Why Don’t We Want Babies Anymore?
The world is facing a terrible calamity because of the shrinking number of births. The global total birth rate has declined a stunning 50 percent in the past 60 years. This is changing the security and fundamental structures of most countries.
The reason for this decline is often attributed to the many problems we are experiencing today, such as stress caused by the pandemic, and international political and economic uncertainties, leading to a fear of the future.
It is not the hard times, however, that are causing the failure to have children. Even in 1935, during the height of The Great Depression, Canada’s birth rate was 2.75 children per women of childbearing age. This was more than sufficient to replace ourselves. In 1935, however, the birth control pill did not exist and abortion was illegal. This undoubtedly contributed to the positive birth rate at that time, even in an extreme economic situation. The contraceptive pill was made legal in Canada in 1969, when PM Pierre Elliott Trudeau legalized its use, along with legalizing abortion in some situations, and homosexuality. Two years later, in 1972, the Canadian birth rate had fallen to 1.97 children per woman of childbearing age. It has continued to remain well below replacement level. The birth rate in 2019, the last year that statistics are available, was 1.47 births per woman of childbearing age.
Low Birth Rates – Other Countries
China, with its population of 1.4 billion people, is experiencing a huge decrease in births, the lowest it has been in seven decades. This has sparked panic across China. The decline is partly due to decades of policies to limit China’s population growth with a one child policy. This led to fewer young people being eligible for marriage. In the last six years, the number of Chinese getting married for the first time fell by a crushing 41 percent. Moreover, the low birth rate has resulted in a decline in service-aged men, which is alarming for China’s military provocations and the decline in births potentially poses a risk to Chinese Communist Party rule.
In South Korea, years of a phenomenal low fertility rate (around 1 child per woman), have caused the country’s population to shrink. Statistics Korea forecasts that within 35 years, the population will fall below 40 million, the same population South Korea had in 1980.
Italy is also hitting record low birth rates. In 2019, births in Italy hit an historic low, in that it was the lowest it has been since Italian unification in 1861. In 2019, Italy’s birth rate was 1.29 children per woman, just ahead of Malta and Spain, which had birth rates of 1.23 and 1.26, respectively, the lowest birth rates in Europe.
The only positive news in regard to population is Nigeria, where its youth make up an ever-growing proportion of the world’s population. In fact, by 2100, Sub-Saharan Africa, led by Nigeria, will be the only region in the world still growing. This country is currently the 7th most populous country in the world. It is expected to surpass China and the United States to become the second most populous country in the world by 2100, after India. Currently, more than 60 percent of Nigerians are under the age of 24. Unfortunately, 34.9 percent of these youths are unemployed. This has created both unrest and demands for basic education and vocational training in order to assist Nigerians, not only domestically but also to improve eligibility for Nigerian immigration.
Why Aren’t Babies Being Born?
There are some characteristics that low fertility societies have in common. One is that low fertility societies occur where religious belief is weak. High fertility societies are highly religious, regardless of the particular faith. Simply put, the research shows that, with few exceptions, as religious practise declines, so does the number of births.
It is significant that the once traditionally Catholic countries, such as Italy, Spain, and Malta, ignoring the Catholic Church’s teachings, have legalized divorce, abortion, and contraception. These countries are enacting other policies opposed by the Church, such as assisted suicide and same-sex marriage. Such countries are now experiencing phenomenally low birth rates.
Do Pro-Family Policies Work?
Some countries in Europe, including Hungary, France, and Russia, are trying to address the low fertility problem by introducing policies that offer financial incentives to women to marry younger in order to encourage their having more children. Hungary is one country leading the way in these kinds of policies, but, as yet, it has had minimal success. The Hungarian National Statistical Office estimates that it has raised the number of births per women from 1.23 in 2011, to 1.48 in 2020.
Pro-birth policies can work, but they do so very slowly and they are very expensive. The reason that many ignore these financial incentives is that they ignore the important function and role of family in society. To have more children, the population must first appreciate the value of family in society so that having a family is regarded as an important component of one’s life and is regarded as providing happiness and fulfillment.
Changing Cultural Values
It seems that the declining birth rate has been caused by important cultural changes that have led to many nations becoming anti-natalist societies that no longer value the natural family. Marriage has become, to many, primarily about adult fulfillment, in order to provide self-discovery, self-esteem, and personal growth. There is no longer the concept that marriage and children contribute to society and are necessary for the future. In short, the notion that marriage is central to society has crumbled. South Korea is an example of this change: the number of marriages plummeted to an all-time low in 2020. The government had conducted a survey in 2019 which found that just 51.2% of South Koreans aged 13 and older felt obliged to marry. This represented a decrease by 14 percentage points from a similar survey in 2010.
Research on marriage in Asian societies and its effect on the declining birth rate led to the researchers recommending that the best way to deal with the declining birth rate is to promote marriages among young people. The researchers concluded that if governments remove the barriers to marriage, the marriage rate would increase, as would fertility rates. The researchers concluded that moving the focus back to valuing marriage, family, and home would refocus the Asian countries’ current focus on extended education and emphasis on having a “career”. This would reverse years of chronically low fertility.
A light on this remarkable cultural change was shed in a survey conducted in 2019 by the U.S.-based PEW Research. It revealed that only 16 percent believe that having children is essential for a man to lead a fulfilling life and that only 22 percent believe it is essential for a woman to have a fulfilling life. The same survey found that 57 percent believed that having a job or career they enjoy is essential for a man to have a fulfilling life and 46 percent said that a job or career they enjoy is essential for a woman to have a fulfilling life.
This study succinctly explains why people are not having children. It is not because times are hard or challenging, but because people perceive that a more comfortable and fulfilling life is achieved by being single, or, if married, by remaining childless. This mentality ignores the consequences of aging alone and its dire effects on society.
Children are about life and life is about caring for more than just oneself. The declining birth rate is a sign of an unhealthy culture that lacks the will to survive.