This essay is about the interconnectedness of population, economics, social well-being, the climate and, generally, everything that affects humanity. It originated as a project in 1967 when our instructor demonstrated how the well-being of Canadians, compared to other countries, flowed from our relatively low population being able to draw on abundant resources while citizens of the third world were, even then, struggling with population pressures. From 1983 onward the concept of “Population – Beyond the Slogans” became an evolving essay, subject to updates to the various issues facing humanity. The themes are presented from a Canadian perspective, originally intended for a Canadian audience, but they are relevant to the human condition around the globe today.
Canada: The federal government’s Population Error in 2023
The stated goal of the federal government to rapidly and drastically raise Canada’s population will be a disaster for Canada. We need to ask, what is driving this inane agenda and is it rational? At its best, it is a policy misguided by political correctness; at its worst, a government catering to outside influences. It is certainly not based on any rational economic policy but rather, upon faulty evidence and overly simple arguments designed to fulfill the business agenda. If the federal government is successful in its goal, it will forever consign this generation of young Canadians, and beyond, to a life of relative poverty compared to previous generations and will create a permanent peasant class in this country. What do we want, quantity of life or quality of life? The country can flourish but whom do we wish to see live an enriched life? If our hope is to improve only the lives of the “one percent”, increasing populations are the way to go. If we hope to enrich the lives of everyone including the average Canadian, then we need to begin reducing Canada’s population.
Canadian politicians and governments have become enthralled with the right-wing propaganda that pushes “growth” and ways to achieve it. But, as will be shown, this is not really working. Of the literally billions of poor or desperately poor people in the world today, most reside in high population countries. These areas have, not just millions, but hundreds of millions of people living in poverty or abject poverty. And population pressures in these countries are leading to war, famine, cultural and ethnic cleansing, and collapsing environments that are stressed beyond their carrying capacity. We do not need to go down the same road. Unfortunately, rising poverty, once a minor problem in first world countries, is now becoming visible on our streets as population pressures here push many people into precarious employment (discussed below) leading to homelessness. No reference is needed here, simply take a walk in the downtown of any Canadian city and look at the increasing number of Canadians sleeping on the street.
To justify their approach to growth, the right-wing, business community often attacks the ‘sixties’ book, “The Population Bomb” and Malthus’ earlier work, “An Essay on the Principle of Population” (1798), as being “anti-growth”. Those who attack Ehrlich and Malthus always overlook the fact that there have been, literally, billions of people who have been born into poverty and died in that state during mankind’s “civilized” history.
On the earth today, the difficulties facing people of water, food or energy shortages, inflation, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, flooding and eroding coastlines or desertification, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. are all the result of one issue. There is only one problem, and that is: the earth has been stretched past its carrying capacity. Carrying capacity is, of course, the ability of the land to provide enough resources to sustain a given population in a given location, not just for the foreseeable future, but indefinitely. Furthermore, there must be the potential to access enough local resources to sustain a population in times of international crisis. It is an illusion to say a region meets the carrying capacity of its population if they rely on imported – hence uncertain – resources. The resources in question are food, water, energy, shelter, and the less obvious ones like roads, sewers, health care, education and law and order and, ultimately, a stable government and economy. The trouble regarding carrying capacity is precipitated by one, and only one, cause – overpopulation. If every country in the world had the population density of Canada in 1967, the above threats to people would not exist. Indeed, with a world population of that density there would probably be no need of countries or borders. But population pressures ensure that borders will be here for the foreseeable future.
The history of civilization, stretching back thousands of years, is littered with the remnants of societies that have collapsed because their people became too numerous for the land they occupied and whose collapse was initiated by surpassing the carrying capacity of their land. We see the erosion of carrying capacity throughout the most populous regions of the world today and it is creating enormous numbers of migrants who are fleeing countries who’s land can no longer provide the necessities of life for these burgeoning populations. An excellent example of a land damaged by surpassing its carrying capacity, among many in the modern world, is Iraq’s Lake Sawa, that was once called, “the pearl of the south”. It is now completely dried up due to a combination of overuse and mismanagement.
The question is: why have populations gotten so out of control in the modern world?
On one hand, some governments in third world countries keep their people poor and uneducated as a means of maintaining dominance over their citizenry. It is easier to control a hungry, ignorant population. The consequence of this has been well documented – poor, uneducated people have more children than well educated middle class populations. These “extra” people become fodder for the wealthy to use as they please in poor countries (and increasingly, in the first world as we slide into debt). Governments in these countries seem unconcerned about quality of life of their subjects, their primary objective is to maintain power and accumulate resources for themselves and their supporters.
On the other hand, a different force is driving population growth in wealthy countries, Canada in particular. In their rush to separate people from their money, the right wing business community has confused increases in consumption with economic growth. One factor driving this faulty thinking is their philosophy of growth. It is based on a “phony economics” that defines GROWTH as INFLATION driven by SPECULATION and funded by DEBT. This “economics of growth” battle cry of the right wing business establishment and their supporters in government has led to a situation that vexes the world’s economic structure and threatens our long term security. It is a misplaced concept that enriches the few while impoverishing the many. The only way these people, with their limited thinking, can see growth is through increasing populations.
