Immigration and Japan’s Declining Economy

Japanese worker

I saw that this post on IZA World of Labor about the Japanese economy. It has again slipped into recession. Why? An aging workforce, and very low immigration.

Japan just doesn’t have enough workers to fill available jobs. The unemployment rate is at a long-term low of 3.4 percent. For every job seeker, there are 1.24 job openings. Japan’s worker shortage, according to the Wall Street Journal, will cost the country $86 billion in 2015 and 2016, or 2 percent of the country’s GDP.

Japan’s aversion to immigration has been a slowly developing disaster. Japan ranks 3rd in the world in median age of its population: 46.1 years. Immigrants could bring down the median age of the workforce and help alleviate the worker shortage. However, today foreign-born workers constitute just 1 percent of the Japanese workforce.

Here in the U.S., immigrants make up 16.5 percent of the workforce. Undocumented immigrants here make up a far greater percentage of our workforce than all foreign labor in Japan: 5.1 percent. The median age in the U.S. is 37.6.

Still, our policies aren’t keeping up with the times. Congress last adjusted our immigration levels a quarter century ago, in 1990. Since that time, the GDP of our economy has doubled. And it looks like Congress will not act any time soon to modernize our immigration system.

Photo credit: Stephen Geyer via Flickr and the Creative Commons license.

Climate Change: No (Political) Consensus

Exxon Capitol

There may be a scientific consensus on the science of climate change, but the political battle over the subject rages on.

Currently, Congressional supporters of the climate change deniers control the committees, and so are in a good position to attack the federal agencies that conduct research into climate change. That is exactly what is happening.

Over in the House of Representatives, Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has been conducting an inquisition of researchers and administrators at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Smith wants copies of documents and internal communications at NOAA that have to do with a study it released in June, which determined that a so-called “hiatus” in global warming since 1998 has not taken place. The study examines a huge amount of surface temperature data to update global temperature data sets.

Smith claims that NOAA “changed” the data for political convenience.

Global Warming Hiatus and Cherry-Picking Data

For several years now, climate change deniers, cherry picking the unusually warm year of 1998 as their starting point, have claimed that, since temperatures have not continued to rise after that year at the pace of prior years, there is no global warming. Smith claims that satellite data shows there is no global warming. (In any event, Smith is working off of old talking points, as 2014 now ranks as the warmest year on record, and 2015 may top last year’s record.)

Actually, there are three sets of satellite data from different sources. Only one, from a research group at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has shown a lack of warming. The other two sets do indicate continuous global warming. In any event, the very large surface temperature data sets used in the NOAA study are considered more reliable. The analysis of the surface temperature data has concluded that there has been no global warming “hiatus.” Other studies have come to similar conclusions. Those studies are publicly available, with explanations of their methodology. Continue reading “Climate Change: No (Political) Consensus”