Posts Tagged ‘fertility rate’

Europe has to decide – immigration or tax incentives for having children

April 1, 2018

The latest fertility statistics in Europe present an unsustainable picture. Nowhere is the fertility rate at or higher than the replenishment rate of 2.1 live births per women. The average for Europe is under 1.6 with a mean age of 29 for a woman having her first child. France and Ireland have the highest rates but still less than 2.0 followed by Sweden, the UK and Iceland (all between 1.8 and 1.9). The lowest rates are in Poland, Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy (all less than 1.4).

These levels are unsustainable.

A declining population if left to itself would lead to a catastrophic population implosion. The Black Death in England (1348-1350) reduced the population by over 30% and it took the country almost 100 years to recover. Europe today is relying on immigration to compensate for the low fertility. Initially, immigrants have a higher fertility rate than the society they move in to but within one generation they too display the prevailing fertility rates. Just relying on immigration creates social stresses and is also unsustainable.

Within the next twenty years most European countries will have no choice but to introduce tax incentives for having more children. In fact it is necessary now.



Government policies shifting to encourage increase of fertility

March 15, 2015

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.


The freedom not to breed is the coming demographic challenge

December 26, 2014

Alarmism has its downsides. It is always cowardly since it requires actions (and inactions) to be subservient to fear. The actions proposed by Alarmists are very often coercive in the name of the “common good”. But the Alarmists are nearly always wrong.

For over 40 years we have been brain-washed by the Malthusian alarmism of catastrophic population growth, catastrophic resource consumption (peak oil, peak gas, peak food), catastrophic loss of biodiversity and catastrophic environmental change. The population alarmism was expounded in 1968 in Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons”. Garrett Hardin was one of the leading lights of the population doom-sayers. His paper became a classic but is a classic example of the arrogance of the Alarmist, overwhelmed by the fear of doom and looking down at the “Commons” from on high. It was the conclusion of the Hardins of this world that “coercion” was both necessary and acceptable to control breeding which led to the coercive sterilisation programmes and the one-child policy.

Freedom To Breed Is Intolerable. To couple the concept of freedom to breed with the belief that everyone born has an equal right to the commons is to lock the world into a tragic course of action.

Unfortunately this is just the course of action that is being pursued by the United Nations. In late 1967, some 30 nations agreed to the following :

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society. It follows that any choice and decision with regard to the size of the family must irrevocably rest with the family itself, and cannot be made by anyone else.

It is painful to have to deny categorically the validity of this right; denying it, one feels as uncomfortable as a resident of Salem, Massachusetts, who denied the reality of witches in the 17th century. ……. If we love the truth we must openly deny the validity of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, even though it is promoted by the United Nations. …….. 

The only way we can preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed, and that very soon. “Freedom is the recognition of necessity”–and it is the role of education to reveal to all the necessity of abandoning the freedom to breed. Only so, can we put an end to this aspect of the tragedy of the commons.

As van Dalen and Henkens put it

…… the Malthusian assertion that the earth’s capacity to support mankind is outpaced by population growth. The main proponent of this view was Hardin (1968), who explained this idea more fully in his classic article,
“Tragedy of the Commons.” ……. it is the central thesis behind Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Hardin related the tragedy directly to the problem of overpopulation, and his conclusion was therefore quite unequivocal: “Freedom to breed will bring ruin to us all” 

There are numerous political pressure groups in the international arena trying to establish zero or negative population growth in order to prevent a “tragedy of the commons.”

Al Gore like Hardin before him is another example of an arrogant Alarmist.

We are now less than one hundred years away from a general population decline across all countries of the world. It is already a reality in many countries. Development and economic growth and the emancipation of women has achieved far more than forced sterilisation programmes. The Chinese one-child policy has only anticipated by a few years what development would have achieved anyway.

Japan’s population will be down to less than 90 million in 2060 compared to the 128 million today. The replacement fertility rate is 2.1 births/woman in industrialised countries and about 2.3 -2.4 in countries with higher mortality rates. Already (2014) more than half the world’s population has fertility rates below the replacement level. Europe as a whole has a fertility rate of less than 1.6. So has China. Japan is at 1.4 and Singapore is down at 0.8. More than half the states of India are at below the replacement rates and half are just above but declining fast. Countries which have significant immigration from developing countries initially see a boost to their fertility rates but that tends to be short-lived as immigrants are assimilated and also exhibit the rates applying to the country’s level of development. In parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America where fertility rates are higher than the replacement rate, they are declining fast.

Hardin got it quite wrong. As with all Alarmist memes, he was more than just a little condescending of the “Commons” but his worst mistake was allowing his fear to exclude common sense. The freedom to breed is no guarantee that any breeding – let alone uncontrolled breeding – will occur. In fact, it is the freedom not to breed which could make humanity extinct.