Canada is one of the most attractive countries in the world to live in, today. What makes it so? In a word – livability. We have been perennially at or near the top of livability rankings because our low population density has allowed Canadians to have one of the highest standards of living on the planet. This was clearly pointed out in a study by The Economist Intelligence Unit that states, “Nonetheless, there does appear to be a correlation between the types of cities that sit right at the very top of the ranking. Those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density.” We were able to achieve this status by being one of the first nations in history to move away from a culture of perpetually expanding its population to the point of using all the resources available to it, to a culture of a low and stable population. But that is in jeopardy with the current federal government’s plan of “growth”.
To summarize this introduction, the average Canadian, or citizen in any country, will actually be worse off with an increasing population! The right wing business machine erroneously likes to claim that there has never been such a massive growth of wealth in human history like the one that has occurred since the end of the Second World War. The truth is that there has never been such a massive accumulation of debt like the one that has occurred since the end of the war.
Myth: Growth is good for the economy
Why does the business community, parroted by government, promote such a misguided policy of over population? In part it is because their, previously mentioned, self-serving logic of economics defines GROWTH as INFLATION, driven by SPECULATION and funded by DEBT. And in their rush to separate people from their money, the right wing business community has confused increases in consumption with economic growth. The easiest, and eventually most damaging, road to that type of growth is through increasing populations. This approach to the economy is already showing serious cracks in its reasoning and fails even the most basic test: there has never been more people on earth in the history of the world and there has never been more debt and poverty in the world.
To bolster this theory the right wing business community, acquiesced to by members of government, have tried to convince people that debt is wealth. It surely is not. Governments have allowed businesses to take debt and resell it as if it were an asset, which it is not. That was proven in the near world wide economic melt down of 2008. This melt down was delayed by governments, ours included, throwing more debt into the world economy. And while the average citizen will be responsible for paying off that debt at some indeterminate point in the future, the very wealthy have been allowed to pocket much of that debt as real assets.
“Growth” is the biggest myth of all. If we were to believe the government’s claim that increasing our population is good for the Canadian economy, then we would have to believe that more populous countries in the world have better economies and living standards than we do, and also that the average person in those countries live better lives. But first, we have to ask, “better for who?”. If we mean better for the rich, the “one-percenters”, that really is true. It is clearly demonstrated, around the world as well as in Canada, that as populations increase, so does the wealth gap. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This is an undeniable truth and an inescapable fact. But if we are concerned about the average citizen, saying that raw numbers of people create wealth, then that is patently false. We already see the wealth of the richest Canadians racing ahead while the average Canadian is sinking in debt.
Also, if this claim of higher populations equaling more wealth were true we would see Canadians emigrating to high population areas of the world. That this claim is false is ably demonstrated by the fact that economic migrants are fleeing those regions of the world in large numbers as their economies suffer from the strains of over-population and heading to low-population countries in Europe and North America.
Does “growth” equal wealth or does it mean something else for the average Canadian? A look at historic population levels and Household debt in Canada is instructive. StatsCan tells us that there were approximately 24.5 million Canadians in 1980 and that their ratio of household debt to disposable income was 66%. By January 2023 the population stood at 39,430,422  and Household debt had risen to 184.8% of disposable income. Therefore, in that 42 years (2023 just beginning), the population increased by about 61 per cent and in the same period the average Canadian’s Household Debt to Disposable Income increased by 180 per cent. Consider that – the debt burden of the average Canadian grew by almost triple compared to the growth of Canada’s population. There are (at least) two important points shown in these statistics. In 1980 the average Canadian spent less than their income – which meant they could accumulate savings, but by the beginning of 2023 they were spending more, much more, money than they made and going into debt. The other lesson is that the growth in our population did NOT translate into an improvement in the economic situation for the average Canadian, in fact it made it substantially worse. Statistics Canada goes on to say that Canadian’s Household Sector Credit Market Debt was almost $2.8 TRILLION dollars in the third quarter of 2022. There is a real type of growth happening in Canada along with increases in population, that is, a massive growth in the burden of debt for the average Canadian. The business community would like people to believe that debt and assets are the same thing – they are not. What we have instead is Canadians with the greatest personal debt load in history.
