Who should replace

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Western-European countries have a sub-replacement fertility rate and as a consequence they age. Ageing countries may experience problems. One of the proposed solutions is raising the fertility rate by incentivizing procreation among individuals living in the country. When considering the alleged immigration crisis, one might intuitively wonder whether it is right to create new people in a society when there are existing people ‘at the border’. This intuition has not been explored in the scientific literature, even if some articles have connected immigration ethics and population ethics. To explore the intuition, I discuss the thesis that it is not legitimate for the government of a western-European country with a sub-replacement fertility rate to implement policies incentivizing procreation while at the same time immigration to their country is restricted. Using applied ethics, I identify two types of legitimate conflicting interests that immigrants and nationals might have. A first conclusion is that an evaluation of the different interests that are at stake for parents, (non-existent) children and immigrants with this combination of immigration and population policy does not lead to the a priori dismissal of either of the policies. Moreover, there are no objections to prioritizing the interests of the existing over the non-existent. For refugees and stateless individuals the most significant interests are at stake by either becoming or not becoming citizen of a Western-European country. Finally, I consider the contribution that global population growth makes to the argument. Population growth is not tied to negative effects in an unmediated way. Each additional child, however, makes the need for solutions to problems in resource management, biodiversity, climate change and food security more pressing. I found no basis for the rejection of the thesis and the paper concludes that at least the same number of immigrants should be admitted as the number of children that will be born if the incentives are effective.
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