Many countries are now seeing population declines in rural areas which are significant enough to affect local tax revenues and cause the deterioration of infrastructure and social services. All over Europe, rural areas see growing needs for health and social services for the elderly and declining demands for children’s services. Skilled craftsmen leave because the client-base is declining. The public sector in rural areas is tending towards being both underfunded due to the loss of tax revenues and over-staffed (and mis-matched) for the declining and ageing population. It is not that planners are not aware of the challenges.

The reality is that fertility is reducing (and subsequently population is peaking), not for lack of resources but because of new technologies and the shift of attitudes that they have brought about. The factors well correlated with a decline of fertility are fairly well established, even if the mechanisms by which these factors affect attitude are not certain. Some of the clearest factors – where many are interlinked – are:

  1. the availability of contraception,
  2. the emancipation of women,
  3. women being an integral part of the labour market,
  4. economic development (GDP)
  5. the decline of infant mortality,
  6. the decline of mortality rates and the increase of longevity
  7. the availability of TV
  8. the availability of safe abortion procedures

Some of the changes of attitude which can also be observed are of couples marrying later (or not marrying), of women having children later and a social acceptance of being childless. It is the spread of the ability and of the freedom not to breed which dominates fertility rate decline.

While we can observe the decline of fertility rates all across the world, we have no clear notion of how fertility rates can be increased. Many countries have tried but few – if any – have succeeded in increasing fertility rates. Russia has tried many times and failed.

In 1944, as Russians were being ground up in the war against Germany, Josef Stalin created the “Motherhood Medal” for women who bore six children. …….. In 1955, Nikita Khrushchev surveyed the nascent Western overpopulation mania and declared it a “cannibalistic theory” invented by “bourgeois ideology.” ……….

None of it worked, then or now. The Soviet Union’s fertility rate—that’s the average number of children a woman bears during her lifetime—declined throughout the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. The only brief period of increase came during the late 1980s. And then it resumed decline.

Putin’s initiatives haven’t fared any better. The Russian government declared demographic victory in 2012 because there was an increase in the crude number of births. “The demographic programs enacted in the past decade are, thank God, working,” Putin said. But most demographers believe this is a statistical ghost—the slight spike in fertility rates during the late ’80s created a relatively fat cohort of women now in their prime childbearing years. So while the number of births has increased thanks to the size of this cohort, Russia’s total fertility rate has remained very low. The CIA World FactBook puts it at 1.61.

Singapore, Spain, Japan and South Korea have all instituted programmes to increase fertility rates but – at best – they have had limited and only temporary success.

Where fertility is increasing, it is often a result of delayed childbearing caused by a long-term shift in childbearing patterns or by marriages delayed by an unfavorable economy. In Sweden, the peak age group of childbearing for women is now 30 to 34, up from 25 to 29 in 2001. In Russia, childbearing below age 25 dropped sharply after 1990 so that women ages 25 to 29 are just as likely to have a birth as those ages 20 to 24. A similar pattern has emerged in Ukraine. …… 

Many governments have moved to address the problem of low fertility and extreme societal aging. In Russia, couples can receive about $9,000, a huge sum, for a second or subsequent child. Child payments are lower in Ukraine, but are still significant. Singapore has introduced beneficial tax packages and lengthened government-subsidized maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks. Spain introduced a 2,500 Euro payment for each birth. Other countries debate ways to encourage childbearing, without reaching a consensus. In Japan, there has been much discussion in government and the media on steps that might be taken but little has actually been done. The very slight rise in births from 2007 to 2008, heralded in the press, was almost entirely due to births to non-Japanese resident in the country.

Iran has shifted from promoting birth control to promoting more children. Ayatollah Khamenei has implemented a 14 point plan to avoid a population implosion but the fertility rate is still stubbornly declining.

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. …. 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.

The fertility increase programmes around the world generally offer various forms of financial incentives – by way of grants or tax breaks or subsidies – for additional children, but the declining trends have not been arrested.

By 2100 the world population will be between 10 and 11 billion and a fertility rate of -perhaps – about 1.9. To remain at such a level is unsustainable of course, but the real question is what are the behavioural forces which could increase fertility rate. Certainly financial incentives will help but their effect seems weak. An Alarmist of the 22nd century would no doubt suggest coercive and compulsory artificial insemination and ban abortions for convenience. But parents resentful of children they are forced to have seems counter-productive. Better no child than an unwanted child. The social engineering needed to ensure that sufficient breeding takes place – but not too much – will be the challenge of the 21st century.