Consider another measure of the relationship between population and wealth from the American experience. Assuming that they are the greatest economy in the world, their citizens should be the most immune from economic vagaries . If we were to believe that pure numbers of people create a stronger economy, it should be true that the more people a society has, the fewer people of that society will be living in poverty. Consider the following list from the United States Department of Agriculture – Economic Research Service (2020 – latest census):
State Population People in poverty
Alaska 733,391 73,033
Minnesota 5,706,494 491,782
New York 20,201,249 2,471,760
California 39,538,223 4,546,419
Can you spot the trend? Clearly, the relationship between increasing populations and economic well being of the average citizen is a myth and in fact is negative. The greater population a community has, the greater numbers of that community will be in poverty or have a sub-standard quality of life. The larger population a country has, the truer this will be. As an aside, how true can it be that America is the greatest economy in the world when they have a National Debt of US$31.46 TRILLION DOLLARS – U.S. [*]
Although raw numbers of people does not mean greater wealth for the average citizen, they do mean there will be an increasing number of poor people as a population expands. This is unrelated to any trend, but simply a fact seen all over the world. Looking at America, we see that even the richest country has people in poverty and the more people there are in a given economic zone (“state”, in this case), the more there will be in poverty, as shown in the previous table. From the American example it looks like there is no trend, rather, it implies that about 10 % of any population will be poorer than average, at least in more developed countries. Poorer countries probably fair less well. For instance, in India, with one of the largest populations in the world, “16.4% of people are considered to be poor, and 4.2% of people are considered to be extremely poor”, that is, about 230 MILLION poor, or almost six ‘Canadas’, and about 59 million people, or one and a half ‘Canadas’ who are extremely poor.
This fact, that increasing populations do not improve the general economy, is supported by a Canadian study from 1989. It states, “The consensus among those economists who have considered the question is that, within broad limits, population growth or sheer numbers of people is not a major factor in economic growth or economic well-being in modern economies that play an active role in world trade. Canada is such an economy. …”
This is further supported on page 46 of the same study,
“The second question therefore is whether a relationship between population change and change in real GDP exists. The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) 1987 data reveal a very weak relationship: population change explains less than one per cent of change in per capita GDP. Moreover, what relationship exists is negative (more population growth is related to less per capita growth in GDP).”
To quote further, from page 47 of the same study:
“Classical economic theory suggests that faster population growth will slow economic growth by increasing consumption, lessening savings and spreading the same amount of capital over more workers.”
An examination of populations around the world make this point obvious. Consider, as examples, Canada, India and China. India and China have populations that are several times greater than Canada’s. If we say that large and increasing populations drive the economy and create wealth, then we must be able to say that the average citizen in countries with a large population are wealthier, i.e. have a higher Gross National Income per capita, and are more productive, i.e. have a higher Gross Domestic Product that the average Canadian. Is this true? Information from the World Bank shows the following GDP’s: Canada – $51,987.9; China – $12,556.3; India – $2,256.6. Canadians, with a much lower population, are much more productive on a per capita basis than the other two countries.
And what about individual wealth, as measured by the Gross National Income per capita of these three countries? How does the income of the average citizen in Canada, China and India compare? The average incomes in these countries are: Canada $51,690 China $19,160 India $7,130. The result mirrors that when considering the GDP’s of these countries. Obviously, the equation that population equals wealth is flawed, at least for the average citizen.
Average income per capita hides a more sinister component of large and increasing populations – the unequal distribution of wealth within a country. As populations increase so does the wealth gap between the richest and poorest citizens in a country – this is an inescapable fact. Typically, a larger population will result in a greater spread of wealth from the lowest economic class to the highest. This is expressed in the Gini Coefficient that measures the inequality of wealth distribution in countries. Statista.com explains, “The Gini coefficient is a number between zero and one that measures the relative degree of inequality in the distribution of income. The coefficient would register zero (minimum inequality) for a population in which each person received exactly the same adjusted household income and it would register a coefficient of one (maximum inequality) if one person received all the adjusted household income and the rest received none.”
So, how does the GINI Coefficient compare between Canada, China and India? It should come as no surprise that the pattern regarding GDP and GNI per capita is reflected in the Gini Coefficient. For India, the Gini coefficient was 0.823 in 2021. This is very high, indicating that the income distribution in India is very lopsided in favour of the wealthy. The Gini Coefficient for China seems almost reasonable by comparison at 0.466. However, this number needs to be considered in light of the steps China has made in recent years to reduce poverty in that country which artificially hides the income gap between its richest and poorest citizens. By contrast to the preceding examples , Canada’s Gini Coefficient stood at only 0.281in 2020. These numbers drive home the previously mentioned fact that, “… sheer numbers of people is not a major factor in economic growth or economic well-being in modern economies…”. This is especially true for citizens of lower economic status in those countries. These statistics show that it is very hard to argue that massive amounts of people are good for the economic well-being of the average citizen in any country.
It is patently obvious that the above premise, that large and expanding populations are good for the economic well-being of the average citizen, is false. In fact, if we look around the world, we see that the opposite is true. It is apparent that our small population has led to a much better quality of life and well-being for Canadians compared to countries with large and increasing populations. And the economic well-being of the average Canadian is exactly what is in jeopardy under the federal government’s irrational plan to rapidly and drastically increase our population. The average citizen in countries with smaller, stable populations have a better standard of living and are more productive than those citizens of countries that have large and increasing populations.
