Are low birth rates really such a problem?


#1

I often read about how the populations of Europe and Japan are aging, because couples aren’t having enough children to replace themselves. People are spouting all of these fears about the elderly losing their pensions and privileges, and how working age adults are going to have to support a huge amount of old people.

And yet nothing is said out how those same adults aren’t going to have to support children. Think about it. A low birth rate reduces the amount of children in a way that balances the increase in retiring folk. People would end up spending more on geriatric care, but wouldn’t have to worry about competing for a house in a good school district, buying a minivan, building up a college fund, getting kids braces, or any of the other expenses associated with having kids.

This is just my take on the issue. What does everyone else think?


#2

We had to watch something 4 years back (wow, it really was 4 years…) about how certain countries will have a very weird ratio of young to old people. How young people in those countries will even get a better education, because there will be less children in the class rooms.

And how other countries will have mass migration because they’re so over populated. Wish I had the video, it was actually very informative and not biased at all (no sarcasm). If anyone knows what I’m talking about, can you post it?


#3

Yes i would like to peep that video


#4

I too have thought about this.


#5

Thats only true if you believe the market will never correct itself. Birthrate shouldn’t effect the cost of a minivan or braces and a number of other expenses associated with having a child, as far as competing goes, do they ever run out of braces? Plus competition in general brings prices down. As the population decreases the number of people providing goods/services dentists, car dealerships, etc decrease and with less competition would probably come higher prices.

Its also different because children are on a timer, once they reach a certain age they can make their own money and support themselves, but after a certain amount of year it doesn’t fall on the parent anymore. For older people there is no set time that they will be using up funds in the system, its until they die, which with modern medicine is getting further and further away.


#6

If you’re willing to raise him from the dead, Harold Shipman* will be happy to take care of your overabundance of geriatrics.


#7

I like how you solution to the overabundance of old people was BRINGING PEOPLE BACK FROM THE DEAD. :looney: Then what happens when the zombies get on social security?


#8

Lower birthrate means less people to tax. That means as more people enter old age and put more stress on government sponsored services, there’ll be less income later on to actually support those services.

Plus, having fewer young people means having a weaker work force, which means you wouldn’t be able to compete as well as you normally would in a global economy.

. . .IMO. Those are the two biggest problems that come to mind with a low birth rate.


#9

Old people won’t die. People keep having kids at an alarming rate. Overpopulation is what’s gonna end the world. Not Global Warming,Armageddon, World War Whatever,2012 or anything else . For the sake of the planet we need a genophage virus like Mass Effect.


#10

they will not have to support children, but they will not be supported BY children (at this point, adults) when they are older.

retirement is messed up enough on its own but we have people in countries like japan that work throughout their entire life.

raising kids is kind of like investing. these older people may have an easier time in their middle ages but we need that constant influx of new births to keep civilization going


#11

send me there and they wont have that problem.


#12

Declining birthrates from an Economic and Politcal standpoint can have devastating consequnces in the medium and long terms. If we think about the causes of decline in birthrates, we learn that the primary factors are an increase in national secularization, increase in the percentage of women in a national workforce, a lack of proper incentives to encourage couples to have children, and the availablity of contraceptive technology. If we look at countries like Japan, Italy, Greece, Sweeden, we see all four factors to some degree at work. Japan and Sweeden are highly secular, Greece pays lip service to its orthodox traditions, Italy pays lip service to its catholic roots. All have a higher percentage of women working today than they did thirty years ago. Most of these countries don’t want to address low birth rates or are actively pursuing the wrong policies to deal with it…

On the consequences front we have to remember that the factors that lead to lower birthrates tend to more prevalent in indusitralized nations and therefore exist in countries that have generous public based pension systems or some type of social security. As the percentage of retireees increases in terms of percentage of population, that leaves fewer workers to bear the tax burden necessary to maintain not just the previous level of pension payout, but an increased rate of pension payout since most of these systems are tied to cost of living increases and the sheer volume of retirees in this model has gone up. Of course, when you increase taxes on a smaller number of people, their standard of living decreases which causes two problems. One, they’re less happy and less inclined to work since more of they’re wealth is transfered into the public security net which they do not get to use for an extended period of time which leads them to make one of two choices.

