The Copenhagen hospital, the Rigshopitalet, has recently published a report that claims that the birth rate among Danish women is “dangerously low”.  In 2012, there were 57,916 children born in Denmark, down from over 65,000 in 2008 (the total population of Denmark is around 5.5million). More than one in five couples in Denmark are childless and the total fertility rate of the country (1.7 children per woman) is below the replacement threshold of 2.1.  

Why is the birth rate low? The report identifies:

“Part of the problem is that there are fewer women in the country of childbearing age. Couples are also waiting longer to start families, which often makes conception harder, and recent studies have also pointed to low sperm quality in Danish men.

Researchers from Rigshospitalet encouraged the government to make it more attractive for young couples to start a family.

‘Many wait too long to have children, creating a greater need for fertility treatments,’ Søren Ziebe, a clinical supervisor at Rigshospitalet, wrote in the report. ‘There is a need to raise awareness, as the problem is approaching epidemic levels.’

Ziebe and the other researchers pointed out that in the 1970s, the average age that a woman gave birth to her first child was 24 years old. Today, the average age is 29 and the number of women that are waiting until they are over 35 to conceive is increasing.”

Understandably, Danish women are waiting longer to start having children. Unfortunately though, the biological imperatives are still the same. So, more and more couples are turning to science to fix a mostly self-induced problem. However, science cannot always be the solution:

“More and more couples are using fertility treatments to conceive. Every tenth child in the country is born after fertility treatments.

‘Women are waiting longer, and that causes problems in getting the children they want, and fertility treatments do not always solve the problem,’ Katrine Bay, one of the researchers involved with the report, told Politiken newspaper.

Jørgen Grinsted, a doctor from the private fertility clinic Trianglen, confirmed that both the number of customers and the age of females seeking treatment are rising. Today, more than 40 percent of the women in his clinic are over 40 years old. In 2011, the clinic started fertility treatments for more than 2,000 women, compared to just over 1,000 in 2004.”

The researchers at the Rigshospitalet want the Danish parliament to “establish a working group of professionals, government leaders and patients to work on the low birth rate problem”. Grinsted thinks that the government should allow women to keep their eggs frozen at clinics for longer than the current maximum of five years.  This might help, but such a solution would not help those couples who cannot or choose not to have children and it also does nothing to solve the low sperm quality in Danish men.

The problem seems to run deep in western society (including some East Asian countries) – we are refusing to have enough children to replace the current generation. This surely points to something that goes beyond merely not being given large enough government handouts. After all, previous generations had no trouble in rearing many children without a governmental grant.  So what is our problem? Is it that, despite our outward self-confidence and arrogance in our own abilities and our current generation’s achievements we are actually intensely pessimistic about our future? If we really thought that our society was the bee’s knees wouldn’t we want to continue it through reproducing so that future generations can experience it? Or can’t we really be bothered as it’s too much hard work?

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...