Government policies shifting to encourage increase of fertility

Increasingly countries must now resort to long term and official policies to try and increase their fertility rates. In Japan government policy is all about providing incentives for couples to have more children. In Iran government policy is moving from exhortation to “go forth and multiply” to now the banning of vasectomies and discouraging contraception and abortion. Of course the Iranian measures are drawing much criticism from groups which believe that this is making women into baby-factories! European countries have been addressing this by their immigration policies even if they rarely admit that declining fertility is a problem. I note that addressing the ageing problem is politically acceptable but that admitting a fertility problem is not. Equally, promoting immigration as the combined solution for both fertility and ageing is not electorally attractive. But the reality is that fertility and ageing as potential problems are lowest in those European countries which have permitted significant immigration (UK, Germany, France, Sweden ….).  Over the next 20 years an increasing number of countries globally will have to include policies explicitly to address ageing and the decline in fertility. In European countries where the reaction to immigration is strong, there will inevitably be a move towards more restrictive abortion regulations since attempts to be restrictive on contraception would be futile. It will not have escaped the notice of demographers and policy planners that in Europe there are about 25 abortions for every 100 live births. I can envisage the situation where having a child (and especially a second child) is of such value to a society that it is prioritised over being free to work. A steady increase of incentives in the form of child benefits and tax breaks can be expected.

In Japan, of course the population implosion problem is real and is already under way. The fertility rate is currently at 1.29 (replenishment 2.1) and not only is population declining but the ageing problem is gathering pace. By 2050 population will drop by about 30 million from 127 million today to about 97 million. At the same time the proportion of the population over 65 will increase from about 25% today to about 40%. The impact on the critical ratio of “working population” to “supported population” is even more severe. And so the Japanese government is introducing further policy measures.

japan fertility berlin institut

japan fertility berlin institut

Japan’s fertility rate for decades has continued to decline. The sharp fall in 1966 is attributed to a superstition according to which women born in the year of the Fire Horse will bring grief upon their future husbands (Source: NIPSSR 2006; Schoppa 2008).

BBC: … Local authorities will get government support if they organise speed-dating or other forms of matchmaking, according to a draft policy outlining measures to increase the number of people having children…… 

The government wants to do more than just encourage those early days of romance, though. The draft includes plans to improve access to free nursery care, and for counselling centres to be set up across the country for people undergoing fertility treatment. There’s also a target to boost the number of fathers taking paternity leave immediately after their baby is born to 80% by the year 2020. …

Iran has been aware of their coming fertility problem since the late 1980s but has relied so far on exhortation to try and increase fertility. Last year the Ayatollah Khamenei issued a 14 point plan to improve fertility rate.

Iran has seen its fertility rate reduce from close to 7 children per woman in 1960 to around an implosion level of 1.8 per woman  at the current time. For a stable population the replenishment rate required is 2.1 children per woman. Through the 1980’s Iran ran a free contraception program and the birth rate plummeted. So much so that Iran is facing a coming crisis of population implosion.

The Ayatollah Khamenei has taken notice and issued a 14 point plan to increase the fertility rate.

Iran – Israel total fertility rate Google public data

But now legislation is being introduced and two new bills will ban voluntary vasectomies and be much more restrictive on contraception and abortion. Human rights and lobby groups such as Amnesty are opposing the legislation on the grounds that they would  “entrench discriminatory practices and expose women to health risks”.

I am not so sure that the Iranian legislation is coercive in itself. I think it  is attempting to make having a baby the default rather than not having a baby. Both Japan and Iran have very little immigration which can help their numbers though there are signs that Japanese politicians are  trying to pave the way for some future immigration.

But over the next few decades, an increasing number of countries will have to come to grips with population implosions and ageing.

 

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