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Optimum Population
The issue of optimum population for our island nation has received  increased media attention in recent years, almost always in relation to population size and immigration. However its correct application is environmental and not economic sustainability.

In the late 1980's when I was involved in conservation work in East Anglia, one of our local group was a former senior member of the Green Party, who has been forced to step down due to mental illness.

He revealed that the great unpublicised debate within the Green party in the 1980's had been optimum population size for the UK. This was the level at which the population was in balance with the natural environment. They had settled on a figure of 45 million, about 10 million less than the countries then population, and perhaps 19 million less that today.

By another widely quoted figure the UK is estimated to being consuming 3.5 times this nations natural resources. This would imply the natural population level was a mere 18 million.

In fact this nations population increase comes from a combination of immigration, and greater life expectancy. Basic economic and industry activity continue to expand, demanding further labour. As we are unable to supply this domestically, this leads to immigration.

At the same time an ageing population, needing more long term care, and a lack of suitably qualified and experienced UK citizens to work in care related industries, adds to the issues of immigration.

As Liberals we value our freedom of choice, but tinged with responsibility for our actions when planning a family.
However the  current birth rate in this country is still below the natural replacement rate of 2.1 children per couple. It is also now heavily slanted towards births from foreign born mothers.

This means that long-term there are not the number of young people born in this country to sustain industry and the increasing demand for care for the elderly in the future.

It is not simply a case of replacing 1.5 million foreign born works, and their families to reduce the nationals foot print.
We simply can't ask millions of people to leave this island, when our country is for ever dependent on foreign labour to maintain economic activity and industry in the absence of sustained numbers of skilled home grown workers.

What  we really need to do address the labour market short comings which mean millions are drip fed benefits, when with the proper support they could be actively working and contributing.

Any comments on this draft are always welcome.

Some very good points made in this draft proposal, and as you rightly say it is an issue that has received increased attention in recent years.

There are two schools of thought on global population. Personally I would not go as far as endorsing a Malthusian argument whereby population will continue increasing, believing the alternative view that it will reach a peak and then begin to fall. The problem is it is likely the world will reach an age of scarcity prior to this as resources become limited.

I do not think any policy on population should solely be concerned with this country alone. I am sure all users of this forum are internationalists and believe global population is of concern. This is why I believe there has to be renewed efforts through the UN to tackle global population through education, healthcare and far greater distribution of economic wealth. The formers would help reduce the numbers of births whilst the latter would reduce the need for greater economic migration.

Nationally we have a dysfunctional system which allows students to leave schools, colleges and universities without the skills and desire to take up roles in the industries that are needed. We cannot afford to continue letting this happen, and the dependency on overseas workers it brings with it. Clearly this is looking at the more skilled sectors of employment, but there is also an attitude problem surrounding accepting particular types of work. Much of the problem is that since the days of Margaret Thatcher certain jobs such as cleaning and agricultural work have been frowned upon. A message must be delivered that no job is a poor job, that all jobs will pay a decent wage and that each job contributes towards the benefit of society. Obviously in addition to this we have to address a situation of wages being undercut, especially in agriculture and construction.

Regarding caring for the elderly, specialist care is often required. However in some cases, a lack of family and community values and ignoring the basic needs of elderly relatives and neighbours has resulted in more carers being required. Cooking meals is an example of this.

Restoring of family and community values, needs to be incorporated as part of an education system which looks at responsibility for sexual activity and the impact large families will have on sustainability.

Attitudes imposed upon people must also change, with pressure removed from young people to start families and the perception it is not normal to be child free, countered.

There is no single fix solution to creating an optimum population, and there will forever be many arguments as to what the optimum figure should be. What we have to do is work towards transforming the world into a place where our own continued existence does not have fatal consequences for future generations. A population, rapidly reaping resources (including land) at an unsustainable rate is not logical. Therefore working towards a sustainable, balanced population both nationally and globally is an ecological necessity.

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