The future is already on its way

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 )

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Church and Society, Moral judgment, Pope Francis and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to The future is already on its way

  1. tim says:

    Professor Savage’s comments are unsupported by evidence. They are simply what she’d like to believe. Positively Trumpian!

    • John Thomas says:

      – But you would not wish to even vaguely suggest, would you, that Trump is in any way pro-death, like the Professor? Someone not knowing the facts might think you mean this. Besides, Prof. Savage is believing what she would like to become / be made to be the case.

      • tim says:

        I didn’t mean to suggest Trump is pro-death. A ‘Trumpian’ statement (for me) means one which is propounded with more concern about the effect it will have than with how it relates to the facts.

  2. G.D. says:

    I’m sure the (earthly) powers that are will figure a way of ridding society of the imbalance.
    Seems to me they have already started in Britain by decimating the health care system. Many ‘golden oldies’ won’t last as long as we used to due to that.
    Wouldn’t be surprised if enforced euthanasia (for the greater good of course) will soon be passed in law.
    Or maybe the GM foods can be genetically fixed to target oldies and get rid of us …
    Brave New World that it is!

  3. No need to worry for a few decades yet: UK population 2015 64 million. 2100 82 million

    • Quentin says:

      Gerry, the key factor in this issue is the proportion of taxpaying earners to the retired. The total population, in this country at least, is a secondary issue.You will have noticed recent further discussion on extending the retirement age in order to alleviate the problem. But. given different occupations, this is a crude answer. You also have the difficulty of senior people staying in office longer, thus preventing others from further promotion.

      • For decades it has been obvious that we would have to live simpler lives and have smaller pensions and that pensions must start at a greater age. Hard though this is it is better than the troubles that would come if the population rose well above 100 million. Surely at some point we must stop the population growth? We can’t go on increasing for ever..

      • Quentin says:

        It is a truism that we cannot have an infinite size of population unless we have infinite resources and space. So that is not my point. I am concerned with changes in the reproduction rate. If the reproduction rate decreases substantially then there will be a disproportion between the young population and the existing population. Which is what I describe. It arises from the relatively recent facility of contraception, although there are other factors. Were the rate of reproduction to steady at some lower rate the disproportion would work its way through and out. But this would take several generations.

        As you will know better than most, the gravity and urgency of the effect varies from one country to another. It is serious enough for Western societies already; it will be cataclysmic for the Third World as contraception spreads and standards of living (which lead to a wish for smaller families) improve.

  4. St.Joseph says:

    Gerry Danaher.
    Perhaps the problem lies with the cost of unnecessary space travel and we looked closer to earth, on the works of mercy.
    Jesus fed the 5000 on 5 loaves and two fish. He did not cut the numbers down.
    There are other answers.

  5. Olive Duddy says:

    The low reproduction rate in Europe is partly due to the effect of abortion. In this country 500 babies each day are aborted. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service writes that two thirds are due to failed contraception. That is both user failure and method failure.
    The government have with great enthusiasm, been pushing contraception. The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists have now accepted the Natural Methods are effective and they do not have deleterious side effect.. women still die from hormonal contraception,strokes , pulmonary embolism, and heart attacks, depression and increase risk of cancer and infertility.

    There is a bill before parliament which will bring in abortion until birth.. Why does the catholic Herald have not a word about that?

    • tim says:

      Olive, maybe because they think that it has no hope of passing into law. I hope they’re right! (it survived the first reading). And maybe they don’t wish to give it “the oxygen of publicity”?

  6. Geordie says:

    St Joseph, space travel has brought huge technological advances to the world, which, in turn, have brought huge progress to the human race, especially the third world countries. A much higher percentage of people are being fed now than were ever fed in the past; and that is in spite of a growing population. Hunger in the world is due to wars, greed, dictators, corruption, waste and general selfishness.
    Here are some of the technology developments due to space research:-
    laser treatment; huge advances in computing; rapid communication; satellite monitoring of the
    Earth’s surface predicting storm patterns, temperature changes and impending disasters.
    The list goes on. We should thank God for space travel.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Geordie.
      As I said is it all ‘necessary’?

    • tim says:

      Geordie, I’m not convinced that space travel has hugely helped the third world. But it has had lots of useful spin-offs – communications satellites, for example, and satnavs. And measuring global temperatures from space (suggesting that these are not rising as fast as terrestrial measurements indicate). Curiosity-based research often leads to unexpected benefits.
      More generally, life is getting better for most of us. We live longer, and there are fewer hungry people (though still too many). In the last half of the last century, there were many prophets of doom (some will remember the ‘coming ice age’ – others the forecast that millions in India and Egypt would inevitably starve to death). One such prophecy was that better treatment of strokes would mean people living longer but in greater decrepitude – in fact today after strokes people do (on average) both live longer and have better health than formerly.

  7. Martha says:

    There really does not seem to me that there is much advantage in planning and devoting huge medical resources into prolonging our ageing lives too much, unless on the whole they can be expected to be reasonably active and healthy, similar to the proportions of healthy and unhealthy lives in the rest of the population, with similar expectations of recovery from medical interventions, (from which I hope St. Joseph is benefiting.)

    I am sure this is a minefield, but it really does seem to me to be a major reason for fearing that there will be great problems caused by generational inbalance. The retirement age has already been increased, and will probably soon be increased further, and so, if more of us remain active for longer, I think there is a good prospect that things will even up.

    I

    • St.Joseph says:

      Martha.
      The strange thing is that the doctors are amazed that I am still alive ,they say that no one has lived longer than 10 months ,and it is not through medical intervention that I am living 3 years longer that when I was diagnosed.
      I did go to Lourdes straight away. I am not cured ,still have cancer, however coping with Gods help. with no treatment only when I am jaundiced with fallen out stents, 6 up to now which they don’t know why!!

  8. St.Joseph says:

    Martha.
    Thank you, and the prayers of others, apparently I hold the world record according to my Consultant yesterday!

  9. Geordie says:

    St Joseph, don’t you think it is necessary to warn people of impending disasters so that they can protect themselves and their children? The miniaturization of computers, which was stimulated by space travel, has resulted in amazing medical advances. There are many more examples. These things may not seem necessary but they are greatly beneficial to mankind.

  10. St.Joseph says:

    Geordie.
    Of course it is necessary-however it is also necessary to prevent disasters which are happening ‘now’ , natural disasters , disasters with millions of babies being aborted, earthquakes, etc, where has space travel helped thousands of children dying now of starvation from lack of medical care ,homlesness, disease , Yes maybe due to wars, however help could be more with the money spent.on space travel.
    I did read that the only benefit from reaching the Moon was a stronger frying pan, if that is correct.
    Also those people who are prepared to spend millions for the opportunity to travel into space..
    We ought to get our priorities right..
    My grandson of 24 was telling me today how his friend from their Catholic school goes to Greece to help the refugees ,giving his life up to help them voluntary with hardly any finance, how is space travel helping them from drowning in the sea etc., or feeding them,
    Medical advance has not helped my illness . Only prayer! Thanks be to God.

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