Thursday, March 26, 2015

On Jollibee, the Philippines, and diaspora economics

Over on my blog this evening, I noted that Philippines I based fast food chain Jollibee was set to open its first Canadian location later this year in Toronto. Apparently part of the chain's plans for global exchange expansion, with more locations slated to open up in the United States, Europe, Japan, and the Middle East, the Toronto restaurant is being created as part of a diaspora events red strategy. instead of competing head-on with established chains, for the foreseeable future Jollibee in Canada--and elsewhere?--will be targeting communities with larger Filipino populations. Already familiar with the chain, the thinking seems to be that these communities will hopefully serve as the base for future growth.

This strategy makes sense to me. Is Jollibee's expansion globally based on a similar strategy? If so, I wonder if a South Korea with its own rapidly growing ties with the Philippines might also be targeted. One strategy common to many immigrant groups around the world, as they grow in number and start to become business owners s, is to specialize in food. To the best of my knowledge, Jollibee is unique in being a fast food chain. Are there comparable cases elsewhere in the world that I am missing? I am quite curious. I also wonder if, given likely future growth in Filipino-originating communities around the world, Jollibee might be a good investment.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Two news articles on the demographic exception that is France

Tonight I thought I'd share two links to English-language articles taking a look at the demographic exception that is France, specifically to a period TFR now somewhat higher than the United States'.

The first is Noah Smith's Bloomberg View article "Fixing America's Baby Bust". In this article, the United States is contrasted negatively with France.

What is France’s secret sauce? It helps to think about the reasons that it’s so hard to raise a family in a developed country. Raising a kid costs huge amounts of money. First of all, you probably have to get a bigger house. Food and transportation are big expenses. Health care, including extras like braces, takes a big bite. And then there’s college, which is becoming out of reach for more and more families.

But the biggest cost of raising a child may simply be time. Time that you spend taking care of the kids is time that you don’t spend at work earning money. In the ideal situation, both parents would have flexible work situations, and both would take time off to share child-care duties. Unfortunately, most of us don’t live that dream. Many have rigid work schedules, and often put in many extra hours at home or at the office -- Americans work longer hours than almost anyone in the developed world. And many are single parents. What that means is that a lot of American parents are forced to make an all-or-nothing choice between the workplace and child care.

The demanding U.S. workplace may also be preventing women from fully joining the workforce. French women don’t just have more babies than American women, they also are more likely to get a job. The U.S., which was a leader in female labor force participation in the 1990s, has fallen behind. These days, even Japanese women are more likely to work than their American counterparts.

The second, longer article is over at The Guardian, Anne Chemin's "France’s baby boom secret: get women into work and ditch rigid family norms". Drawing heavily on interviewers with French demographers, it makes the argument that polities and cultures which exhibit greater flexibility around the idea of what a family could be are likely to see greater rates of family formation and reproduction than their more rigid counterparts.

[T]here is nothing mysterious about the approach that is working in both France and Scandinavia. It combines the idea of a modern family based on gender equality and powerful government policies. “Nowadays, both ingredients are needed to sustain the population,” Lesthaeghe asserts. “At first sight it seems a simple recipe, but it’s far from easy to put into practice: it takes a lot of time to design and establish a new family model.”

There is nothing straightforward or natural about “the family”. It is a very complex world based on social norms, what the American sociologist Ronald Rindfuss calls the “family package”. “In Japan, for instance, this package involves many constraints,” says Ined demographer Laurent Toulemon. “A woman entering into a relationship must also accept marriage, obey her husband, have a child, stop working after it is born and make room for her ageing in-laws. It’s a case of all or nothing. In France the package is more flexible: one doesn’t have to get married or have children. Norms are more open and families more diverse.”

Most countries in southern Europe are based on something akin to the Japanese package, with fairly rigid family norms in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Malta and Greece. There is social pressure on women not to work while their children are still young, just as it is ill-thought of to live with someone or have a baby outside wedlock. In all these countries the proportion of births outside marriage is below 30%, whereas in France, Sweden and Norway it exceeds 50%. In Japan the traditional family package clearly has a dramatic impact on fertility, with fewer than 1.4 births per woman.

The picture is very different in Scandinavia and France. “In these countries the family norm is much more flexible, with late marriages, reconstituted families, single parents, much more frequent births outside marriage and divorces than further south,” Toulemon adds. “People are far less concerned about the outlook for the family [as an institution].” The positive impact of this open-ended approach to families on fertility is borne out by the statistics, at more than 1.8 children per woman in Sweden, Norway, Finland and France.

The principle of gender equality and the necessary corollary of women being free to work are the key factors in this family model that emerged at the end of the 20th century. Yet in the 1960s-70s advocates of traditional family values claimed that the birthrate would be the first thing to suffer from this trend. Fifty years on it seems they were mistaken: fertility in Europe is higher in countries where women go out to work, lower in those where they generally stay at home. “Women’s freedom of decision is essential to this system,” Toulemon asserts.

The underlying theme of both of these articles is the question of whether or not what we might call the Franco-Nordic model can be copied easily, to other European countries, to high-income East Asia (Chemin specifically mentions Japan and South Korea), and beyond. An additional, interesting, question is whether or not this would make a difference. Even if Germany did switch tomorrow to the high-fertility French model, there would still be much demographic momentum tending towards poulation decline needing to be overcome. Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On the case of Open Borders

Last Monday at the American libertarian blog The Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin made a post announcing his support for the thesis of the Open Borders NGO that migration should be as unhindered as possible. Linking to various authors' arguments in favour of this thesis, Somin makes the argument that the tendency worldwide should be not to raise barriers to migration but to lower them.

As the Open Borders Manifesto notes, and as I have said in the past, most open borders advocates do not claim that the right to free migration is absolute and always trumps opposing considerations. Just as I reject absolute property rights or absolute freedom of speech, so too I reject absolute rights to free migration. But we do believe there should be a strong presumption in favor of free migration that can only be overcome by strong evidence that restriction is the only way to prevent a harm great enough to outweigh the vast benefits of freedom to natives and migrants alike.

Many of the commenters at the Volokh Conspiracy are unconvinced, arguing that the author underestimates the costs involved. I myself am undecided about the thesis: There do seem to be great potential gains in GDP globally if there was a freer global market in labour alongside other global markets, but I'm also quite aware that there could be significant political costs if these associated migrations ever became problematic.

What do you, readers of Demography Matters, think of the argument?