If “growth” does NOT mean economic well-being, what does it mean? We have been witnessing the gutting of the middle class in Canada for a couple of decades as various governments have followed a right wing, business oriented approach to the economy. This was made clear in a March 2015 CBC town hall entitled “Toronto 2025” that included the pamphlet “The Three Cities Within Toronto” (by J. David Hulchanski, University of Toronto), as a handout. The back page of that pamphlet contained a table and graphic that portrays the usual history of a community or economic zone as they feel the pressure of an incessant increase in population. It shows how the income distribution of High, Middle and Low income groups changed from 1970 to 2005. Across that time the high income group remained a fairly constant 15 to 18% of the population. The dramatic change we see is that the middle income group falls from a healthy 66% of the population to less than a third of the overall population at 29% – in only 35 years! Of course, this also means that there was a corresponding increase in the low income group. Consider that this is happening in one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world.
The era of true economic expansion for the middle class was the period AFTER the baby boom, when populations were falling in Northern countries. During this time workers pay and benefits were a reasonable reward for the job they were doing. And because populations were stable or slightly falling, there was a much more equitable distribution of wealth in these countries. The benefits of this were felt across society as average citizens were able to more easily put food on the table, educate their children, own homes and cars, etc. without going into crushing debt. It has been recognized for at least 50 years that one consistent indicator of a third world society is a perpetually increasing population. Under the current scheme of economic growth (which, to reiterate, is increased consumption based on population increase) we see the value of a middle class income constantly eroding while, simultaneously, the incomes of the richest people far surpass inflation – a typical scenario for a third world setting.
Proponents of growth are assisted in this approach to so called economic development by governments that have acquiesced to the demands of the business community. But the average first world person knows, from experience, that there is something wrong with this formula. People are working longer hours, sometimes carrying more than one job, just to maintain an average lifestyle. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has had the opportunity to receive a reasonable education – and why right wing governments are trying to suppress access to higher education. Satirist George Carlin summarized the issue succinctly when he stated, “Business wants people just smart enough to do their job, but too dumb to question anything else”. As noted, it is easier to manipulate an uneducated populace.
It is obvious that, as populations increase, essentially the same amount of resources are going to be shared amongst more people. And as resources are depleted, there is going to be less to share. Everyone with an average paying job will get a bit less of the pie and the disparity between the rich and the poor will increase. In reality, when governments announce that the economy has “grown” by, for instance, 2 percent, they are really saying that consumption has increased by 2 percent. But increasing consumption drives inflationary price pressure. Under this scenario, the average person will experience an inflationary pressure of approximately 2 percent. That is, they will be 2 percent poorer. As time goes on and the economy “grows” the value of a middle class income shrinks. By contrast, reduced consumption results in falling prices making goods more affordable for the average citizen. Note that the Bank of Canada describes inflation as, “the decline in the value of money”.
The explanation for an inverse relationship between population and standard of living is obvious. The earth can provide only so many resources – its carrying capacity. As populations increase this finite amount must be spread thinner among the world’s inhabitants. To deny this means that one supports a policy of depleting resources at the same rate as population growth. In fact, following the distorted thinking of right wing business logic, if one wishes to increase the standard of living generally, then resources must be depleted at a rate which exceeds population growth, as discussed later. Obviously, this cannot go on forever.
The issue of consumption differences between first world and third world societies is a red herring. If world population density were low enough, that perceived difference simply would not be an issue. Instead of trying to reduce the wealth of citizens in first world nations it would be more productive to ease the population pressures in high-population areas of the world so that their citizens could enjoy higher consumption rates.
It is not only population densities that create problems for the average citizens of those countries suffering from high population densities. A major contributing factor preventing a strong middle class from forming, or eroding it in first world countries like Canada, is that the force of government in many countries is being used by the privileged class to artificially create and maintain a large wealth gap between the rich and poor. For instance, by preventing workers from forming unions, business owners can continue to pocket profits derived from suppressed labour costs. Suppressed labour costs are also aided by a variety of free trade agreements negotiated by governments (like Canada’s) that benefit business and industry at the expense of their own national interests. For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and similar treaties being promoted by our government give businesses supra-national rights that erode the powers of government to control the activity of international companies within our own borders. It even gives businesses the right to displace Canadian labour with offshore workers and sue our national government if they are dissatisfied with existing legislation. A primary goal of such trade deals is to reduce labour costs and enrich corporations. In 1925 President Calvin Coolidge warned of “… the enormous power, autocractic and uncontrolled, which would have been created by joining the authority of government with the influence of business, …”.
Separation of Wealth
Canada is not immune from the effects of an increasing population. We have more people than we ever have had and we are now experiencing the greatest separation of wealth in modern Canadian history. Hardly seen in Canada’s modern history, this effect is becoming quite apparent, especially in our larger cities. Anyone living in one of our larger cities does not need a footnote to demonstrate this. A walk on a downtown street makes it abundantly clear. However, there are some statistics to demonstrate the shift that is happening in Canada.
