After reading yesterday’s post “Contemplating Geronticide”, our expatriate Dutch correspondent H. Numan was moved to add his own ideas to the mix, and sent us this response.
Contemplating Geronticide: A Response
by H. Numan
There are many possible solutions to this problem, apart from turning Europe in a labor camp or exterminating those who can’t labor anymore. In fact, I’m somewhat surprised our statisticians never addressed the problem before it started to show its ugly face. Only somewhat surprised: show me a politician who wants to address a problem before it occurs and you have shown me a true white elephant.
In high school we learned a bit about demography. Like the bell curves, and that the inverted urn was the best model. While the teacher explained all this, I as a teenager was a bit puzzled. The inverted urn relies on one single factor: a growing population. You can do lots of nice things when business is booming. What if the inverted urn stops? When a nation, for whatever reason, does not grow anymore? Should the government not try to strive for a demographic equilibrium?
Trees normally do not grow into heaven. Neither do countries.
My teacher found my questions very interesting, but told me not to worry about it. After all, I was a high school student, and those running the statistics were highly qualified math experts, etc. That was way back in the early 70’s.
Today we are looking in Pandora’s box and what we see isn’t very nice. So, what can a nation do?
If they don’t want to convert their citizens into labor slaves, that is. Japan might be a good example how this problem can be tackled without turning the nation in a labor camp producing Soylent Green.
Japan does not want to import guest labor. Given the problems with long-staying guest laborers in Europe, I can’t really blame them.
The first solution is the techno solution, and that’s what Japan is trying out right now. Some jobs can be done by machines. Giving an elderly person a bath can be a job that can be done (up to a degree) by a computer. Japan is trying out automated bathing systems, that will rely a lot on robots and computerized bathing, and much less on humans doing the job. Very un-personal, but what is the alternative? Not bathing at all?
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Another approach, also implemented by Japan, is to set up retirement villages in other less expensive countries nearby. This is currently a booming business in o.a.Thailand. Entrepreneurs can set up a village developed for and dedicated to elderly people. If they meet Japanese standards, the Japanese government is willing to empty a bag of money in it. In other words: to guarantee funding and subsidize occupancy.
Such a village much have — I’d almost say ‘of course’ — Japanese-speaking staff, doctors, nurses, shops. Some of the staff are Japanese, but most are Thais who can speak Japanese and have learned how to work with Japanese clients. The government doesn’t just empty a bag of money, the villages are monitored on a continuous basis on how well they do. (Europe could learn something from this.)
I see this as a win-win solution for everybody: retired people have a choice of living in Japan but not in much comfort. Or live in much more comfort and care in another country where the price is far more affordable. For the costs of caring for one elderly person in Japan, at least five persons can be cared for in much more comfort if they choose to live somewhere else.
The government (= the nation, in other words: the taxpayer) does have to pay a price, however. A price Euro governments are not yet willing to pay. Caring for elderly persons within your own country recycles tax money within the system. Caring for your elderly people abroad doesn’t.
In Europe, the governments would like to encourage guest labor to make up for the deficit. But why? Does a guest laborer have to stay in Europe, marry and have kids? Is it discriminatory to offer contracts with a limited time period? I think not. Many people would be more than happy to work on a contractual agreement for — say — one, two or three years, and then go back to their own country.
To give an example from closer to home, I lecture occasionally at tourist (hospitality) universities that would LOVE to send their students to Europe, to get practical experience and on-the-job training. But they can’t. Even for a limited period of less than a year, it’s horrendously complicated to comply with the EU or local rules. Hospitals and hotels in the Netherlands would be more than happy to house a Thai student for a year, and have them work in their organization. But the rules are so fiendishly difficult, complex and far-fetched that it isn’t worth it.
The reason is “anti-discrimination”. The immigration system is massively abused by some, therefore we penalize all. We can’t discriminate, so we can’t target those that abuse it. Which is actually discrimination too, but in reverse.
I think a civilized society that lowers itself to levels where the citizens are turned into slave laborers is not a civilized society at all. No matter the reason. I don’t see much difference between national socialist Germany gassing their problems and international socialist European governments changing their citizens into slaves so they can remain in power.
In brief, my solutions:
|1.||Examine how technology can be applied in human care. This is an expensive solution.|
|2.||Award temporary contracts for jobs. This solution is also expensive, but at least won’t add to the current ethnic problems that are already there. The contract would pay normal wages. As the laborers cannot claim social benefits afterwards, they would receive it as a bonus when the contract ends. In the Dutch army we used to have short time volunteers, who received such a bonus. In fact it was their accumulated pension that got paid off in advance. In other words: there already is a (politically correct) precedent.|
|3.||Set up retirement projects in low wage countries. This is probably the cheapest solution.|
|4.||Set up a policy that works with a stable population. This is long term planning. No politician likes it, but it will have to be done.|