An article in the New York Times examines the question of which European social policies are most pro-natalist.
Curiously, Europe’s lowest birthrates are seen in countries, mostly Catholic, where the old idea that the man is the breadwinner and the woman is the child-raiser holds strong. Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece have among the lowest fertility rates in Western Europe. Meanwhile, countries that support high numbers of working women, like Finland, Norway and Denmark, have among the highest birthrates. How did what’s been called “the fertility paradox” come about?
One explanation is that the more traditional countries face particular challenges when their women do start to work. In these countries, the welfare of the family is still typically seen as the responsibility of individuals rather than of the government, according to Peter McDonald and Francis Castles, who are demographic theorists. And with little public support for working mothers forthcoming, women are likely to think they must choose work or motherhood. At least for now, it seems, many are choosing neither. Statistics show that women in these countries are both less likely to work and less likely to bear children than their counterparts in, say, Scandinavia.
Welfare states need high income taxpayers to fund all the social programs. So the Europeans (and the United States and other Western countries) need demographic profiles that'll generate tax revenue. But aging populations are reducing the proportion of populations that are of working age. Plus, immigration in many countries is increasing the proportion that are low skilled and low earning. So the welfare states face tough times ahead.
Pro-natalist policies getting adopted by some European countries will only deliver a net benefit if they generate more babies that'll grow up to become highly skilled and hard working.
Once genetic testing becomes cheap countries that need more high tax revenue workers would score big on future tax revenues if they provided financial incentives for women to make babies who have genes that boost intelligence and other traits that boost salaries. For example, my guess is there are genetically controlled traits that affect the compulsion to work. Once those traits are identified it would make sense for a welfare state or a socialist state to provide incentives for women to genetically engineer offspring to be smart, curious (so they'll like learning), and with a compulsion to get things done.
What I wonder: Will robots so automate child care that child care will become cheap and women will have many more babies?
Some are skeptical that government policies can boost fertility by much. Yet the French government's pro-natalist policies are working.
in 2006, France pushed past Ireland to become the most fecund nation in the European Union, with an average of two babies per woman.
The number of babies born per woman is higher among the immigrant population than among those born in France, but even the latter bear an average of 1.8 babies, far beyond the rate in neighboring Germany and Spain .
But what is the fertility rate of Muslims in France? Also, of those who are born in France who have babies not all are ethnically French. Some are Muslims too. So what is the non-Muslim ethnically French fertility rate?
Some countries are saddled with too much fertility. Sub-Saharan Africa appears stuck in a Malthusian trap where they have so many babies that their living standards stay low. The babies overwhelm the benefits of imported technologies (e.g. high yield grain crop seeds, fertilizers, electric power plants, computers, fiber optics. cars, vaccines, etc) that boost living standards in much of the world. Also, the imported technologies allow more babies to survive and since their fertility rates do not drop the tech imports just raise populations. You might ask why is that?
In industrialized countries fertility rates have dropped. But I consider this a temporary phase. Selective pressures will increase the frequency of alleles that boost fertility. Much like Elvis, Darwin is everywhere. An Australian twins study (see here and here) found evidence that alleles that boost fertility are getting selected for in Western populations. Here are the reasons I expect to see rises in fertility in industrialized countries:
What could prevent all this from coming to pass? A number of possibilities come to mind:
I do not expect democratically elected governments to effectively regulate fertility because I expect the majority to vote according to their instincts and to therefore oppose fertility restrictions. One wild card there: Genetically engineered IQ boosts might so raise intelligence of humans that they can understand and appreciate the damaging effects of overpopulation to an extent that they will support restrictions on reproduction.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2007 March 04 01:22 PM Trends Demographic|