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In the twenty-five years the birth-rate has fallen 6.3 per 1000 of the population, while the death-rate has fallen 4.9. The fall in the birth-rate has been most rapid in the last five years ; the fall in the death-rate has taken place almost entirely in the last ten years. In 1885 a population of something over 36,000,000 added 448,000 persons to itself by natural increase ; in 1911 a population of nearly 45,000,000 made a natural increase of only about 440,000. It is true that the death-rate will undoubtedly be further reduced. The possibilities in this direction may be gauged when it is pointed out that New Zealand has a death-rate of little more than 9 per 1000, and that the realisation of such a rate in the United Kingdom in 1910 would have added 225,000 to the natural increase of population. But it is to be feared that many years must elapse before the British death-rate is as low as 9, and there is every prospect of the birth-rate falling considerably. Even if in the next ten years we reduce the death-rate by 4, to 10 per 1000, we may in the same period find the birth-rate reduced by about 5 to a rate almost as low as that of France.
To bring our figures quite up to date, I may add, although I do not desire to exaggerate the case by dwelling unduly upon them, the remarkable figures of the third quarter of 1911. In that quarter, the United Kingdom birth-rate fell to 24.3, and the death-rate rose to 15.2. The natural increase of population in the three months was 277,655 births minus 173,105 deaths, or only 104,550. In England and Wales the birth-rate fell to 24.4, being 2.9 below the mean birth-rate of the previous ten third quarters. It was the lowest birth-rate recorded in any third quarter since civil registration of births first began. The natural increase of population in England and Wales in the quarter was only 81,645, against 123,300, 124,054, and 123,022 in the third quarters of 1908, 1909, and 1910 respectively. These
serious facts were contributed to by an increased infant mortality caused chiefly by the unusually hot weather, but the fall in the birth-rate cannot thus be explained away. It points to a rapid acceleration of the rate of fall shown in the above table.
Serious as these considerations would be if there were no drain by emigration, how intensely serious they become when we find ourselves regarded by the self-governing Dominions as an unlimited store of potential colonists. The coincidence of falling death-rate and falling birth-rate means a higher average age for the population as a whole, and a consequent intensification of British social problems. The emigration in a year of nearly 300,000 of our most vigorous stock leaves us with a larger proportion of the old and the feeble. If the process went much further, and an actual decline of population occurred, we should have not merely a smaller nation, but a smaller nation whose average individual efficiency had been reduced. Every social problem would be aggravated, even while a smaller aggregate population would be left to furnish the means of amelioration. The charge for Old Age Pensions would sensibly rise, even while a smaller number of taxpayers could be called upon to meet the charge. Sickness being a problem of age, the sickness charges to be borne under the National Insurance Act of 1911 would rise, even while the number of young contributors to the fund would diminish. The material output of the nation would fall, not alone because there would be fewer workers, but because the average age of those fewer workers would be higher.
Nor would the political consequences be less serious.
It is true that the emigrants we are parting with are, for the most part, going abroad to build up the Britains over the seas, and that British emigration may therefore be truly described as very largely a British re-settlement. It is very questionable, however, whether the transfer of population from the British Isles to the self-governing colonies, when carried to such a degree as now obtains, is consistent with the maintenance of the integrity of the Empire. The eyes of the Canadian are not turned to Europe, but to the South, and to the East. And the eyes of the Australian are not upon the German Empire, but upon Japan. Those who have talked with Australasian statesmen know that the plans for Antipodean Navies are prompted not so much by anxiety concerning the relative strength of the fleet of the United Kingdom, as by the desire to be able to cope with exigencies which may arise in the Pacific. The maintenance of the British Empire is involved in the proper increase of the population of the United Kingdom. To send out a proportion of our natural increase is to strengthen the Empire, but to send out the whole of our natural increase, or more than our natural
increase, is to strengthen the Britains over the seas at the cost of breaking up the Empire and degrading the United Kingdom in the category of the nations. It is difficult enough as things are for the itaxpayers of the United Kingdom to furnish the means of maintaining that naval supremacy upon which not merely the integrity of the Empire, but the secure livelihood of the inhabitants of the British Isles depends, but how could the position be maintained by a falling population possessing a falling average efficiency? The yield of existing taxes would fall with the population, and it is interesting to observe that the new land taxes would become null and void, for there would be no increment to tax, through a fall in land values, and no undeveloped land duty to levy, because the development of building land would cease.
