Last week I went to demographer Paul Spoonley’s informative lecture at the Treasury about migration. He started off by noting a conversation he had with his son, where the latter proclaimed that
“the baby boomer generation is constructing a future that will leave problems for subsequent generations”.
Paul didn’t directly respond to this question in his lecture, but I got the sense that his view is that policy makers are too passive with respect to migration and they should be more actively constructing sensible and forward looking migration and population policies so that there are fewer problems for our descendants to clean up.
If you replace “the baby boomer” with “your” I also think Paul’s son’s complaint is one uttered every generation by offspring to parents.
This timeless conflict between younger and older generations is also illustrated by this rather unhelpful video posted on the McGuinness Institute website made by some of the LongTermNZ participants. There are valid reasons to be worried about what is now being called intergenerational equity, and it has got some international business leaders attention [PDF]. But setting up a contrived Them versus Us conflict is not constructive, although it is one way of getting people interested in a topic.
New Zealand’s National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, based at the University of Waikato, has produced a good report examining New Zealand’s demographic forces and what population ageing [really] means [PDF] (they also have a range of other excellent reports and data sets available for thought provoking perusal).
As Paul Spoonley suggests, more time needs to be devoted – by all of us, not just policy makers & demographers – to thinking about New Zealand’s future population trends and characteristics and actively creating fair and equitable policy and actions for all.