Once upon a time China had a one-child policy. By government edict couples were only allowed to have one offspring. The policy was designed to solve the problem of overpopulation. And also the problem of mass starvation and poverty.
Apparently, the policy has worked so well that, as of last year, it was being changed to a two-child policy.
Europe, and not just Europe, is facing a different problem. Underpopulation. Young Europeans are not reproducing at a sufficiently high rate to maintain the population. They are reproducing below what is called the replacement rate. Over time this means that ethnic Europeans will die out and their nations will be taken over by peoples who are reproducing at much higher rates.
Quartz offered this sobering assessment:
The average fertility rate in the EU was 2.4 children per woman in 1970, but dropped to 1.5 in 2013, according to the OECD. The OECD says a rate of 2.1 is required to ensure a stable population, so rates below this are bad for countries with aging populations, generous social services, and sclerotic economies. (In other words, for Italy.)
And Jonathan Last explained it this way:
The fertility rate is the number of children an average woman bears over the course of her life. The replacement rate is 2.1. If the average woman has more children than that, population grows. Fewer, and it contracts. Today, America's total fertility rate is 1.93, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it hasn't been above the replacement rate in a sustained way since the early 1970s.
The nation's falling fertility rate underlies many of our most difficult problems. Once a country's fertility rate falls consistently below replacement, its age profile begins to shift. You get more old people than young people. And eventually, as the bloated cohort of old people dies off, population begins to contract. This dual problem—a population that is disproportionately old and shrinking overall—has enormous economic, political and cultural consequences.
When fewer young people pay into the social welfare system a nation might need to import young people from the outside. Otherwise the system will go bust or the elderly will see their benefits cut. Of course, this requires refugees to go to work and to earn their way. If refugees go on welfare, it compounds the problem.
In Italy, the Health Minister recently tried to solve the problem by declaring something she called a “Fertility Day.” She might have used the old standby—“be fruitful and multiply”—but she did not. Whereas the Biblical injunction was addressed to a couple, the Italian Health Minister addressed herself to women, in particular to women who had been postponing marriage and family. Similar programs had been known some success in Denmark and Russia.
It sounds absurd to proclaim a national day celebrating procreative sexuality, but, like it or not, it has come to this. Of course, the Minister notwithstanding, it is not merely a woman’s problem.
The New York Post reports:
The Italian Ministry of Health is in hot water after launching a campaign for a Fertility Day, which is exactly what it sounds like.
The country, which faces a declining birth rate that’s putting its economy in danger, is urging anyone who can make a baby to do so on Sept. 22. “Fertility is a common good,” the campaign urges.
The outcry was swift and vehement. How dare the health minister remind women of their biological clocks?
The New York Post continues:
The Ministry has since removed the initiative’s Web site (fertilityday2016.it), but the bizarre and even offensive images created for the campaign live on. One ad urges, “Beauty knows no age. Fertility does.” Another reads: “Young parents. The best way to be creative.” With the unemployment rate at 42 percent for Italians ages of 15 to 24, writer Giulia Blasi points out that there may be better ways to get creative than popping out a kid you can’t afford. She argues that Italy’s efforts would be better spent making it easier for women to balance motherhood and work.
As one might expect many feminists want the government to solve the problem. But, then again, if the problem reflects a stagnant economy and an absurdly high youth unemployment rate, then perhaps free market reforms will be more effective.
Think about this: how many young Italian men are sufficiently solvent to want to marry and start a family? Rumor has it that many young Italian men are still living at home, cared for by mothers who are perfectly happy to feed them, to clean up after them and to do their laundry. Why trade that in for diaper duty and Mr. Mom?
One imagines that the problem has something to do with the fact that pregnancy has become the modern version of what used to be called “the curse.” For many feminists pregnancy has become a patriarchal plot designed to keep women chained to their homes and out of the workforce.
And yet, the problem of a low replacement rate extends to places like Iran and Japan and Russia… so it is difficult to pin it entirely on Western feminism.
Certainly, a stagnant economy demoralizes the population and produces a generalized feeling of depression. As we know, this condition causes diminished libido.
And, in our modern age, procreation does not seem quite as urgent as it once did. Low infantile mortality rates and increased longevity have made it easier to defer and delay having children. Not too long ago people did not have a very long lifespan. High infantile mortality rates induced people to have more children. If you expect that some of your children will not live past childhood, you are more likely to want to have more children. If you expect that your male children will be sent off to war you are more likely to want to have more children. If you have a shorter lifespan you will be more likely to want to start having children earlier.
Also, if governments do not provide pension programs you are more likely to have more children… to take care of you in your old age.
And yet, reason, many young men are no longer capable of supporting families. Among the better educated this has produced a declining marriage rate and declining fertility. It is the responsible thing to do. But, the less educated and the less talented continue to reproduce at higher numbers.
Feminists believe that it will all be solved once we have more government policies that protect a woman’s right to be a working mother. Yet, what if women and men are on the same page. What if women are balking about having children because they do not want to work and be mothers at the same time? What if women would prefer to have the option of staying home with their children?
Men who are no longer breadwinners do not want to take on responsibilities they cannot meet. And women who cannot find husbands who can support them also do not want to take on responsibilities they cannot meet as they would wish.
We are not going to solve the problem tomorrow.