A brief history
The original European population was Homo antecessor and Heidelberg followed by Neanderthals eventually replaced by the Homo sapiens migrants. There seems thus to be an original bias in favor of Europeans as the Heidelberg man had a larger brain than the original Asian population. It is our ancestors who invented agriculture.
Migration is a phenomenon as old as humanity and is a well-proven strategy to have better opportunities for both the migrants and their children as well as for escaping natural catastrophes or political oppression. There have also been cases of forced migration, and the slave trade has been one of them.
The Dark Ages saw a general decline in Europe – of population, but also of trade, and conversely, an increase in immigration and epidemics. However, in the later period, and until the thirteenth century, the population tripled, reaching 60 million.
Europe had a period of intense technological progress in the first millennium, sometimes based on original Chinese inventions and sometimes on inventions that had originated during the period of the Roman Empire, then forgotten and rediscovered. Black Death, in the 13th and 14th century led to a population decline.
The 15th century saw the beginning of the Age of Discovery during which European explorers and sea captains sought new trade routes and new lands. Improved ships and firepower allowed them to succeed in acquiring precious metals such as gold and silver as well as spices, but also food and oil. It boosted several industries such as shipbuilding and fisheries.
Straddling the 18th and 19th centuries, Malthus (1766 – 1834) published his Essay on the Principles of Population, putting forward the argument that the exhaustion of limited resources such as land and food would limit population growth. Hence, population growth will be limited, he thought, by famines.
He has been proven wrong due to technology, the import of foodstuff from the new lands, immigration of Europeans towards other countries and early forms of family planning.
The Industrial Revolution, which started at the same time as Malthus published his book, saw the European population grow by 100 million in a century, to reach 266 million by 1850. Technology no doubt contributed greatly by decreasing poverty and thus allowed more money to be used for bringing up the children. Population growth continued to reach 487 million by 1920. Urban centers, whether London or Paris, grew at an even faster rate.
European population growth took place in spite of an important child mortality,, with half the children dying before the age of 5 when those with the poorest parents will be placed to work in factories in conditions unimaginable today.
Causes of death of the population generally are dysentery, influenza, plague, smallpox and typhus.
Even though worldwide population grew to reach 900 million by 1800 with both Europe’s and China’s population doubling, mostly due to a slight increase in the birth rates, by 1850, Europe’s population overtook that of China in a demographic and economic breakthrough that has been called The Great Divergence.
The contribution of Europe and the Americas to world output increased to reach 51%, with a corresponding decrease of China’s share. Europe’s Industrial Revolution was the fruit of slave labor, unfair trade practices, and cheap energy from coal.
The impact of the Industrial Revolution also touched agriculture and allowed an increase in productivity and therefore an improved nutrition for the entire population. Families were able to finance and provide financing for the new industries.
Child mortality decreased due to the reduction in infectious diseases. Families reduced the number of births. Reduced smoking, improved nutrition and increased exercise contributed greatly in improving longevity. So did the frequent use of soap and the boiling of water.
Europe will thus took advantage of the demographic dividend.
The increased number of the working-age population led to an immigration boom to the American continent where labor was scarce. In fact, 60 million Europeans immigrated to the American and African continents as well as to Australasia in the 19th century. This allowed Europeans to control increasingly large amounts of land, with a peak of 84% of the world’s land in 1914.
The twentieth century
The 20th century saw the world’s population soar from 1.6 billion to 6 billion, infant mortality drop by between 70% and 80%, and life expectancy double to reach 60.
Since the medical industry was focusing on adults rather than children, it is the adults who saw their diseases being successfully controlled – dysentery, malaria, scurvy, syphilis, among others. Vaccination was also a major step in reducing mortality.
Simultaneously, a number of public health improvements took place particularly with regards to milk and water supply, the poisoning of rats, slum clearing and swamp draining.
The end result was the near eradication of death from infectious diseases, allowing a doubling of life expectancy.
Europe witnessed a fast growing economy from 1945 to 1973, making it the second fastest growing zone after Japan, by whatever economic measure.
1973 brutally ended that period. Production in many industries fell considerably, jobs moved from industry to services, high unemployment followed. Average salaries decreased.
Very large migratory movements occurred in the 20th century, essentially due to wars and to the decolonization process and the consequent break up of certain countries such as India.
The European Union is today the world’s largest single market and its currency, the Euro, the world’s second biggest currency. The level of unemployment which peaked at 12% in 2013 is now back to 9.5%. However, 40% of the jobs are not permanent positions and nearly 20% are part-time positions. Youth unemployment remains a major problem. This is partly due to the fact that legislation protects people who have jobs and therefore corporations are afraid to hire.
