Low fertility rates and an aging population will present Europe with a big economic challenge. This was one of the points made in a study published by the European Commission at the start of the month.
The ‘Third Demography Report’
found that the number of children per woman has increased from 1.45
children, at the time of the last report in 2008, to 1.6. Nonetheless,
this is still substantially below the level of 2.1 children that is
required to maintain a stable population.
As well, life
expectancy is increasing, which will push the trend to an aging
population. Already in four countries – Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and
Romania – the population is decreasing due to a combination of more
people dying than are born and emigration.
The report also found
that the mean age of women at childbirth has been postponed
significantly over the course of the last three decades.
highest age at childbirth in 2009 was in Ireland, at 31.2 years. Italy
was close behind, 31.1, while the lowest was in Bulgaria, 26.6, and
Romania, 26.9. In 13 of the 27 EU countries women tended to have their
children when they were aged 30 or over.
The number of people
aged 60 and above in the EU is rising by more than two million every
year, which is roughly twice the rate observed until about three years
Currently half the EU-27 population is aged 40.9 years or over.
The share of the population aged 65 and over is projected to increase from 17.4% in 2010 to 30.0 % in 2060
result of this will be an increased burden on those of working age to
provide for social spending expenditure needed for an aging population.
is even more obvious when looking at the projections regarding the
number of people of working age, between 19 and 65, compared to those
who are dependent, due to their youth or having retired.
moment the EU has about three people of working age for every two
dependent people. By the year 2060 it is forecast that will be almost
one person of working age for every dependent person aged under 19 or
over 65 years in the EU-27.
Europe is hardly alone in
experiencing low fertility. In the United States the birth rate has
dropped in the period 2007-09, according to statistics published in the
March data brief by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
feature they remarked on was that for the first time in many years the
rate of births to unmarried women declined. Nevertheless, births to
married women declined even more, which meant that 41% of all births in
the US were to unmarried mothers, an all-time high.
In spite of
the serious problems caused by low fertility and aging the United
Nations is remaining still set on its objective of reducing fertility at
all costs. The 44th session of the Commission on Population and Development will convene from April 11-15 in New York.
press release announcing this stressed the need to extend family
planning and to rapidly reduce fertility in Africa and Asia.
situation in developing countries is quite different as the comparative
population pyramids above of the US and Nigeria dramatically show.
Lower life expectancy and high birthrates mean that there is always a
large number of workers available to support the elderly.
West we have a growing elderly population supported by a smaller and
smaller working population – fuelled by elderly people living longer and
an epidemic of abortion, infertility and small families.
demographic changes, together with economic pressure from growing public
and personal debt, and increasing pressure for a change in the law to
allow euthanasia, produce a toxic cocktail indeed.
politicians and economists have been chillingly open about the economic
incentives for euthanasia. Jacques Attali, the former president of the
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said in 1981 in an article in L’Avenir de la vie:
‘As soon as he gets beyond 60-65 years of age, man lives beyond his
capacity to produce, and he costs society a lot of money… euthanasia
will be one of the essential instruments of our future societies.’
something is done to reverse the demographic trends, economic
necessity, together with the ‘culture of death’ ideology which is
becoming more openly accepted, may well mean that the generation that
killed its children will in turn be killed by its own children.
Dr Peter Saunders is a former general surgeon and CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship,
a UK-based organisation with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students
members. This article has been cross-posted from his blog, Christian Medical Comment.