While the population of the United Kingdom is threatened with decline, that of the German Empire is still rapidly increasing. It is true that the German birth-rate has fallen, but it is still higher than ours, and Germany, instead of losing population by migration, is actually gaining immigrants on balance. I have spoken already of the fall in German emigration. Table E is an examination of migration in respect of the United Kingdom, the German Empire, and France, based upon the exceedingly useful table published by the Board of Trade in the Blue-book on British and Foreign Trade and Industry (Cd. 4954 of 1909). It will be seen that Germany is beginning to take the place which used to be occupied by France in gaining people by migration. The figures in this table are arrived at by comparing the actual increases of population revealed by censuses with the excess of births over deaths. It is a more accurate method than that employed in Table A, and can, of course, only be used for inter-censal periods. From Table F we may arrive at the average annual loss or gain by migration in the three countries.
Germany is thus gaining by migration even while we have reached the point of losing 300,000 people a year. As to natural increase, this is nearly 900,000 a year in Germany, in spite of the fall in her birth-rate. It is hardly likely that the German population will increase by less than 8,000,000 in the next ten years, and in 1921, therefore, the German population may be 74,000,000. If the British population makes no more increase per annum than it did in 1911, the British Isles in 1921 will have about 47,000,000 inhabitants. By 1921, therefore, the German Empire's population is likely to be within about 10,000,000 of the aggregate population of the United Kingdom and France, for France has now about 39,600,000 people, and her population is falling. The comparative position of the United Kingdom, it will be gathered, may easily be worse than this, for
E: UNITED KINGDOM, GERMANY, AND FRANCE : MIGRATION
(+=Gain by migration ; -=Loss by migration).
F: AVERAGE ANNUAL LOSS OR GAIN BY MIGRATION IN
THE PERIODS NAMED
Twentieth Century :
First five years
No record yet by
there is unfortunately no certainty that even our slight rate of gain of population in 1911 will be maintained during the next
Is there any good reason why the British population should either be stationary or falling? Is the nation economically overcrowded ?
The answer to these questions is a very plain one. The United Kingdom possesses, in one of the richest coal areas of the world, one of the greatest magnets for population known to economic science. By virtue of her coal supply, which still ranks next to that of the United States in magnitude and cheapness of production, the United Kingdom can easily sustain a population very much greater than she now possesses. Practical proof of this is afforded by the fact that Belgium, another country which bases industry upon coal, has a population of 590 to the square mile, at which rate the United Kingdom would have about 71,000,000 people instead of the 45,000,000 she now possesses. With the possession of one of the three greatest coal
. supplies in the world, and with her coal placed near to tidewater, so that materials can be imported to be economically worked upon at points most conveniently situated for trade with the world's markets, there is no good reason why the United Kingdom should not sustain two or three times as many people as she now finds work for. “Over-crowding ” is not in question. Populated at the Belgian rate, the United Kingdom would contain fourteen million families, and to house fourteen million families at the Garden City rate of six families to the acre, would absorb but about two and a quarter million acres of the seventyseven million acres of United Kingdom area. The prime factor in the case is not area, but the possession of coal, and it is for the nation very seriously to ask itself why it cannot hold its natural increase of population in spite of its good gift of coal.
The colonies are advertising for our people, and getting them. What are we doing to advertise the natural advantages of the United Kingdom to those who inhabit it?
It is to be feared that the great bulk of our working population is quite unconscious that the United Kingdom possesses economic advantages superior to those of the prairie of the great NorthWest. What do they know of the England that might be who only know the England that is ? England began to work her coal on a large scale when she was cursed with the dogma of the right of every man to do what he liked with his own. Our industrial centres broke out like sores upon the green garden that was England, and still to-day the British manufacturing town remains a place from which every element of beauty is banished, and which a man who gets knowledge must needs desire to leave.