In the third quarter of 2022, average household net savings for the bottom 40% of income earners was down about 12%, but households in the second-highest and highest 40% increased their net savings. A similar story is told regarding wages and salaries, “… where the highest 20% of income earners remained well above their level since the start of the pandemic (up 17.2% relative to the first quarter of 2020)”, while the lowest 20% of income earners saw their average income reduce by $455 (-5.5%) . Of course, if one strata of households cannot save and their income is falling while the other strata sees their savings and income increasing, then the household wealth gap will increase – which it continued to do in 2022. In fact, the Net Worth in third quarter of 2022 for households in the top 20 % of wealth were more than 50 times greater than the net worth for the bottom 40 % of households.
Part of the problem regarding the unequal distribution of wealth in Canada stems from the rise of the “Gig” economy. “Gig workers are not wage employees, they do not have a long-term contract with any employer, do not have a predictable work schedule and do not have predictable earnings.” For most of these people, gig work was only a temporary activity in 2019, but it is becoming more common as the economy changes. It is very likely that a Gig worker will hold several jobs, either with a variety of employers or through a variety of self-employment schemes. Workers in lower income brackets were almost twice as likely to be involved in gig work as other workers. In a vicious cycle then, it is no surprise that the income of a typical gig worker is usually low. About half of male Gig workers and almost half of females fall into the lowest 40% of the total income distribution.
Tying into the Gig economy, is “precarious employment”. There seems to be no standard definition of “precarious employment” but a good place to begin would be by imagining all the opposites that a career offered before the “New Economy” emerged. Those were secure, permanent, well-paid jobs with benefits and pensions. By contrast, Precarious work is, typically: poorly paid, unprotected, lacking an employment contract, without access to basic employment rights, has low job security with short working hours and is usually of a casual or interim nature with no benefits, and of course, without a pension. These workers are typically self-employed, often involved in involuntary part-time work, or are subcontractors – possibly with temporary contracts (if they are lucky).
Never has our population been greater and never has there been so much precarious employment, affecting such a broad range of the population. Once an issue for the young, precarious employment is now affecting all age groups. As the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada say, “Precarious work is a growing problem in Canada. Technological and economic force such as automation, artificial intelligence, and remote work are rapidly upending our long held notion of what constitutes a job or career. Increasingly full time, full year work is giving way to more precarious arrangements that lack the same pay, benefits, and protections enjoyed by previous generations.” Notice that precarious employment is identified as a “ growing problem in Canada”.
Although precarious employment is reaching all age groups, it is hitting youth particularly hard as explained in this excerpt from StatsCan: “When they were employed, both young men and young women were less likely to have a full-time job in 2019 than in the early 1980s [note: this is pre-pandemic and NOT due to the economic slump introduced by Covid]. The increase in part-time employment they experienced over the last four decades largely reflects their greater difficulty finding full-time employment in recent years, rather than growing preference for part-time work.” This reflects the interconnectedness of the reduced demand for labour in the modern world and the growing competition for employment as the population increases.
A typical example of precarious work is in the hospitality and tourism industry. These business’s are often calling for increasing populations to fill unanswered job offers – jobs that are seasonal, part time, low wage and low benefit, (fill in the rest of the above definition of precarious employment here). They say they are having difficulties finding people for these positions – this should be no surprise given the foregoing comments. But importing labour will not work to remedy this situation. Neither Canadians nor immigrants will stay in a job that does not pay. As soon as something better becomes available they will, rightly, move on. The average person can no longer afford to be in positions of precarious employment. That is where these types of businesses’ problems lie – inflation (a cornerstone of the “growth” philosophy) has made these jobs unsustainable for the individual.
Homelessness and Food Bank Use
As Canada’s population continues to grow and workers are faced with gig work and precarious employment in “the new economy”, we now have the greatest number of homeless people in our history. This is a shame in a country supposedly as wealthy as Canada. The main causes of homelessness are largely due to the cost of housing, the rise of the “Gig economy” (and other stresses on incomes for the sub-middle class), and the sheer demand for housing. The most succinct exposition of this problem comes from the Centre for mental and psychological Health:
“It is estimated that over 235,000 people experience homelessness in Canada and that anywhere between 25 to 35 000 individuals experience homelessness on a nightly basis (Strobel et al., 2021). Additionally, it is estimated that anywhere between 450,000 and 900,000 people across Canada are the “hidden” homeless. The hidden homeless include individuals who may live with friends and family and have no direct access to stable, guaranteed housing (Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, 2017). In summary, there are close to one million Canadians who have limited access or zero access to a safe, consistent place to sleep and live. To put this into perspective, Ottawa’s current population sits at around 1 million people.”
It is a disgrace to our government, and due to government policy over the last few decades, that nearly a million Canadians do not have secure housing.
Consider that image of “one million Canadians who have limited access or zero access to a safe, consistent place to sleep and live.”, and further consider that the federal government plans to massively increase Canada’s population while so many are in such dire circumstances.