Many Europeans have doubts and even negative attitudes towards the European Union, viewing it as a bureaucratic organization to which they do not relate. The numerous rules and regulations are viewed as an infringement on freedoms.
There is also the issue of the refugees to which the EU does not seem able to give a coherent response.
Decolonization and economic expansion in Britain and France brought to their shores migrants from the former colonies with major population flows from 1960 to 1973, reaching up to 6% of the European workforce. It was a very different population from today’s migrants.
Unemployment, large wage differentials between Europe and developing countries and inside their own country, are the driving factors of today’s immigration flow. However, increasing salaries in developing countries appears to be counterproductive as it allows individuals and families to be able to afford a safer crossing into a host country.
Today there is an estimated 250 million migrants, of which only 10% are women, including both legal and illegal migrants, representing 3% of the world’s population.
Immigration from Africa to Europe is not likely to shrink, in particular due to wars and climatic warming, to the delight of corporations but to the watchful eyes of governments that have to bear the cost of social services.
2015 saw over one million immigrants arrive in Germany. The total number of legal migrants in the EU is of 11 million and there is an unknown number of illegal migrants.
Many immigrants do not integrate and live in ghettos, uninterested by education and therefore limiting their access to employment with a carry-over effect of up to three generations. However, this is definitely not the case for all immigrants. Over a third of them have a college education and many of them have an entrepreneurial spirit.
Immigrants have been blamed by working class people of having taken their jobs, when in fact this is due to the transfer of production units to Asia. The labor pool has become global and a new category of workers retain a base in their home country which they leave a few months per year to work abroad and return with their savings.
A more serious issue has been the fear of loss of national identity. Systems and procedures to halt migration can be put in place and there are presently discussions in the EU to decide which, if any, are to be adopted, in particular concerning refugees and asylum-seeker. The United Nations refugee agency numbers them, across the world as being 10 million. Some have been admitted legally, others have reached Europe’s shores by raft.
In view of the diverging points of view of the various member states of the EU, taking a decision is not easy and has led to major tensions in the Union.
Immigration has been considered a problem to which the state should offer solutions. Nowadays, there seems to be some agreement among the Member States’ governments in order to jointly deal with questions concerning immigration and asylum: the impossibility of tackling this problem independently. At the same time, the peculiarities of each State in relation to this phenomenon and the perceptions and national normative references regarding the content of the immigration process complicate the attainment of clear and binding agreements.
The future is unpredictable, but trends can be detected and projections made.
With the present fertility rates, Europe’s population in 2060 will represent only 5% of the world’s. The continent’s GDP will have dropped significantly. It will also be the world’s oldest region with a median age of 45.
Immigration cannot be viewed as a reasonable solution as it would require allowing 13 million migrants per year if one is to keep the ratio of 4 to 5 active persons for each pensioner.
It seems we can safely say that Europe is dying by suicide both through the sharp decline in demography and through its attitude to the rest of the world, almost excusing itself for its very existence.
The massive entry of foreigners, in particular from the Middle East and Africa, is changing the ethnic composition and the culture of the continent in ways that were not predicted as assimilation has been the key word over the last fifty years. However, it has not happened. The hybrid culture that many intellectuals believed in has also not happened.
Instead, we are witnessing a rise in the number of Moslems entering the country and maintaining their own way of life and wishing to Islamize Europe.
The Islamization of Europe is unlikely to happen in the immediate future as the number of Moslems is not sufficient and unlikely to grow out of proportion. Further, the third generation is generally not sufficiently religious.
The death of Europe?
Europeans generally have lost faith in their political institutions and Europe seems to have gone into a decaying process like previous old civilizations before our time. One of the most important issues has become the change in Europe’s ethnic composition.
The divide has been between those praising European culture, identity and liberal values, and wishing to maintain it, on the one hand and those praising diversity on the other hand. The position of this last group is based, among other thoughts on the fact that there is no country in the world that has a homogeneous population and identity due to the various migrations that have occurred over centuries. Diversity assumes that immigrants will want to blend and not maintain their own ethnic profiles. There is also the issue of access to jobs and to public services.
The confrontation between the two has led those in favor of diversity to accuse the others of racism.
What is certain is that the liberal values so dear to the Europeans are severely put into question. Movements closely recalling fascism are gaining ground and democratic forces seem reluctant to fight for their own values.
Europe is committing a slow suicide. It no longer believes in its right of existence. The long build-up of European culture seems to have hit a wall. Our children and grandchildren will soon be taught at school that they should be ashamed of being European.