Maybe it will happen naturally. No doubt children will be given higher value when they are in short supply. But I suspect that behavioural change, leading to the desire to have more children, will only come when there is both an elevation of status and of the financial condition of the mother. I can imagine a time where the social accolades and real benefits for having children are more than sufficient to outweigh the perceived disadvantages. But a woman’s career is also linked to fertility rate and there is an obvious trade-off between caring for a number of children and a woman’s working career. An increase of fertility may be necessarily connected to a reduction of time spent on the labour market. Abortions for convenience may come to be impacted more by social acceptance and social pressures than by any religious or moral considerations. Having children may afford social prestige.

The countries of the former Soviet Union maintain the highest rate of abortions in the world. In 2001, 1.31 million children were born in Russia, while 2.11 million abortions were performed – 62% of all conceptions. Currently about 25% of all conceptions worldwide are aborted. In Japan, the overall abortion rate dropped from 26% to 22% of all conceptions between 1975 and 1995 but these rates are thought to be under-reported. These numbers are not insignificant since a  dangerously low fertility rate of 1.6 – for example – would increase to 2.1 without the 25% abortion of all conceptions. It is conceivable that abortions will come to be permitted only for serious health issues for the mother or for the foetus.

But the bottom line is that every freedom has a corresponding duty. And so does the freedom to breed. There has to be a perceived duty to breed but not to breed indiscriminately.

Decline of Indian fertility rates is accelerating but some worrying demographics

December 23, 2014

Just over a year ago the average fertility rate in India was 2.5 (where the replenishment level is 2.1) and over half the country was at levels below 2.1. With corresponding declines in infant mortality the projections were for population to reach a peak between 2040 and 2050 and to decline slowly thereafter. But new data for 2013 from the Registrar General shows that fertility is declining faster than expected. The average is already down to 2.3. By 2020 the country as a whole will have an average fertility rate below the 2.1 needed for maintaining a constant population (the replenishment rate). However, infant mortality rate has declined slower than expected. India’s population will therefore likely peak closer to 2040 than 2050.

The HinduThe 2013 data for the Sample Registration Survey (SRS), conducted by the Registrar General of India, the country’s official source of birth and death data, was released on Monday.

India Fertility 2013 - graphic The Hindu

India Fertility 2013 – graphic The Hindu

The SRS shows that the Total Fertility Rate – the average number of children that will be born to a woman during her lifetime – in eight States has fallen below two children per woman, new official data shows.

Just nine States – all of them in the north and east, except for Gujarat – haven’t yet reached replacements levels of 2.1, below which populations begin to decline. West Bengal now has India’s lowest fertility, with the southern States, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Among backward States, Odisha too has reduced its fertility to 2.1.

“At 2.3, India is now just 0.2 points away from reaching replacement levels. Fertility is declining rapidly, including among the poor and illiterate. At these rates, India will achieve its demographic transition and reach replacement levels as early as 2020 or 2022,” Dr. P. Arokiasamy, a demographer and Professor at the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, explained to The Hindu.

Some of the demographics are worrying.

  1. The ratio of women to men is low (average 909 women per 1000 men). Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have women /men ratios of less than 900 per 1000. I suspect that it is these states which have the lowest levels of emancipation of women and tend to have the highest fertility rates as well. It is clearly the level of development in the state – and not least the emancipation of women – which impacts the fertility rate.
  2. The shortage of women in urban areas (Delhi – 887/ 1000), is probably also due to the general shift of young males seeking employment from rural to urban areas. I wonder if this is also one of the contributing causes for the higher incidence of rape and sexual harassment in places like Delhi.
  3. Countrywide, the mortality rates for infants and children upto 5 years old is higher for girls than for boys.
  4. Abortion rates for female foetuses are also higher than for male foetuses.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s 14 point plan to avoid a population implosion

May 31, 2014

It is becoming increasingly obvious that population implosions in many countries  – not population explosion – is what faces humans by 2100.

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.

Reuters: In his 14-point decree, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said increasing Iran’s 76 million-strong population would “strengthen national identity” and counter “undesirable aspects of Western lifestyles”.

“Given the importance of population size in sovereign might and economic progress … firm, quick and efficient steps must be taken to offset the steep fall in birth rate of recent years,” he wrote in the edict published on his website.

Khamenei’s order – which must be applied by all three branches of government – in effect replaces the “Fewer Kids, Better Life” motto adopted in the late 1980s when contraception was made widely available.

