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Ethics and Ageing

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Ethics and Ageing (Ethics and Ageing)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2017-09-30

The main problem pursued by the project can be expressed more specifically as follows: “What is the fairest combination of policy responses with which EU member states can maintain the sustainability of their welfare states in the context of population ageing?” This research project focused on three types of policy response in particular. The first type of response is to increase immigration of skilled working-age immigrants. This response can re-balance the proportion of younger to older members of society and thus enable transfer programmes from younger to older members to remain sustainable. The second type of response is to encourage higher fertility rates amongst existing members – for example, by offering cash allowances to families who many children. The third type of response is to increase the participation of certain groups in the labour market, especially women. This third response does not rebalance the proportions of age groups in society but increases the amount of work done by younger persons. Each of these responses can help to render transfer programmes sustainable, but they each also raise new problems of their own.

Examining the ethical question of which combination of policy responses EU member states should pursue is important for society for one main reason: it is necessary to avert a “legitimation crisis” that will otherwise arise for EU welfare states. Unless EU member states conduct a well-informed, transparent and ongoing public debate about how to sustain their welfare states under conditions of ageing, a perception will inevitably arise for one or another affected group of persons that the transfer programmes that make up their welfare states are not fair.

The project examined this problem by pursuing a number of overall objectives. The main objectives were (a) to produce four research articles that develop new research in the three areas distinguished within the project, (b) to edit a published symposium of articles on the research theme of the project written by experts in the field, (c) to organise a conference on the research theme of the project, and (d) to engage in a number of dissemination activities, including conference presentations, presentations to a wider, non-expert audience, teaching seminars to students and staff and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and contributions to a blog. In order to complete the objectives, the principal investigator of the project would hold weekly progress meetings with the project supervisor (Professor Andrew Williams).
"1. The project produced drafts of three journal articles, and has initiated a draft of a fourth article. Two of these articles are under review with leading international peer-reviewed journals. Both of these two articles received invitations for resubmission, they have both been revised and resubmitted. A final decision regarding publication is expected within the next six weeks. The third article has been presented at two conferences and will be presented a third conference on 23-24 November, 2017. The fourth article is still in early draft form, but the expectation is that it will be submitted to a journal by the end of March 2018.

2. The project produced a symposium of articles written by experts in the field. This symposium has been published the journal, ""Law, Ethics and Philosophy"" - “Symposium on Michael Blake's and Gillian Brock's debating brain drain (Guest edited by Paul Bou-Habib)” Nr. 4, 2016.

3. Conference on “Ageing and Distributive Justice”. The project organised a conference at Universitate Pompeu Fabra on “Ageing and Distributive Justice”. The conference invited speakers from the United States and the EU. It was held on 11-12 July 2017.

4. “Mini”-research seminars. The project completed one research seminar on “Longevity Risk” at the University Pompeu Fabra on 12 July, 2016. This seminar as open to all students and staff at University Pompeu Fabra.

5. Dissemination. The project yielded four conference presentations (Nottingham Centre for Contemporary Political Theory (CONCEPT) on 1st March, 2016; University of Oxford on 14-15th July, 2016; Goethe University Frankfurt on 6th June, 2016; and Ludwig Maximillian University, Munich on 21-26th August, 2017). The project produced three presentations to a wider, “non-expert” audience (The Olive Tree School in Sant Pere de Ribes on 9th December 2015, the Open University of Catalunya on 17th March 2016, and the UN Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility on 5th November 2016). The project maintained a blog on the challenges of population ageing on the website, ""Demography, Ethics and Public Policy"" (see

6. Progress monitoring. The project held weekly research progress meetings with the project supervisor Professor Andrew Williams."
The new research provides the following advance relative to the state of art. The first article, “Brain Drain as Exploitation”, provides the first full-length ethical analysis in the literature of the claim that developed states that rely on skilled working-age immigration in order to re-balance the proportion of their younger workers and retired elderly citizens, may be engaged in a form exploitation of the developing states that those skilled immigrants leave behind. This opens up a new, important avenue of research because it suggests that immigration policies of EU member states towards developed states needs to be reconsidered – in particular, the EU needs to examine whether its attempts at recruiting skilled immigrants from developing states amounts to a form of exploitation of those states.

The second article, “The Case for Replacement Migration”, provides the first full-length ethical analysis in the literature of the claim that developed states should give priority to relying on immigration over a policy of increasing fertility (pronatalism) in order to increase the proportion of younger workers in their populations. The research article shows that this prioritisation of “replacement migration” over pronatalism should take place only in those cases in which immigration would not amount to the exploitation of developing states. Policies. While the concept of “replacement migration” has been examined by demographers (since the concept was first introduced by the UN in 2001), my research article is among the first few articles on the topic in the field of ethics and political philosophy.

The third article, “Age, Justice, and Longevity”, advances the state of the art by closely examining an issue that has not been extensively discussed by moral and political philosophers to date, namely, how variation in longevity between different individuals should impact on their contributions to welfare state programmes. As with the two other research articles that this project has produced, this third article examines territory that is almost completely new to ethics and political philosophy. It is hoped that these three research articles, together with the other activities conducted during the project, will stimulate further research that can help to inform a transparent and ongoing public debate on how the EU can best respond to the pressures of population ageing.