I have, on occasion, noted in my Secondsight column in the Catholic Herald that decreases in our birthrate promise problems in the future. Last week there was a strongly written article by Dennis Sewell. If you get a chance to read it, take it. (Issue 17/3)
The fact of the matter is that our fertility rate has dropped from 2.7 in 1960 to 1.8 in 2014. The rate required to reproduce the population is 2.1. This means that working taxpayers will be supporting a larger and larger proportion of golden oldies. And that’s before we take into account increased longevity and the possible prospect of cures from cancers and other conditions.
It is not just us. The fertility rate across the EU is worse at 1.5. The Japanese have suffered economically from this problem for several years; they were introduced to widespread contraception following WWII by the Americans. The Chinese face a more serious problem from their ‘one child only’ policy. Although the policy has been changed I understand that their culture is so habituated to tiny families that they now prefer it.
We may assume that the availability of convenient contraception was necessary for this to occur. (Though we may remember that abortion also plays its part.) But with it come other factors. I discuss this from time to time with my grandchildren and I find that they regard a small family as an ideal. Their concern is whether to have it early in their careers or later when they are better established. I note also that they favour partners who will play a bigger, perhaps equal, domestic rôle when this is needed. They are good and thoughtful people, but it’s gender equality nowadays. I just moan because I only have three great grandchildren so far. An email I received today tells me that a fourth is on the way. (Hallelujah!)
We are told that Mrs Merkel looked to improving the German situation by encouraging large numbers of immigrants. The theory was fine because immigrants tend to be hardworking, and to have slightly larger families, but look what happened to her. We need immigrants too. Of course we should be able to monitor the rate and the timing but I wonder how easy that would be in a democracy whose workforce dislike competition for their jobs and their houses.
So what are the solutions? I write this somewhat smugly, having 22 descendants so far. At great family parties I feel I have done my bit. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
(A little post scriptum) “Professor Savage (of the BMA) told the Mail on Sunday that forcing women to give birth to a child of a sex they do not want to have “is not going to be good for the eventual child, and it’s not going to be good for (the mother’s) mental health.” She advocates free choice at any stage in the pregnancy. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/sex-selective-abortions-any-stage-pro-choice-bma-ethics-wendy-savage-british-medical-association-a7638901.html )