The 14 points are (AlMonitor):

  1.  Fertlity rate to be increased above replacement level
  2. Barriers to marriage are to be eliminated, the allowable age for girls to marry will be lowered and young couples will get state support for housing
  3. Improved medical facilities during pregnancy and medical treatment for male and female infertility will be made available and health insurance will cover childbirth.
  4. Public education will emphasise the importance of the family
  5. Islamic-Iranian values and lifestyle will be promoted and undesirable influences from abroad will be discouraged
  6. A healthy lifestyle is to be encouraged and addiction to drugs and pollution will be attacked
  7. Care for the elderly shall be improved
  8. Public education shall equip students with relevant and marketable skills
  9. An equitable distribution of dwelling space must be achieved across the population
  10. Actions shall be taken to retain the rural poulation in their villages and near the borders
  11. Immigration into and out from Iran shall be actively managed
  12. The Iranian diaspora outside of Iran must be encouraged to invest in Iran and for the country to make use of their skills and abilities
  13. A national identity must be strengthened and propagated to encompass especially those living in the border regions and even those outside the country
  14. The population policy is to be closely monitored

The slogan of “Fewer Kids, Better Life” has now changed to “More children, a Happier Life”

Iran - Israel total fertility rate Google public data

Iran – Israel total fertility rate Google public data

It certainly has not escaped notice in Iran that Israel has a steady fertility rate of about 3 children per woman.

Whether this will halt the trend is not certain.

Iran will not be alone in encouraging higher fertility rates. For some countries the population implosion is already approaching and a matter of great concern.

BusinessWeekJapan is expected to see its population contract by one-fourth to 95.2 million by 2050 … making it the fastest-shrinking country in the world. Former Eastern Bloc nations Ukraine and Georgia came in second and third …. 

……. “Europe, Korea, and Japan have gone into panic mode,” says Carl Haub, a senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. A declining population impacts a country’s economic growth, labor market, pensions, taxation, health care, and housing, according to the U.N. Globally by 2050, the number of older persons in the world will exceed the number of young for the first time in history, according to the U.N. The imbalance will create havoc in the pension systems and make it difficult to support retired and elderly persons, Haub says.


Without immigration OECD populations will be in decline and in crisis

The inexorable numbers – 10:10:10:100 is inevitable around 2100

China relaxes highly successful one-child policy

ktwop posts on demographics

Population decline is looming

April 6, 2013

I have posted earlier regarding the population decline that is inevitable if the fertility rates around the world continue to decline as they are doing. The declining fertility combined with the increase in longevity and the problems of aging pose new challenges of maintaining the growth and maintenance of the infrastructure that we would have become used to. In a hundred years from now the challenge could be a real shortage of labour.

The challenge in 2100 will be to maintain the balance between those “producing” to those “supported” in a declining and aging population. Perhaps immigration or population migrations or  productivity increases by the use of robots and an increase in the age one joins the “supported” population will be parts of the solution. I have no doubt that solutions will be found, but the “overpopulation problem” would have left the stage. ….

The majority of children being born today in the developed world will live to be over 100 years old.

Now as Science 2.0 reports another model simulation shows that  The Looming Population Implosion is inevitable and just a mathematical consequence of falling fertility rates.

Total fertility by major regions, 1950-2100 (children per woman) (UN)

A model based on global population data spanning the years from 1900 to 2010 has caused a research team to predict the opposite of what Doomsday Prophets of the 1960s and beyond insisted would happen –  the number of people on Earth will stabilize around the middle of the century and perhaps even start to decline. 

The results coincide with the United Nation’s downward estimates, which claim that by 2100 Earth’s population will be 6.2 billion, if low fertility and birth rate continues on its current path, below the 7 billion we are at now. 

The numerical model developed by a team from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and the CEU-San Pablo University seems to confirm the lower estimate, in addition to a standstill and even a slight drop in the number of people on Earth by the mid-21st century. The population prospects between 1950 and 2100 provided by the UN were used to conduct the analysis published in the journal Simulation. 

“This is a model that describes the evolution of a two-level system in which there is a probability of passing from one level to another,” as explained to SINC by Félix F. Muñoz, UAM researcher and co-author of the project. …… 

……. The team considered the Earth as a closed and finite system where the migration of people within the system has no impact and where the fundamental principle of the conservation of mass –biomass in this case– and energy is fulfilled.

“Within this general principle, the variables that limit the upper and lower zone of the system’s two levels are the birth and mortality rates,” Muñoz pointed out and recalled the change that occurred in the ratio between the two variables throughout the last century.

“We started with a general situation where both the birth rate and mortality rate were high, with slow growth favouring the former,” he added, “but the mortality rate fell sharply in the second half of the 20th century as a result of advances in healthcare and increased life expectancy and it seemed that the population would grow a lot.

However, the past three decades have also seen a steep drop-off in the number of children being born worldwide.”

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