Sunday, February 20, 2005

A problem too few people have recognized

There is a great article on Tech Central Station about the dramatically low birth rates in the European Union. This is a dire threat to the European's system of governance with their lavish subsidies, pensions, and benifets as a population shrinking with each passing year is not going to be able to maintain the welfare state. Thus when their fertility rate is only 1.34 and in and around that number there are good reasons to be afraid, be very afraid. The Europeans have tried to deal with the problem by proferring all sorts of benifets for child rearing, however, it would seem the continue decline in population would indicate that this regiment of subsidies has been entirely unsuccessful.

But here's the thing. Even though these countries introduced such grants to give people incentives for having children, their fertility rates have continued to fall and remain below replacement level.

According to the British Office for National Statistics, between 1970 and 2000 the total fertility rate for 15 EU countries fell from 2.38 children per woman to 1.48 - or by 38 percent. Belgium, where family allowances were first introduced in 1939, experienced a fall in fertility level of 26 percent. France, so generous in giving all kinds of allowances, has a fertility level 24 percent lower than 30 years earlier. In Germany the drop was 33 percent, in Ireland 52 percent, in the Netherlands 33 percent, and in Spain 58 percent, to a fertility level of 1.23 which is the lowest ever recorded in Europe and causes great concern.

The end result?

Today EU countries worry about low fertility rates because they see in them a threat to the system of pensions and allowances and to their dream of a "social paradise". Therefore they speak of making the elderly work longer or letting immigrants in. They do not perceive a real problem behind the current decrease in population. But it is of no importance that the pensions system will collapse, nor that the welfare state will have problems - in fact, all the better, for it will end sooner rather than later.

The real problem is that too few people mean slower development, fewer inventions, lower economic growth and poorer living conditions. For it is thanks to human beings that we have the internet and computers, washing machines and hair dryers, planes and cars, new and better drugs. Most of the things that make our life comfortable and long were invented at a time when population growth in Europe was at its fastest. Unfortunately, all those who - even in good will - support the family benefit philosophy act against the family itself. They act to the detriment of their own children, however few they will ever have.

This worries me as exactly the same analysis can be applied to Canada. Our fertility rate to my recollection is approximately 1.5. This is well below the replacement rate of two, and far behind the American rate of 2.4. Its a worrisome trend as the demographics of an aging population will ultimately make our current social services untenable and unsustainable, and they will direct affect our standard of living as it will remove the dynamicism of youth from our country. On the other hand I'm in the camp that won't shed many tears over the collapse of socialism. However, I'd prefer to see it phased out to do the least damage to those whose aged states renders them dependant upon it.

So basically, go fornicate and be fruitful your country needs you.


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