Along with homelessness is that other great disgrace of the Canadian economy – food bank use. Like the need for housing, in an era where the country has never had so many people, there has never been a greater demand for food banks. And like housing, its need is driven by the same economic factors. A news report states that, “Despite low unemployment rates in March 2022, … there were 1.5 million visits to food banks across Canada, the highest usage on record. This was a 15 per cent increase from the year prior and a 35 per cent increase from March 2019. As Canada’s population marches to new heights, so do Canadians’ needs for affordable housing and food banks.
Myth: Labour shortage
The preceding topic leads nicely into the myth of a “Labour Shortage” in Canada. The truth is that there is a shortage of jobs that pay a “living wage”. Precarious employment and the Gig Economy are eroding the ability of workers to achieve that living wage and the security that goes with it.
The massive increase in population being touted by the federal government will create a hardship for the average Canadian worker. Labour, like any commodity, has a value placed on it that is determined by its scarcity or abundance. The less of a commodity there is, the more valuable it is. Conversely, the more of that commodity there is, the cheaper it is. The massive increase in population proposed by the federal government would create a very business-friendly condition whereby fierce competition for jobs will seriously drive down workers pay and standard of living for the average Canadian. This is something young Canadians in particular are already experiencing. They do not have the same prospects for a prosperous future that their parents did. Raising our population to unsustainable levels as the government is proposing will crush the wage earning ability of the average Canadian as competition for jobs becomes ever more dire. If we mistakenly allowed our population to balloon to such levels we would, again, become a “classed” society with a very few wealthy individuals/families/corporations at the top of the economic scale and millions of Canadians living in poverty at the bottom – as evidenced in many high-population areas of the world.
Long gone are the days of our ancestors when we needed to produce extra children to be beasts of burden in a society dominated by manual labour. In today’s modern world, Computerization, Mechanization and Automation have largely replaced the need for raw labour. This is especially true in what were the high-employment industries of manufacturing and heavy industry. It was predicted more than half a century ago that these industries would lose 75 to 90 percent of their labour force requirements. This prediction has been borne out to be completely accurate and yet these industries now have the ability to be more productive than they ever were due to the previously mentioned modernization of industry. The need for massive amounts of people to produce products just does not exist anymore. In the mid ‘60’s unions were warning of a coming tsunami of change in the realm of labour. They foresaw the era of the untrained, unskilled worker coming to an end and urged governments to bring in programs to train workers for a technical, automated future. Governments had more than half a century to prepare for that future, which is today, and yet they failed miserably.
A few statistics will pick apart the myth of a labour shortange. Consider the following. StatsCan tells us that, of a Labour Force of 20.8059 million people (Labour Force they define as persons available for work), 16.1419M were employed full-time, 3.7M were employed part-time and there were 964,000 unemployed. This tells us that there are approximately 4.6 million people who could be utilized more effectively in our labour force.
One could be misled into believing that the economy is in a wonderful state for the Canadian worker at the time these statistics were drawn. But, looking a little closer at this table reveals a problem, and hides a few problems. If the number of unemployed persons is added to those in Part-time employment, it shows that 22.4% of workers are NOT employed full-time.(By comparison, the unemployment rate reached 19.3% in the Great Depression.) Many of these people are working part-time because they have no alternative. They may be part of the Gig-economy, or worse. Many of these people are working only a few hours a week, and yet they are counted as being employed. So, there are potentially more than 4.5 million Canadians who are under-utilized in our workforce. Also, the above numbers do not reflect what is happening in youth employment. The following statistics summarizes that situation.
There were 2.9335 million youth (defined as 15 to 24 years old) in the Labour Force. Of those, 1.3424M were in full-time employment, 1.2945M were in part-time employment and 296,600 were unemployed . From those numbers, we can see that more than half of those youths (1,591,100) are either unemployed or only working part-time, for whatever reason. There is a large, potential labour force of more than a million and a half young Canadians there that are, or will be, looking for careers to provide for them in the not too distant future.
The United Nations Population Fund has a warning on this point that is relevant to Canadians. They say, “Every day over this period [2022 to 2050] about 33,000 young men and women will enter the labor force and will be looking for productive and remunerative employment.” They go on to say, “In the least developed countries, about 80 per cent of the work force is unemployed, underemployed or are only vulnerably employed.”(ibid) We do not want to join them, but we are not that far behind. Already, Canadians are suffering from a rapid increase in the numbers of workers who are precariously employed and who are having a hard time putting a roof over their head today, let alone plan for the future. The impact of incessant “growth” in populations, as our government is proposing, on young people particularly, is well documented in the United Nations Population Fund report previously quoted: “Where rapid population growth far outpaces economic development, countries will have a difficult time investing in the human capital needed to secure the well-being of its people…”.
