The Death of Birth — Our Dismal Fertility Rates

Through Collapsed Fertility Rates, We Are Self-Exterminating

Archive for the 'Population Aging' Category

United Kingdom: Breakdown of Male-Female Relationships and the Devastation of Society

“Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the Women’s Movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.”
— Sheila Cronan, Radical Feminism “Marriage,” Koedt, Levine, and Rapone, eds., HarperCollins, 1973, p. 219

Recent events have addressed the breakdown of male-female relationships and the resultant impact on society in the United Kingdom.

On April 4, Justice Coleridge, a Family Division judge in Wales and England, described family breakdown as “cancerous,” and stated, “almost all of society’s ills can be traced directly to the collapse of the family life.”

Coleridge also said, “We are experiencing a period of family meltdown whose effects will be as catastrophic as the meltdown of the ice caps.” He added that the threat to society is as great as that posed by “terrorism, street crime or drugs.”

The judge lay the blame for the calamity largely at the feet of the government, asking and then answering, “What is government doing to recognize and face up to the emerging situation? The answering is ‘very little and nothing like enough.’”

Needless to say, the government quickly defended itself with the declaration that “70% of families are headed by a married couple.”

Seventy percent. That means that nearly one in three families are not headed by a married couple. For insight into the significance of this fact, consider Justice Coleridge’s statement, “I’m not saying every broken family produces dysfunctional children but I am saying that almost every dysfunctional child is the product of a broken family.”

The salient point is that a 30% rate of broken families is enough to produce most social ills. And marriage is in free fall in the UK. According to recently released statistics from the Office for National Statistics, marriage rates in England and Wales have collapsed to their lowest level since nuptial record keeping began there in 1862, nearly 150 years ago.

In terms of raw numbers, this was the fewest marriages since 1895.

The dramatic decline since 1951 can be seen in the following graph.


Note that this figure shows the number of marriages. The fall in marriage rates has been greater, because the population has grown over this period from about 50 million in 1951 to 60,587,300 in mid-2006.

An associated collapse in birth rates is reflected in the following population pyramid.


Current social systems require a pyramid with a relatively large base decreasing to a point at an age above 80. Instead of this, the United Kingdom’s population pyramid displays a dangerous roughly cylindrical structure with a falloff above the age of 60.

The UK’s aging population is the result of declines in both the mortality rate and total fertility rate. This has led to a declining proportion of the population under 16 years-old and an increasing proportion 65 and over. Very soon, a relatively small number of younger adults will have to support a large elderly cohort. This will make it more difficult to afford children, and the society could fall into a death spiral with even fewer youths to support the elderly while trying to afford children.

Marriage is disappearing in the United Kingdom. The country is rapidly aging. Social systems will soon be unsustainable at anything near their current level. And, in the words of Justice Coleridge, the government is “fiddling while Rome burns.”

The Coming Acceleration of Population Aging

Wolfgang Lutz is a highly respected demographer specializing in the sub-field of fertility rates. With co-authors Warren Sanderson and Sergei Scherbov he has published an article in Nature magazine (vol. 451, pp. 716-719, February 7, 2008). The piece, titled “The coming acceleration of global population aging, examines the aging that will occur worldwide over the next several decades as a result of reduced fertility rates and increased life expectancies.

They conclude that the speed of aging will increase over the next several decades and then being to decrease by mid-century. This does not mean, however, that the aging will cease. In fact, their research indicates that populations will continue to get older throughout the century. They predict that globally the average human age will rise from 26.6 in 2000 to 37.3 in 2050. By 2100 they expect the average age to have reached 45.6 years-of-age “when it is not adjusted for longevity increase.” They also predict an 88% probability that the world’s population will stop growing some time during this century.

An abstract of the Nature paper can be found here, along with the opportunity to purchase the entire report.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis has published an interview with Lutz that can be read here.

China: Aging Amid Population Explosion

 Map of China

 Very much a developing country, despite its recent economic advances, China faces the combined challenges of massive population and rapid aging. The nation’s one-child policy, often eased in individual cases, has led to a below-replacement fertility rate of 1.75. Nevertheless, the population continues to rise as it ages.

According to Professor Wang Feng, professor of sociology and demography at the University of California, Irvine, China’s over-60 cohort will burgeon from 140 million to 200 million by 2015, an increase of 43% in a mere 7 years. He also projects that, by 2030, the number will reach 300 million, roughly today’s population of the United States, the world’s third most populous nation. In the past, the elderly have relied on their children for support. Unfortunately, they will soon need the support of children that they never had — the Chinese government estimates that the one-child policy has reduced birth totals by 400 million.

Recent reports out of Beijing have given mixed impressions regarding the future of the one-child policy. Earlier this week, however, the head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission stated that the standing policy will remain in force for at least another decade. Estimates of the time scale vary, but it is clear that sometime during the next decade, a large number of women will enter their prime child-bearing years. Once they have aged a bit more, national fertility rates are expected to plummet. As shown in the following graph, in 2000 a large number of females were in the 10 to 14 age group. This year they range from 18 to 22 and in 2015 this group will be 25 to 29 years old — prime childbearing years. Far smaller numbers of women will follow.

