The Economist Magazine has just published a very interesting and informative article on US population and demography changes, and the long-term national advantages that Hispanic immigration is giving the United States. The article provides a very good overview of US demographics, and is well worth the time to read
Where Europe is rapidly ageing, and has in place social payment systems that may not survive a growing ageing population, the US, as a result of recent Hispanic immigration has a better long-term demographic balance. As the Economist article notes, there are well canvassed issues around educational achievement and immigrant income.
These issues are not unusual for recent immigrant communities world-wide, and tend to resolve in time as recent arrivals gain access to education and work opportunities, and settle into the communities they live in.
Why does this matter for infrastructure asset management? There are several reasons:
Nothing Ever Stays the Same
Nothing ever stays the same, and in the US the changes in population and demographics as a result of Hispanic immigration are an example of this.
In considering your future demand analysis in your infrastructure management planning do you have a good understanding of the immigration trends in your area, the changes this is bringing, and the changes and/or growth in demand for services that come with immigration trends?
These questions can be applied to both internal and external migration trends.
Where is your workforce coming from – the impact of immigrants
In the US (and other parts of the world) as populations age and retire the question is where is your workforce coming from.
This is a question for the wider economy of your area, and its future prospects – if there are no workers, or not enough workers, this will be an economic constraint that could lead to industry and economy changes – and subsequent changes in the requirement and/or affordability of infrastructure.
Associated with this is the question – where are the workers for your organisation going to come from? If you are looking for young people then where are the growing youth populations?
In the US, the answer to these questions is increasingly from the Hispanic community, and worldwide – from the immigrant community.
Are you an attractive workplace to these communities? Do you have policies and practices in place to manage the diversity that immigrants bring to the workplace?
Have you considered these economic and workplace issues in your infrastructure future demand planning. A very quick look at the US rust belt areas demonstrates what can happen to municipalities and infrastructure when there are big economic changes.
Competition for workers – can you attract and keep?
Further to the workplace questions – as there is increasing competition for workers as a result of population aging and baby boom retirement, do you have policies in place to attract and keep skilled workers, both professional and skilled labor.
This might include grants, scholarships, apprenticeships, in service and professional training programs – do you have these aimed into the immigrant community where it is likely may of your future workers will come from?
The USA Hispanic Advantage
In the USA, the Hispanic population growth, and particularly the younger population associated with Hispanic immigration is going to give the USA unique demographic and population advantages in the western world. It is not as if the USA needs any more advantages to do well, but then success tends to attract more success.
Where other parts of the western world will be struggling with the impacts of ageing populations, the need to make painful adjustments to social security structures, and how to attract enough workers to keep economies going, the USA is going to have all the advantages that come from a vibrant, relatively young population, much better demographic balance, with good education.
What this means to infrastructure management is that, yet again, the USA will be different and unique from the rest of the western world, and will need to develop its own analysis in this area.
There will be a need to check trends and changes in immigration and settlement patterns, and then apply the analysis to infrastructure provision. There will still be areas where there are shrinking or declining towns, and these bring their own unique challenges.
There will also be areas of rapid growth and development, which also being challenges. Distribution of Hispanic population, and the future trends of that population may well be a good indicators of where growth can be expected.
Infrastructure management is a current and forward-looking discipline. Current practice needs to be examined and optimized to deliver service levels in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
Looking forward future infrastructure needs can be projected, along with projections of funding requirements and the optimization of infrastructure lifecycle. Growth or decline and the need for new infrastructure needs to put into the mix.
To manage infrastructure well, there needs to be a good understanding of the future demand drivers. This includes population, demographic, and economic drivers.
Changes that result from immigration, both external and internal are part of these future demand drivers and need to be understood. I would urge you to explore this topic further, in particular as it applies to your region and workplace.