It’s a serious problem, finally getting serious attention:
Throughout the developed world, lowered birth rates and family breakdown will have a devastating effect on the global economy and the welfare state’s viability, says an international study released Oct 3.
“On current trends, we face a world of rapidly aging and declining populations, of few children — many of them without the benefit of siblings and a stable, two-parent home — of lonely seniors living on meagre public support, of cultural and economic stagnation,” says the study, entitled “The Empty Cradle: How Contemporary Trends Undermine the Global Economy.”
Co-sponsored by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) and pro-family groups in the United States, the Philippines, Spain and Colombia, the study shows even developing countries such as Iran, Lebanon, Chile, Thailand and South Korea have seen their lifetime births per woman shrink to fewer than two from averages as high as six. Canada’s birth rate is only 1.5 children per woman.
While fewer children are born overall, increasingly higher numbers are born “out of wedlock,” either to single mothers or co-habiting parents whose relationships studies show are less stable than those of married couples, the researchers say. In Canada, 25 per cent of children are born outside of marriage, but in Quebec that figure rises to 63 per cent.
The study examines how urbanization, higher education for women leaving them options outside of marriage, the high cost of raising children and tendencies to delay child bearing to years when fertility naturally falls all play a role. The study also notes that social-security systems and private pension plans “paradoxically provide incentives to remain childless or limit family size.”
“In advanced economies, citizens no longer must have children and raise them successfully in order to secure support in old age,” the study says. “Instead, the elderly in developed countries have largely been able to rely on health and retirement benefits paid for by other peoples’ children: that is, working-age adults who are currently paying the taxes for public pensions.”
But as the birth rates fall, the study shows, there will be fewer and fewer of these workers to support the needs of a growing cohort of retiring seniors.