsustainable socio-ecological costs of excessive growth. A large majority now believes we don’t need more people. To this end we can see reduced immigration as a silver lining to the dreadful Covid pandemic rather than impending doom.

Alan Jones, Narraweena





Jenny Goldie Australian Financial Review 3 July 2021

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