Is 60 the new 40? Questioning basic assumptions of migration and demography

In March, in collaboration with the Migration Research Centre at Koç University, MiReKoc, the Metropolis International Steering Committee met in Istanbul, which paved the way for an interesting academic conference on Migration and Demographic Change: Causes and Consequences.  The conference was organized along three panels.  The first panel was on Demography-Migration Nexus where Ahmet İçduygu from Koç University, Howard Duncan from Carleton University, Jon Simmons from the UK Home Office Science, and Peter Schatzer from the IOM gave their presentations focusing on two particular questions: to what extent do rapid population growth in the developing world combined with shrinking growth in the developed world would act as push and pull factors in international migration? And, to what extent does below replacement fertility combined with high immigration from the developing world modify population dynamics in the developed world?

The second panel was specifically focusing on the case of Turkey, where Ahmet Sinan Türkyılmaz, from Hacettepe University, Ayhan Kaya from Bilgi University, Refik Erzan from Boğaziçi University and Bernd Geiss, the Former Head of the Commission for Migration, Refugees and Integration in Germany reinstated the importance of the enhancement of the relations between the European Union and Turkey where the migration-demography nexus is hotly debated.   The panel intended to elaborate this debate, where it highlighted the contradictory views on the subject: on the one hand, Turkey’s potential accession to the EU and the consequential free movement of labour has been suggested as a possible remedy for the ageing and declining European population; on the other hand, while the movement of Turkish workers could help boost the working age population of the EU, it has been viewed as a factor, which would create a burden for the already stretched welfare states of the Union.  Within this context, different demographic scenarios regarding the population of Turkey in the future were discussed during the panel in relation to the population dynamics in Europe.  

The final panel extended the discussion to other country cases, where Marco Lombardi from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore presented the case of Italy, Maria Lucinda Fonseca from University of Lisbon the case of Portugal, and Pieter Bevelander from Malmö University the case of Sweden.  Meera Sethi from IOM’s Ankara Office also spoke at the panel with more general comments that enacted as a conclusion.  The case of Sweden was specifically interesting as the country’s census data of the last three hundred years are available for researchers for analysis, presenting changing population trends over thirty decades.

In all three panels, the connection between migration and demography was presented as a complex phenomenon where different causes and consequences were at play.  While there was a general focus on the wealthy countries of the global North where declining fertility rates and ageing populations are already turning into important policy issues as well as causes of demand in different sectors of the labour market, many of these basic assumptions were questioned during the panels.  For example, the effects of welfare policies on demography, women’s participation in labour force, and migration were widely discussed.  More interestingly, the assumption that there is an immigration pressure in advanced economies due to the greying of the population and population decline was suspected given the changing norms of ageing.  An interesting question raised during the panels was: may 60 be the new 40?  If so, what do such changes mean for policy? 

The video recordings of the presentations at the Metropolis-MiReKoc Academic Forum can be reached on YouTube:

Welcoming Remarks byJan Rath & Ahmet İçduygu 

Ahmet İçduygu 

Howard Duncan   
Jon Simmons
Peter Schatze  
Ahmet Sinan Türkyılmaz   
Bernd Geiss   

Refik Erzan  
Marco Lombardi    
Maria Lucinda Fonseca  
Pieter Bevelander  
Meera Sethi 


Deniz Sert,
Senior Researcher,
Migration Research Center at Koç University

Wagtail – migratory bird

The wagtail is the provincial bird of the Tampere Region

Wagtails are small birds with long tails which they wag frequently. Wagtails are slender, often colourful, ground-feeding insectivores of open country in the Old World. They are ground nesters, laying up to six speckled eggs at a time. Among their most conspicuous behaviours is a near constant tail wagging, a trait that has given the birds their common name.

(source: Wikipedia)