Joop Hartog over waarde van ruimte en bevolkingsgroei

Joop Hartog, een van de bekende arbeidseconomen in Nederland, hield zijn afscheidscollege op 29 juni aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam. De tekst is elders op internet in zijn geheel te vinden. Aanbevolen literatuur, makkelijk leesbaar en frisse originele inzichten. De titel is ‘Is de maat nou echt vol?’. Joop begint zijn verhaal met de constatering dat hij al 30 jaar dagelijks vanuit zijn dorp per fiets en trein naar Amsterdam op en neer beweegt. Hij ziet en hoort minder vogeltjes, voorheen vrije en groene ruimte is opgevuld met woningen en/of asfalt. Hij vindt dat jammer en vraagt zich af of hij vanuit zijn economische instrumentarium iets rationeels kan zeggen over dit gemis. Er is toch sprake van groei geweest? Dat is toch goed? Of is Nederland te vol?

Opmerkelijk feit: Nederland is tusen 1500 en 2000 qua bevolking met een factor 15 gegroeid, waar dat bijvoorbeeld in Frankrijk en Belgie slechts een factor 4 en 6 was. De belangrijkste reden voor deze uitbundige groei was economisch van aard en had te maken met de hoge vruchtbaarheid van katholieke gezinnen op zandige grond met intensieve landbouw (goedkope arbeid voor familie ondernemingen). Vanaf 1970 wordt Nederland een immigratieland. Het immigratieoverschot van Nederland bedraagt in 2009 40% (van de aanwas van 89.000 zielen is 51.000 eigen kweek, de resterende 40% immigratie). Op de totale bevolkingsomvang is de immigratie in dat jaar 0,9% waar dat in de VS in dat jaar 0,3% is. De politieke redenering is meestal: bevolkingsgroei (of dat nu eigen kweek is of immigratie) is nodig voor economische groei. Maar is dat ook zo?

Als nieuwe aanwas van dezelfde kwaliteit is als het bestaande potentieel dan is er geen effect op het inkomen van ingezetenen. Je hebt dan gewoon een nieuwe bewoner met een nieuw inkomen maar per inwoner verandert er niets (behalve dat er minder ruimte beschikbaar is, maar zie later). Dus om er iets mee op te schieten moet er sprake zijn van anderssoortige kwaliteiten van nieuwe aanwas. In de jaren 50 en 60 is vooral sprake geweest van (laaggeschoolde) gastarbeiders en berekeningen van de WRR tonen aan dat sprake is geweest van een positief netto effect van 0,15% van het nationaal inkomen. Het gaat hier echter vooral om een verdelingsprobleem. De werkgevers (kapitaaleigenaren) gingen er 3,15% op vooruit, de factor arbeid ging er met 3% op achteruit. Immigratie was vooral in het voordeel van kapitaaleigenaren (en van aan de import complementaire beroepen als ambtenaren, managers, boekhouders etc), maar pakte door de toenemende concurrentie nadelig uit voor arbeid.

Een toename van laaggeschoolde arbeid leidt dus niet tot een wezenlijke toename van het inkomen per hoofd. Is het antwoord dan om hooggeschoolde arbeid te laten instromen? Hartog betoogt dat om enig effect te bereiken je heel veel mensen van een fors hoger niveau moet importeren. Bovendien werkt de causaliteit volgens hem andersom: een hoge economische groei trekt hooggeschoolde buitenlandse werknemers aan en niet andersom. Bovendien rendeert onderwijs in het buitenland (het inzetten van onderwijs op een andere plek dan waar je het hebt genoten) slecht. Slimmer is het dan om je hele bestaande beroepsbevolking een iets hogere scholing te geven. ‘Het is beter de kwaliteit van de ingezetenen te verhogen. En ruim baan aan talent te geven. Tussen 16 miljoen mensen is genoeg talent te vinden’.

Kortom: we moeten het helemaal niet van een grotere beroepsbevolking hebben. En dan hebben we het nog helemaal niet gehad over de factor ruimte of grond. Grond heeft in tegenstelling tot arbeid en kapitaal de eigenschap dat het niet of nauwelijks reproduceerbaar is. Grond wordt dus steeds schaarser en dus duurder. Een simpele calculatie van Hartog brengt hem tot de stelling dat een stijging van de bevolkingsdichtheid met 10% tot een daling van het inkomen per hoofd leidt van 2-3%. En dan komt misschien wel het sterkste stuk van het betoog: de richtingaanwijzer van ons economisch handelen staat verkeerd. Nog steeds gaan we in onze redenering uit van het inkomen per hoofd van de bevolking berekend op de traditionele manier, dat wil zeggen op basis van verdiende Euro’s. Maar het is algemeen bekend dat inkomen op deze manier niet gelijk staat aan welvaart of welbevinden (wat niet wordt geprijsd in de markt telt hier niet). Er is geen rekening gehouden met kosten van externe effecten als congestie, lawaai, criminaliteit en schade aan het milieu. Wil de besluitvorming serieus rekening houden met dit soort effecten dan moet er een nieuw kompas komen. Wat ik niet wist is dat Sarkozy een aantal topeconomen (o.a. Joseph Stiglitz en Amartya Sen) opdracht heeft gegeven uit te zoeken wat een goede opvolger is voor het gangbare BNP (Bruto Nationaal Product). De uitkomst van de studie is volgens Hartog indrukwekkend (dank voor de tip, ik ken het rapport niet maar moet het zeker bekijken, er is overigens ook een samenvatting beschikbaar voor bestuurders). Op basis van de inzichten uit het rapport heeft Hartog zijn eigen berekeningen gemaakt en komt hier tot de voorzichtige conclusie dat de echte groei flink lager uitvalt dan op de traditionele manier berekend.

Tegenwerping: als we zelf geen mensen meer hebben dan gaat het fout, kijk bijvoorbeeld naar de vergrijzing en te weinig handen aan het bed. De vraag is wat er in zo’n geval echt fout gaat en voor wie. Hartog komt met een wat sinister empirisch tegenvoorbeeld. In de middeleeuwen is een periode aan te wijzen waar door de pest en andere verschrikkelijke ziekten tweederde van de bevolking verdween. Ging het daarna met de dunne overblijvende bevolking helemaal verkeerd? Integendeel. De schaarste aan arbeid leidt tot hogere beloningen voor arbeid en daarmee tot arbeidsbesparende technologische innovaties. Hartog maakt gewag van een periode van ongekende bloei daarna die een aantal indrukwekkende nieuwe technologische vindingen met zich mee bracht.

Eigenlijk is het ook allemaal niet zo nieuw. Het is, zeker onder economen, al langer bekend dat (bevolkings-) groei ook nadelige effecten met zich meebrengt. Dat het BNP de verkeerde wegwijzer is is ook niet nieuw. Maar waarom dan, zo luidt de hamvraag, is er dan zo lang gestuurd op een grotere beroepsbevolking en meer economische groei? Om een lang verhaal kort te maken: de economen zijn in een vroeg stadium buitenspel gezet, advies over immigratie werd het domein van sociologen en cultureel antropologen. Het ging niet om het dorre schriftje van kosten en baten maar om positieverbetering van de immigranten, hetgeen aansluiting vond bij een breed politiek sentiment. Wijzen op de nadelen van immigratie was politiek niet correct. Hartog wijst ons er ook op dat dit politieke sentiment beslist anders is geweest. In de jaren 50 stonden de troonredes nog in het teken van een overschot aan arbeid en actief gestimuleerde emigratie van Nederlandse burgers.

Rudy van Stratum

 

 

 

Geplaatst in Algemeen, Literatuur, Opinie, Rekenen.

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