- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006


Nearly 3 million people a year migrate from developing countries to industrialized nations, including 1 million to the United States, a population research group said yesterday.

Almost half — 1.4 million — move to Europe, which is nevertheless facing unprecedented population losses from low birthrates. The U.S. attracts more immigrants than any other country, fueling a national debate on immigration policy.

Other destinations include Canada, Australia and the United Arab Emirates, which has a better economy than much of the Middle East.

The biggest suppliers of immigrants are China, India and Mexico, according to the report by the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington research group.

“It’s always the hope of a better life,” said Carl Haub, a demographer at the bureau.

For some, it’s the chance to escape poverty, whether they plan to raise families in their new countries or send money home. For others, it’s the opportunity to flee political or civil unrest.

“The average Indian family earns the equivalent of $2,200 a year,” Mr. Haub said. “If they migrate to Europe and have no skills, they can be a cabdriver. If they have computer skills, they can earn $50,000 a year, an amount unimaginable back home.”

The Population Reference Bureau compiles its annual World Population Data Sheet using information from local governments, the United Nations and international aid organizations.

Europe and the United States have different immigration histories. The U.S. is a nation of immigrants, yet Washington is embroiled in a debate about what to do about an estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens, most of whom are from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Europe and industrialized countries in Asia have been less receptive to large waves of immigrants, adding to their population woes.

By 2050, the U.N. projects that Europe, home to about 730 million people, will shrink by 75 million. The United Nations expects Japan, with 128 million people, to lose 16 million and South Korea, with about 48 million people, to lose more than 3 million.

The United States, by comparison, is projected to grow from nearly 300 million people to about 420 million.

Many researchers believe that aging, shrinking populations in Europe and Asia will lead to economic crises because there won’t be enough workers and consumers to spur economic growth and support retirees.

“Quite a few countries in Europe and Asia are working very hard to increase their birthrates,” Mr. Haub said. “Migration is really going to be necessary if you are ever going to maintain a normal population level in Europe.”

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