Work more (I.E. less time for baby making) to maintain their previous standard of living, or work less (Further decreasing their standard of living). Now individuals will each make those decisions, but if you’re decreasing your standard of living, you are going to be less inclined to bring children into the world since that would further decrease their standard of living and if you work more, you’re less likely to have children because you don’t have the time to emotionally invest in them (This is particularly true in European countries where we find that couples may actively choose not to have children because they do not feel they can provide the same emotional environment for their children as they had growing up, i.e. the big greek family or italian family)

So this creates a depopulation spiral which can have a circuitous impact over the long term to an economy. Greece right now is burdened by tons of public debt because they can’t afford their existing pension system and have had to borrow for years to try to make it work (that’s part of the story of Greece’s debt, but its an important one)

Politically, particularly in representative democracies, older people tend to be over represented as it is by public interest as they have more resources to spend on lobbying, donating to campaigns, they have more effective interest group integration etc. in large part because they tend to vote in a higher percentage than other voters. Now, what happens to a democracy that becomes even more in tune with the desires of an older population as their percentage of the population increases and their political competition is decreasing? The government becomes even more apt to listen to their concerns and to enact legislation central to the retirees agenda to maintain their political power. So instead of being able to pursue policies which might reign in public pension spending and move towards a system that would be more equitable, they are likely to maintain the status quo or to pursue an agenda of even more wealth transference which amplifies the economic problems listed above.

Maintance of a population is really very important. Even slight population decreases can be dealt with over time if policies are put in place to make this adjustment easier, but that doesn’t tend to happen very often so we see depopulation really causing problems in many industralized nations.

Now for the United States, we have a lower level of secularization than any other devleoped nation, and religious couples tend to have more children than non religious couples. This helps offset some of those impacts. But even with that said, the average births per couple in the United States has continued to drop and now is at around 2.3 children per white couple which is the minimum necessary to maintain a population level, and that number reflects the tendency of reliigious couples to have more children. Where the United States continues to experience significant population growth is in immigration. Particularly hispanic immigrants continue to make up a larger and larger portion of our immigrant population and because they tend to come from less developed nations they tend to have more children, hence the average amount of children per hispanic couple far higher. This of course could have notable sociocultural impacts for the country in the near medium term, but that’s a small lesson on the problems of depopulation.

(Disclosure: My Ph.D. Dissertation in Economics was on the sociopolitical impacts of population effects on constitutional governance and open market policies)


#13

It’s too bad this problem wasn’t in Africa…


#14

I’d watch out. Canada has tons of problems of its own. Government Health Care Spending is consistently over budget. Canadian birth rates continue to go down, there’s comparatively very little low education immigrants into Canada… Prime Minister Harper used to have a backbone but now he’s content to govern over the status quo since he can’t get a majority government (but effectively acts like one since the Libs can’t get their act together and the NDP, Greens, and Separatists are all crazy…). Let’s not forget that Canada is borrowing its fair share of money too. It’s much earlier in the process, but I’m sure the Canadian Government has seen glimpses of the future and hopefully will enact policies to put Canadians on a more sustainable path…

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being its no worry at all, and 10 being we have 4 people left and inbreeding has become the only way to maintian our population, Canada is at a 3, but going higher.


#15

Not an issue. We’re overpopulated and need more people like we need a hole in our collective head. Only really a problem if you believe that there will be more immigrants than natives in certain countries and you’re worried about racial purity or some other KKK shit.


#16

Need more young people. What the world needs is a good plague.


#17

I just saw a thing on TV last week that Japans set to lose some 60% of it’s work force byt 2030. That’s over half.


#18

Not really dude, its sort of a natural downside of domocracy. If you believe in anything seriously, the thought that a group of people who believe the opposite can simply move into your country and outnumber you and change that way of life for you should at least slightly scare you shitless.
It has nothing to do with racial purity and everything to do with the fact that democracy is a numbers game.

I’m not saying anyone should hate immigrants, im just saying it is an issues and is at least plausible in these types of situations over a relatively short period of time.


#19

it is considering we see Idiocracy coming true around us every day. Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, teabaggers, birthers…the stupid breed more than the smart


#20

This notion that you should base immigration policy primarily on how well you are educated doesn’t hold much water. Though we may need a lot of skilled workers here in Canada down the road, don’t forget that these “uneducated” immigrants will have children who will end up more than likely having a good education in the future.

Although I’m an immigrant myself(My family moved to Canada when I was 8, this year it will be 16 years that I have been here), I can honestly understand if the original population of a country becomes worried about mass immigration. Case in point, Britain would be a great example.

However, if your immigration policy involves proper integration initatives, than you can work to have the right balance that you are seeking in the long run. This obviously will not work in all countries, but it is a start.