California Forum

Aging California needs a fountain-of-youth solution

Edward Joseph Pierini Jr.
Edward Joseph Pierini Jr.

A Bee article, “State’s population getting grayer,” reports that increasing life expectancies and decreasing birthrates mean Californians are getting older. Demographic statistics from the Department of Finance prove this reality.

Within two decades, 25 percent of Californians will be 65 and older. Under current guidelines, they’ll be Medicare-eligible and almost eligible for full-retirement age Social Security benefits.

They’ll also increase California’s aging dependency ratio, one comparing the percentage of those typically not in the workforce to those who are. A higher aging dependency ratio means greater taxpaying demands for working Californians.

It’ll also mean California businesses will face greater challenges finding workers to hire. New technology using robots instructed by real-time intelligence software will undoubtedly provide some relief; however, these science fiction-like solutions may not be enough.

What we’ll experience has already happened elsewhere in the world. Western Europe is an example with an aging native population thanks to young families having fewer or no children.

What’s a fountain-of-youth solution for an aging California? One source says 2.1 births per family is required in developed countries, yet our nation’s birth rate is much lower. At the beginning of 2016, for example, there were only 59.8 births per 1,000 women age 15 to 44. This is the lowest rate in over 100 years, when this information first started being collected.

It’s worse in California, where birthrates are an all-time low. Department of Finance statistics report California’s birthrate declined to 12.42 births per 1,000 people in 2016. This is a 10 percent decrease from six years earlier, when this statistic was previously compiled.

What’s our California future from this phenomenon? That which the article describes and a dwindling native population and workforce. California will not be able to replace its native population. Also, California businesses will struggle with labor shortages, impeding their ability to deliver goods and services to a growing population of California consumers.

Immigrants will continue providing relief whether we like it or not, yet this isn’t popular with some having a “get rid of immigrants” mindset. They’ll also help care for aging Californians, people like you and me.

Immigrants have helped plug the labor-shortage gap around the world. In the land of my ancestors, for example, Eastern European, Chinese and African immigrants work jobs shunned by Italian natives.

Closer to home, Mexican immigrants fill a California labor shortage doing work Californians aren’t interested doing. Give them an ear and farmers will repeatedly tell you how impossible it is finding native-born Americans willing to work jobs they have for hire.

Many California businesses routinely hire foreign guest workers, newly arrived immigrants or export jobs overseas to meet their insatiable needs for youthful and highly skilled workers. An aging California offers no alternatives.

Concerned about their continuing access to this worldwide labor talent, several big-named American companies denounced President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting entry of people from certain countries. Another executive order designed to reform the visa program for foreign technical workers adds to their concerns because an aging California offers no alternatives.

This isn’t defending businesses hiring immigrants at the expense of native Americans and Californians but, rather, merely stating how it is here, across our nation, and from what I’ve learned from European travels.

We can’t eat our cake and have it too. What should an immigrant-unfriendly nation and an aging California do to solve a declining native population and impending labor shortages?

Proffer a fountain-of-youth solution for an aging California. Tell its native young adults to do as our parents and grandparents did and start making babies.

Edward Joseph Pierini Jr. is a CPA in private practice. He’s a fourth-generation native of Sacramento. As a gracefully aging Californian, he enjoys sharing his visionary and contrarian opinions and perspectives. He can be contacted at ed@pieriniaccountancy.com.

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