Photo by Stefan Tomic
Artillery Row

Britain needs more babies

Immigration cannot fix our economic or demographic ailments

New ONS net migration figures reveal a record 672,000 people were added to the UK population in the last year. The emigration outflow of 508,000 departed obfuscates the fact that 1.2 million people entered Britain between June 2022–23. That stat doesn’t account for the 45,081 “irregular” (illegal) entrants from September 2022–23 either — housed in hotels costing taxpayers almost £6m a day.

Britain has admitted more immigrants in the past 25 years than between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the Second World War. Why, when the public have voted for lowering migration “to the tens of thousands” in every election for thirteen years, have we seen no limit in sight?

Such unprecedented change cannot be excused away with appeals to the crises in Afghanistan, Hong Kong or Ukraine: humanitarian visas comprised 10 per cent less of the total than last year. 253,000 of these new arrivals are Indian — who, last I checked, weren’t fleeing war.

Defenders of the status quo argue that mass immigration is an economic necessity, but their obsession with annual GDP growth is dangerously short-sighted. An economy grows by increasing productivity or the population. Productivity has stagnated for fifteen years — peaking and plateauing with technological revolutions, rather than steadily, predictably progressing. Net zero policies will make energy less plentiful and more expensive. Our tax system draws 49.4 per cent of annual revenue from the top fifth of earners. A record 54.2 per cent of the population live in households taking more in benefits than they contribute in taxes. Our sclerotic model is reliant on a shrinking few high-earners, to whom foreign pastures look increasingly greener.

Population growth it is, then. Problem is: nobody’s having babies.

80 per cent of childless adults are childless not by choice, but circumstance

Britain’s demographic pyramid is inverting. Our birth rate is >1.5 children per woman — 0.6 beneath replacement. 2022 saw 200,000 fewer births than people turning 50. We will reach a 50 per cent retiree-to-worker ratio by 2050. With the NHS haemorrhaging staff to better-paid jobs abroad, the government believes that health and social care won’t function without importing low-wage workers. Never mind that issuing 70,000 care worker visas last year only alleviated 11,000 vacancies, or that two-thirds of staff report witnessing elder abuse in institutional care settings. The plan seems to be to battery-farm everyone from everywhere until migration rates reach such heights and birth rates reach such lows that (as a recent ARC report projects) the UK will become 54 per cent first-generation-immigrant by 2083.

Are all young people too selfish or frightened by climate change to have families? 50 per cent of women over thirty — one in four people — are childless. People aren’t having smaller families: more are just never having children at all. However, a recent poll found 92 per cent of these women want children. They cite financial pressures and anxieties about the future as the cause for delay. 80 per cent of childless adults are childless not by choice, but circumstance.

Immigration is discouraging my generation from having families. Spikes in childlessness coincide with economic crises: the 1970s oil shock, 2008 financial collapse and COVID-19 pandemic being documented examples. With only one-in-five immigrating for work purposes, Britain’s net inflow is adding to the tax burden on young professionals. If recessions are demographic bombs, then mass migration is constant background radiation.

And what home shall we raise them in? Migration Watch calculated that we need to build six-to-eight-million more homes — eighteen cities the size of Birmingham — by 2046 just to meet imported demand. Additional infrastructure will also be required: including 6,675 new schools, 2,640 GP surgeries, 135 hospitals, 7,785 roads and 2,235 bus lanes.

We can’t keep pace with the rate of change. If pressures aren’t alleviated, 800 million people are projected to have wanted kids, but never had them, by 2050.

An entrenched managerial mindset is why policy remains sclerotic on this issue. The families that many may never have are casualties in the conquest of a paradigm throughout governance and culture the world over. In the present materialistic paradigm, anything which doesn’t contribute to the more superficial metrics of international economic competitiveness cannot be valued. The “economically inactive” time required to raise a child cannot be justified. Rearing must be outsourced to an expert class of wetnurses, as if motherhood were a fungible occupation, so that all women are engaged in an activity which registers on a spreadsheet.

This mindset governs migration. Governments act as if in possession of proprietary technical knowledge for how to bring into being a society so prosperous that it ameliorates all cultural conflicts. As previously analogised, multiculturalism acts like a blender: attempting to diffuse all tensions by liquidating differences within the confines of the liberal state. Borders are treated like a magic portal that saves immigrants from the inhospitable lands they flee from, whilst cleansing them of non-liberal prejudices. If only the native populations would stop antagonising new arrivals, with their parochial preferences and national flags, there would be no more violence in the streets of their homogenous cosmopolis.

Not all new arrivals consider themselves our countrymen. They see themselves as inextricable members of competing interest groups, in zero-sum competition for resource acquisition and cultural dominance. This produces an intangible, felt quality of cultural dispossession for the native population. Our sense of belonging is being washed away by growing waves of immigration. The world on our doorstep is changing at a dizzying rate, against our wishes. We didn’t move, but our country looks like somewhere else, and, unlike the new arrivals, we have no other home to go to. No wonder the revealed preference of young people is to delay or refrain from bringing children into a civilisation that they don’t recognise.

Personal tragedy, and economic catastrophe, await us if this goes on. People Polling found 53 per cent of the public support a five-year moratorium on all migration. Give us what we want: less migrants, more babies, and a Britain that prospective parents can believe in again.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover