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The UK faces increasing competition to attract global talent

It is remarkable that we can easily enter into the assumption that what is present will always remain the same. Prolonged 30ºC temperatures in the UK. The best educated vote for leftist parties. Japan and Italy are facing a demographic crisis due to aging and aging populations.

So it may come as a surprise that in 1985 Britain was considerably grayer than Italy and Japan. The UK has the second oldest population in Europe, with 15% of people aged 65 and over, compared with 13% in Italy and just 10 in Japan.

But fast-forward 37 years. The UK is currently the fourth youngest country in Europe. It has gone from an elderly population about two percentage points larger than the EU average, to two points smaller.

What is a rejuvenating elixir? Immigration, most of. By my calculations, if the UK had closed its borders all the time, 22% of the population would now be retirees, instead of 19%. An already weak workforce will be less than a quarter, and a crumbling health and social care system will be without a fifth of its most important employees.

The graph shows how the UK has gone from the second oldest population in Europe to the fourth youngest in the last 40 years, with immigration playing an important role

Instead, a steady stream of working-age people and the fact that immigrant communities tend to have higher birth rates than natives for generations, have kept Britain’s population remarkably dynamic. for over 40 years, during which peer countries have risen to the top.

Yet too few of us realize how fortunate Britain is in this regard, and how fragile our hold on this privilege can be.

Fifteen years ago, the American polling company Gallup began a series of global surveys, asking people if they wanted to move to another country altogether. The first three versions of the poll ranked the UK second to the US as the destination of choice. But in the fourth, done in the heat of a Brexit campaign confusing with anti-immigration rhetoricThe UK lags behind Canada and Germany to fourth place, and in the most recent run it ranked seventh.

The chart shows how the UK has become a less desirable destination for potential migrants in recent years

While Britain is losing its luster to a new generation of entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists and doctors, the competition to attract them is getting fiercer.

The declining birth rate has mainly gone from a first world problem to a global one as social and economic development is increasing. Only one country – Chad – has not seen its birth rate drop. As a result, more and more affluent countries have ever greater need for migrants, and availability will not continue to grow forever.

All of this makes it self-sabotaging for the duo vying for UK prime minister to seek overcome each other in hostility potential migrants.

Currently, Britain has a relatively high level of immigration, with newcomers helping to keep a country on the list afloat. But it has been flattened and it is naive to think that such gains will not be undermined by diminishing economic incentives and growing belligerence from the country’s leaders. If you are going to enjoy vice signalBe careful of who is listening.

john.burn-murdoch@ft.com, @jburnmurdoch

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