Myth: An aging population, Replacement population
Calls for a drastic increase in population are based upon another false theory, vociferously supported by the business community, that we are an “aging population” and that we need more people to compensate for the economic and social pressure these elderly are placing on our society. In the seven, or so, million years of hominin existence, all of us have aged. It didn’t matter if we were Homo Habilis, Homo Neanderthalensis or Homo Sapiens. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if you are born in Canada or outside of it, or your race, or if you are male or female, or if you are rich or poor, or your religion, YOU WILL AGE. It is a natural condition that all societies throughout history have gone through and adapted to and will continue to go through for all time. The weak argument arising out of this false concept, and the short sighted method proposed to alleviate this transitory state, is to add more people to offset the theoretical “burden” that the elderly place on our society. However, as time marches on, all of these replacements will eventually age, creating an even larger bubble of elderly people taxing our socio-economic system. Following through on this defective logic, an even larger cohort of new people will be needed to accommodate those elderly – and they too will age in an infinite cycle that will see us standing shoulder to shoulder “from sea unto sea” (Canada’s official motto). A small, stable population is the best way to come through these temporary waves of change. Lower fertility, as Canada experienced after the baby boom, temporarily (for a few decades) skews the age balance as fewer births meant that as time passes there will appear to be more elderly compared to the general population. But as the bubble of elderly die off, the remaining, reduced, population will once again be in a balance of age ranges.
Myth: Replacement population
This myth is closely related to the “Aging population” myth and is a double-sided myth. In the past, families were encouraged to have high birth rates to offset the low survival rate of children and to “keep the population up”. Without these “replacements”, a community could be in jeopardy of dying out, the myth goes. The reality is that today’s modern world has a very high survival rate for children born in advanced countries like Canada. Anyone born in Canada today has, not just the possibility, but the probability of having a long, healthy and productive life.
The other side of this myth is that we simply need to replace everyone who might perish. Why? There is no imperative demanding that the population be maintained or grow. The edict, “Go forth and multiply.”, is no longer valid on this over-populated earth. There are more than enough people in the modern world to produce anything we might need or want. As such, the myths of “population replacement” and an “aging population” are just that – myths.
Myth: The climate crisis
There is an axiom in troubleshooting: solve the right problem. Though real, and probably caused by human activity, climate change is not the major problem facing humanity. Collapsing environments due to over-use brought about by over-population is the real crisis we need to be concerned with.
There has been much talk recently of climate migrants. But, they are not really fleeing climate change, they are fleeing the effects of damaged ecological and economic systems and loss in the carrying capacity of their land due to over-population. Where are these people mostly coming from? – the high population zones of the world. Where are they mostly going? – to the low-population areas of the world. The politically incorrect thing to say, but the truth of the matter is that the, misnamed, climate migrants are fleeing high-population countries, where their environments have been seriously eroded by over-population, and are traveling to low-population countries that, until now, have had responsible population policies that protected their environments by keeping populations down. But business, chasing a phony economics of Growth, (which, to reiterate, they define as Inflation, driven by Speculation and funded by Debt), is controlling government policy and the easiest road to this type of Growth is through constant population expansion. This policy of unsustainable population increase will be a millstone around the future well-being of citizens of the modern world, especially the young of today – including those in Canada. We need to relax our population to have an economy that will work for all citizens.
Consumption driving many crises
The world population has never been greater and, no surprise, we now have the largest drain and fastest consumption of natural resources in the history of the world. We are warned that the rapid consumption of natural resources is, “… pushing the boundaries of sustainability.”, and that, “No country is meeting the basic needs of its citizens while also operating within the physical boundaries of our planet,”. There is only one way to go from here unless steps are taken to reduce populations. Massive consumption of natural resources will lead to collapse of the carrying capacity of land which will accelerate problems that we are already seeing around the world. If this is allowed to continue, we will see monumental amounts of migration that will dwarf anything that has happened in human history as the carrying capacities of land in more countries are pushed beyond the brink of their ability to provide for their citizens.
A look at consumption is rather sobering when one considers that we are going through the earth’s natural resources at the pace we are. In 1970 the earth gave up 22 billion tons of raw natural resources to drive mankind’s economy. That increased to 70 billion tons in 2010. By comparison, the earth’s population in those years was approximately 3.695 billion and 6.985 billion respectively. Simple math tells us that, while the world’s population slightly less than doubled over that time, consumption of resources more than tripled. By 2020 (a slow year due to Covid), consumption of natural resources ballooned to more than 110 billion tons while the population increased to 7.975 billion that year. You do not need to be an expert, only moderately educated and not beholding to the business community – as many of our politicians are, to see that this kind of consumption driven by population growth is unsustainable and will eventually lead to disaster.
In another vicious cycle, population growth is driving demand for energy which is also fueling demand for even more resources. In 1950, with a world population of approximately 2.5 billion, the world demand for energy stood at about 28,500 terawatt hours. This rose to more than 176,000 terawatt hours in 2021[ibid] (more than six times the 1950 figure) when the world’s population climbed to 7.9 billion. Can anyone reasonably believe that the quality of life for the average citizen, anywhere in the world, will be maintained as world populations climb to nearly ten billion people by 2050, as the U.N. predicts it will, and demand on resources and energy production continue to increase? It would seem to be a naive belief.
