Women have to be wary of solutions to
the ageing crisis which would limit reproductive rights. This, at any
rate, is the theme of a new book by journalist Michelle Goldberg, The
Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World
.
The problem, as she sees it, is that the obvious solution to
increasing birth rates is for women to have more babies. But this
could wind back the clock on issues like abortion, women in the
workforce, and so on.

So she argues that women don't need to
revert to traditional, submissive role models imposed by a patriarchy; the best way to raise birth rates is to help women to combine
work and family.

"Basically, the societies where
birthrates have plunged to dangerous levels – Russia, Catholic
countries like Poland, Spain and Italy, as well as Japan and
Singapore – are all places that make it very difficult for women to
combine work and family. In countries that support working mothers,
like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and France, birthrates are basically
fine – they’re either just at replacement, or shrinking in a very
slow, totally manageable way. (The United States is the exception)…
In other words, the threat of population decline is one of the best
arguments yet for socialized day care, family leave, and other dreamy
Scandinavian-style policies."

But are "birthrates basically
fine" in these countries? At about 1.8 or 1.9, they are still
well below replacement level Aren't manpower shortages and a growing
dependency ratio eventually going to create major social dislocation?
Will they be able to afford "dreamy Scandinavian-style
policies"? ~ American Prospect, Apr 7

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet.