My great-grandmother Louisa Gilroy had 10 siblings. Her husband, my great-grandfather Joe Fagalde, had 12. Joe and Louisa raised three sons. Those sons, Clarence, Louis, and Lloyd, had two, three and no children respectively. My dad, one of Clarence’s two sons, had two children. My brother has one biological and one adopted child. I have non
Lest this start to sound like tiresome “begats” chapter in the Bible, I’ll stop there. What I’m saying is each generation seems to be having fewer children. Experts who study these things are starting to worry. We have this huge bulge of baby boomers who are all moving into their senior years, leaving fewer younger adults not only to care for them but to do the work needed to keep society going. Also fewer people to contribute to programs like Social Security and Medicare in the U.S.
It’s not just here.
Recent news reports have talked about how Japan’s birth rate is the lowest it has been since the 1800s. The population is aging rapidly, with a shrinking number of workers.
The median age is 49, highest in the world. The government has been offering incentives such as more parental leave and childcare allowances, but it’s not having much of an effect. Young couples are just not that interested in procreating. It costs a fortune to raise a child in Japan and young women pursuing their careers are not eager to take on a traditional role raising children.
The same thing is happening in China, where the population is decreasing. The situation was exacerbated by the one-child policy put in place in 1980, where it was illegal to have more than one child. Now that has backfired. Deaths exceed births, and the workforce is getting smaller. The one-child rule ended in 2015, but young people raised in homes with only one child are not jumping to take on the costs and sacrifices of having multiple children.
Many other countries are looking at aging populations and fewer births. Why? We at Childless by Marriage can tick off the reasons:
* Birth control and abortion offering more choices
* Women waiting until their late 30s or early 40s when their fertility is already waning
* Couples struggling to finish their education and build their careers before having children
* The high cost of raising children
* The lack of support such as childcare
* Being attracted by other options in life
* Infertility and other health problems
* Partners who are unable or unwilling to have children
* The rise in divorces and multiple marriages, increasing the chances that childless people will marry partners who have already done the parenting thing and don’t want to do it again
For most people, it’s probably a combination of reasons. Nearly all of us shudder at the thought of the enormous families of a century or two ago, especially when we consider that these are just the ones that survived birth and childhood. It’s relatively safe now, so why not have a couple of kids? But a lot of people are saying “no thanks.”
When I was young, the buzz was all about the horrors of overpopulation. Read 1970’s The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich. That book caused a lot of couples to choose the childfree life. Fifty-three years later, we still have too many people. Look at traffic, pollution, starving people in third world countries, and the homeless camping on our American sidewalks. The problem is more who and where than how many.
I’ll be gone by the time the low birth rate is a major problem, but what do you think?
Do population numbers have anything to do with your own childless situation? If your government was pleading for more babies, would you have children for the sake of your country? Or does that seem ridiculous?
I welcome your comments.
6 thoughts on “Dropping Birth Rate has Many Governments Worried”
Interesting one. We’re childless by circumstance because of health reasons, but even if we weren’t it would be a struggle even for two university graduates with established professional jobs. Our generation had to contend with high house prices, high rents, the credit crunch and paying for a higher education that was free to our parents. There’s an interesting conversation to be had about what the expectations and preferences of modern couples around being primary caregivers and co-parenting really are. The choices my peers make seem surprisingly conservative to me. As far as governments are concerned, no amount of tax incentives are going to offer easy solutions.
Thank you for this insightful comment.
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It’s a very selfish developed-country-centric problem which infuriates me every time I hear a country’s leaders complaining about it, because the global population is exploding. We don’t need the birth rate to increase. We need it to decrease. I remember that book, and learning about “replacement only” two children families decades ago when the global population hit 4 billion. It has almost doubled now. (If I’d been lucky enough to have kids, we would have stopped at two.) Population decline in developed countries can easily be supplemented by immigration, balancing population pressures across the planet. (Elder care services etc are already dominated by immigrants in NZ, the UK, etc.) The growing global population creates pressures on the environment, food resources, etc etc. But we’re not allowed to talk about people having too many children. Population growth is a taboo subject it seems in the climate change debate. Sigh. Don’t get me started! lol
I think I already got you started, Mali, but I totally agree. There are plenty of people if you look at the world as a whole. Too many, in fact.
What I especially dislike is the rhetoric in some quarters that targets childless & childfree people as a problem and seeks to not only stigmatize us but penalize us for something that, for many of us, is a situation we didn’t choose and couldn’t control.
So very true.