Myth: Canada is a vast, empty land
It is really a naive view to say that Canada is a “vast empty land”. Ask yourself why you are not living in York Factory, Manitoba – look it up on a map. Here is a lesson to be learned from history. The northern half of North America, sometimes called Canada, has always been sparsely populated. The childlike thought that this is a vast empty land overlooks the reality that it takes massive amounts of energy and resources to live in a cold climate (energy and resources that our government is rapidly selling off to foreign interests). Without those inputs people are forced to live a sparse life of subsistence. This is one reason why ninety or more percent of Canadians live near the American border. Not only is it very difficult to live in the far North, but generally, most people simply do not want to inhabit such a cold land. There is a direct relationship between the carrying capacity of a land and its temperature. As temperatures go down, the ability of the land to support people, its carrying capacity, also goes down. This is unavoidable and is still true today. It is the ultimate reason why, in the history of the Americas since the ice age, population densities generally decrease as one travels from Central America toward the North Pole. By the time one crosses what is now the Canada/US border populations fall off quickly and dramatically. This has been a fact throughout the history of the peopling of the Americas and still holds true today.
We cannot avoid the obvious conclusion. That is, the need to reduce population. This solution was being implemented in Canada and Northern Europe after the baby boom. These countries had falling birth rates and populations reflecting the new reality of the time. As the Western world modernized and mechanized there was no longer a need for “excess” children to replace those who might die young or to do the work of beasts of burden. And so, with access to education and without government force, people simply followed natural instincts and had fewer children and had them later in life. The standard of living for average citizens during this period was elevated to unprecedented levels. These countries were nearly at the next stage of social evolution where human populations were cooperating with the ‘balance of nature’.
These countries could have reached population densities that would not exceed the ‘carrying capacity’ of the land if their governments had adopted policies supporting the trend to lower numbers of people. Unfortunately, a combination of weak, politically correct politicians and undue influence of big business to find cheap labour and ever increasing profits, distracted governments from their true purpose: long term planning for a stable society. The result is that when we hear the phrase, “economic growth”, the real meaning is: decreased resources for future generations as those resources are turned into money products today. “Future generations” means those children who are alive now – our children.
The writing is on the wall: we are approaching an era where we will surpass the carrying capacity of the earth. And it will likely happen within the lifetime of many who are alive today. Look to some of the areas of the world burdened by over population to see the effects of this: starvation, water deprivation, war and migration as people struggle for subsistence. It is not pretty and if we don’t lower our population, it will be unavoidable across the globe. Over population only benefits business (temporarily) and political/religious leaders who would like to see an uneducated, easily manipulated mass of people. The long term solution to avoiding a future disaster is clearly obvious: let populations fall in Canada. We cannot control what is happening in the rest of the world, but we can control our own future – with the proper approach.
The world is not, physically, the same place it was 50 years ago. Until then there were always resources available to rebuild economies when a boom went bust. But that is no longer true. As environments collapse and resources are depleted in high population areas of the world in the next 30 to 50 years, Europe and the rest of the Western world will see hundreds of millions of refugees on their borders who are seeking the necessities of life and respite from war and deprivation. The coming migrations are going to dwarf any that have occurred in human history and they won’t stop for an arbitrary political boundary. We are only seeing the tip of this iceberg now as economic and ecologic migrants slowly flow towards Europe, the United States and other Western countries. In the meantime, Europeans and others in the first world are going to be confronting the verge of their own collapse of carrying capacity and the stresses to society that result from it due to unrestrained growth. The only way to avoid eventual disaster, economically and environmentally, and ultimately – socially, is to have population densities that are stable and low. People are just as subject to the laws of the ‘balance of nature’ as any other creature on earth. If we exceed the carrying capacity of the land we will suffer the consequences.
Politicians, especially from the right, like to govern by slogans. We can already hear their first childish retort, “who is going to leave first”. But this is an issue that has no quick solution.
To enrich the lives of all Canadians we must let our population return to about twenty or twenty five million people. This is a process that will require at least one hundred years – if we start today. If we continue to unabatedly increase populations and eventually damage the aforementioned carrying capacity of the earth, the world will see population levels decrease rapidly in dramatic and unpleasant ways. There are at least three billion poor, or desperately poor people in the world. The sad truth is, we cannot rescue all of them. The best way Canada can help this situation is by living up to and exporting our culture of a low density, stable population within a more egalitarian society.
If the government continues to pursue this irrational and unsustainable level of population growth, there will eventually be a permanent peasant class in Canada, subject to a feudalism-like existence of centuries ago where citizens will be like vassals, owing homage to a (land)lord. The “economics of growth” battle cry is a misplaced concept that enriches the few while impoverishing the many. To paraphrase a saying from the French Revolution, “An ever increasing population is the road to limitless luxury for the rich, and to the poor – unspeakable poverty.”
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by Sung-Hee Jeon, Huju Liu and Yuri Ostrovsky, Release date: December 16, 2019 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2019025-eng.htm
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