Jill touched on this in the Daily Outrage post, but I wanted to expand on it further. Via the inimitable Twisty, an article from a newspaper in Qatar(!) about the handwringing going on in Britain because the young wimmins aren’t pumping out the babies fast enough.
LONDON: Britain is facing a “baby gap” of more than 90,000 births per year as middle-class professional women delay motherhood to build a career, a report said yesterday.
As a result, many women have fewer children than they planned because they postpone starting a family until too late in life, the report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found.
Apparently this is also a concern in Germany as well, as 30% of German women are childless, freaking out the government. And Japan is quite upset that young women aren’t getting married and not having babies, so the government has taken to lecturing and hectoring them. Not understanding, I suppose, that lecturing and hectoring is exactly what young Japanese women are trying to avoid by not marrying.
There are some practical reasons for being concerned about a low birth rate, as any member of Generation X can tell you: who’s going to be paying for pensions and retirement when the postwar generation starts retiring?
But there are other concerns as well. From England:
A fall in fertility could have serious long-term consequences, including higher taxes to pay for public services.
“Britain is now at a demographic fork in the road and in danger of taking the wrong direction,” IPPR Director Nick Pearce said in a statement. “Although our population is rising, a fall in fertility would have serious long-term consequences.
“It would make it harder to earn our way in the world and to pay for valued public services.”
and from Germany:
Germany was plunged into an anguished debate yesterday about how to encourage reluctant couples to breed after new figures showed Germany with the world’s highest proportion of childless women.
Thirty per cent of German women have not had children, according to European Union statistics from 2005, with the figure rising among female graduates to 40%. Germany’s new family minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said that unless the birth rate picked up the country would have to “turn the light out”.
All this, of course, is coded language: what they’re concerned about is that the white people will be bred out, given that immigration is one of the fixes for the pension problem. I suppose I’m a tetch unsympathetic, given that I live in a particularly demographically heterogeneous city (the borough of Queens alone is one of the most diverse spots on Earth) in a heterogeneous country of immigrants. I just don’t know what it’s like to live in a homogenous society. Even when I was living in Connecticut, in a lily-white suburb, there was diversity of white ethnicities, so much so that whenever I went to an Irish bar for St. Pat’s, and there was a crowd of mostly Irish people, I found it a bit creepy. And I’m Irish! Too damn many people around who looked like me.
Of course, despite the whole melting-pot thing, the US is not immune to natalism. David Brooks spews it from his perch at the New York Times. You have these people and their scary, scary hair, and the movement they belong to. You just know they’d have an issue with black families having that many kids. And then there’s Pat Robertson, who thinks that Europe is committing “racial suicide” because of the declining birth rate. Some other religious yahoo, whose name I can’t remember, has spouted off about “willful childlessness.” In the 21st Century.
You’ll notice that the focus of all this anguish is on the women. Seems that the powers that be have realized that while they weren’t paying attention, women figured out that being mothers, or at least being mothers young, wasn’t necessarily the best deal in the world. From England:
A woman forgoes 564,000 pounds in earnings over her lifetime if she has her first child at 24 compared to a similarly educated childless woman – but if she waits until 28, she will lose out on 165,000 pounds.
That’s just four years, but a HUGE difference. And honestly — what the hell is the difference, physically, between 24 and 28? 24 and 34 or 44 I can see, but why encourage motherhood young if it’s going to mean the resulting child won’t have the advantages of the mother’s increased income?
It’s well-known that as women’s education and self-determination increases, the number of children they bear goes down. And certainly, since reliable, women-controlled contraceptives have been available, women who don’t want to have children don’t need to choose between marriage and childlessness like they did in the old days. And it’s becoming more socially acceptable for married couples to deliberately choose not to have kids.
Happily, at least the German government seems to understand that men have a role to play in child-rearing, even if German men are reluctant to accept it:
Prof Schneider said several factors were to blame for Germany’s low birth rate, including inadequate childcare provision, a school day that ends at 1pm, and old-fashioned attitudes among employers. By the time they had finished university, and found a good job, many German women were already in their mid-30s, he said.
“We have a situation where if a woman wants to take time off to have children, that’s accepted. But if a man asks his firm if he can go on leave to look after a child his career is finished. It’s taboo. This isn’t just a woman’s problem – it’s a man’s problem.”
He added: “The classical family picture is still very much alive in Germany. Women are expected to look after the children while men go out and work.”
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