China population pyramid 2000

China has wedged itself between the proverbial rock and hard place. The nation’s developing infrastructure struggles to support the country’s current numbers, yet low fertility rates have led to an old population with relatively few young workers to depend on.

The situation in China should give warning to the United States, whose population continues to grow at a high rate, largely because of immigration. The US would do well to adjust its system of transfer programs before it becomes necessary to drastically reduce immigration and fertility rates.

The elderly will continue to depend on the young, yet no piece of land can support an infinite population.

The Danger of Collapsed Fertility Rates in Scotland


Folks in Scotland got a dose of reality recently when a study concluded that population aging and collapse portend serious socio-economic difficulties.

Media accounts, of the report, titled “Baby blues” and “Warning over ‘falling population’” may increase concerns over the future welfare of the country, but it’s difficult to know exactly what the government or populace can do to stave off a crisis.

Scotland’s Demography Research Programme, a two year study carried out by academics at five Scotland universities, states that within the next ten years the nation’s population may fall to its lowest level since the 1940s. It also warns that current trends pose “challenges” for the future. On average, the most desired family contains 2.48 children. In practice, however, the average family has only half this many kids.

Considering the gravity of the situation, it is curious that researchers and the press continue to minimize, if not utterly disregard, the role that men play in determining the number of children. The article “Baby blues” makes this bias apparent. Though fathers are mentioned in passing, the slant is made clear with statements such as “Less mysterious is what can be done to make having larger families a more attractive proposition to women.” A person would have to be comatose to be unaware of the growing outrage on the part of fathers who have been largely cut out of their children’s lives after divorce. The organization “Fathers for Justice,” formed in the United Kingdom, has done a great deal to raise awareness of this problem. As a result, an increasing number of men are steering clear of fatherhood and even marriage. A financial boost of a few hundred pounds, or even a few thousand, may not lead many women to have more children, if men are not interested.

The “Baby blues” article quotes SNP MSP Kenny Gibson as stating that stability rather than prosperity is key to increasing birth rates. “When the Scottish economy was driven by heavy industries, its birthrate was higher than the rest of the UK. People worked for the same company all their lives — they might not have been wealthy, but they felt secure. Today, the job market is completely different. People don’t tend to stay in the same job…” Once again, the elephant in the room is being ignored. In speaking of stability, one should consider the lack of stability in marriage today. When a man faces a roughly 50% chance of divorce, often followed by separation from his children, he may be far less likely to take on the job of fatherhood. This is obvious, and it is foolish for academic, media, and government pundits to ignore the fact.

It should also be noted that the UK provides a baby bond of £250 (about $500 US) to new mothers. Compare this to the stated cost of raising a child to the age of 21 — £186,000 (about $372,000 US). In other words, the baby bonus amounts to little more than one-tenth of one percent of the cost of raising a child. It is an unfortunate fact that children born to wealthy and well educated parents on average grow to be greater earners and tax payers. (Remember, one of the great threats of population aging is dire economic malaise. Far higher taxes will be needed to support the elderly.) A wealthy adult may be relatively unmoved by the offer of £250 to have a child. A poor woman, quite possibly single, who is wondering how she’s going to feed herself, may be more likely to take the bait. Perhaps it would make more sense to deny the bonus to the wealthy and to, instead, provide services such as further education and job training to poor adults, especially when they have kids.

Along this same line, one should note that greater female education directly correlates with reduced numbers of children. Again, this situation does not bode well, since children of less educated women will, on average, contribute less economically to the nation and, in many cases, will receive extensive subsidies during childhood and even as adults. In addition, poor children are more likely to be born to single women, adding to the plethora of social ills that accompany fatherlessness. This is not to say that the poor shouldn’t have children. It is to say, however, that we do ourselves no favors by exacerbating the already significant divide between low fertility rates of the well-educated wealthy and the relatively high fertility rates of the undereducated poor.

There can no longer be any question that advanced societies the world over are facing grave problems because of collapsed fertility rates. In trying to mitigate the growing crises, they need to reconsider payments to women to have children, especially the wealthy and the unmarried. They also need to accept the fact that men play a crucial role in determining the number of children.

The Threat of Thailand’s Low Fertility Rate


Those, who think that the collapse of fertility rates threatens only the most highly developed nations, should take a look at this article, published in “The Nation.” (Thailand [per capita GDP $9,200 in 2006] is marching toward high development, but it isn’t, for example, Japan or France [per capita GDP $33,100 and $31,200, respectively in 2006].)

As the article states, “Kua Wongboonsin, a population studies expert from Chulalongkorn University, said the problem of dropping fertility rates needed immediate attention.” The country’s fertility rate has fallen from 6.3 in 1964 to 1.61 in 2005 (1.64 2007 estimate). According to Wongboonsin, social and economic problems are bound to result.

The world would do well to remember 1997-1998, when the collapse of the Thai currency (the baht) damaged many economies of southeast Asia and sparked fears of an international financial meltdown. We’re all deeply interconnected, and far too many nations are facing severe problems as a result of collapsed fertility rates.