Financial Times April 20th, 2022
Baby Bust: Can policymakers boost dwindling world fertility rate?
The Institute for Family Studies in the USA measures the ”Preferred number of Children”. It does this for different countries around the World. The Financial Times compared these numbers with the latest actual numbers. The results show a clear pattern of couples appearing to aspire to more children than they have. In South Korea, for example, the actualbirthrate is now 0.9 babies per female. The aspiration is 1.92. In Spain the aspiration is 2.15 and the actual 1.2. In most countries the aspiration is close to the replacement level. In China aspiration is 1.9 children, Japan2.01, and the UK 2.2.
Elsewhere on this site, I have laid out the economic and social pressures holding back the number of children. Women are certainly having their first child later. Fertility in both sexes is falling faster with age than it every used to. Some of this can be due to behaviours such as obesity and smoking. Some is due the impact of chemicals from plastics affecting hormone production. In a recent press interview Shanna Swan who wrote “Count Down” said that extrapolating current trends:
“by 2045 we will have a median sperm count of zero”
The UN says that 62% of all countries with sub-replacement level have policies to promote fertility. This includes 66% of all European countries. Those incentives include baby bonuses, family allowances, and parental leave for bothparents.
France first offered incentives to families as long ago as 1980. They started offering support for families with three or more children. In 1994 they dropped this to only two children. Allowances have also been given to parents who choose to stop working to raise a child. Tax credits are offered for childcare.Unfortunately throughout this period, fertility in France continued to fall. There is little evidence, to date, that any governmental policy to promote fertility has worked. Unless Governments can find the correct mix of policies the worlds populations will shrink and age.