As is usual in such discussions, Professor Sarah Harper’s analysis of the effect of stopping net immigration under Brexit (Brexit-led decline in immigration ‘will raise retirement age’, 16 January) has major flaws – failing to explore the implications of automation/robotics, and not examining the downsides of unending immigration. Her analysis only works short term, and only if other factors remain the same. Automation is likely to reduce the need to maintain the same level of workforce, so a shrinking work-age population due to rising numbers of pensioners can in principle be met without raising pension age. However, this would need a radical rethink in work-life practices and taxation. Organisations transferring conventional jobs to automation would have to be taxed to pay for a universal basic income, and at the same time the real (if not GDP-related) value of voluntary work, as is already performed by millions of carers and retirees, needs to be properly appreciated.

The other major flaw is that you cannot increase population endlessly (whether by immigration or birth rate) without eventually running up against limits – the first being quality of life. Do we want to indefinitely degrade our country under concrete simply to perpetuate the current dysfunctional economic system? Can we rely for ever on other countries providing food to import? Should we not think of what an optimum and genuinely sustainable number of people might be, and aim for that (it is probably a lot fewer than at present, especially in England)?
Anthony Cheke
Oxford

Some villagers of my acquaintance have taken a creative attitude to the ageing of their population by running a sweepstake on who in the community will pass above next. This gives them something to discuss in the pub and an incentive to look after their health and wellbeing. The grim reaper does come for us all in the end, so why not make it fun?
Murray Marshall
Salisbury

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