FACT: Muslim immigration in Europe currently represents a mere 3% of Europe’s total population of more than 500 million. More immigrants have arrived from non-Muslim countries than from Muslim; in France the largest immigrant group for the last two decades is from Portugal, not North Africa. The percentage of Muslims immigrants is far smaller than the percentage of immigrants to the U.S., which is 12 percent of the population. The proportion of Muslims will increase, but even if Muslim immigrants double by 2025, they still will form far less of Europe than the total immigrant share of the U.S. population today.
This is hardly an Islamic tide, as the alarmists have claimed. And the vast majority of Muslim immigrants have endured the hardships of immigration for a better life, European-style, not to spread jihad. Of greater concern is the number of ethnic minorities, including the children and grandchildren of immigrants, who remain less than fully integrated. These minorities, like most minorities everywhere, suffer from higher rates of unemployment, poverty and discrimination.
Europe’s problem is “more Marx than Muhammad,” as one French scholar put it. Europe needs its own version of a civil rights movement that will fully integrate its minority populations. Fortunately there are signs of government action to end discrimination, with tens of billions of euros being spent on various programs and interventions. But these efforts are in their initial stages. Time will tell if they will be effective.
In terms of population decline, Germany, Italy and Spain have alarmingly low birth rates. But France, Ireland, the Scandinavian countries and Britain are holding their own, at or just below population replacement levels. Central and East European countries also have low birth rates, but those closely track with the end of communism when economic uncertainty and the collapse of child support structures caused women to postpone births; there is evidence of birth rates rebounding there.
By raising the age of retirement, allowing a reasonable rate of immigration, increasing the number of women in the labor force, and continuing its long term productivity gains, Europe should be able to cope with these demographic uncertainties and their impacts on its social systems. While there is cause for concern in some countries, it is way premature to be pronouncing the end of Europe.
– Steven Hill, guest blogger
You can see all the posts in this series here.
Steven Hill is the author of “Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age” (www.europespromise.org). He’s visiting Seattle and Bellingham this week:
- Monday March 15 at 11 a.m., interview on the Dave Ross Show, KIRO 97.3 FM
- Monday March 15 at 7 p.m., presenting at the University of Washington Communications Building
- Tuesday March 16 at 7:30 pm: presenting at Town Hall Seattle (tickets here)
- Wednesday March 17, 7:00 p.m.: presenting at Village Books, Bellingham
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