Peak Population

For more articles like this please visit: The National Angels and Eagles Website

2011 brought the milestone of the 7 billionth person, a noteworthy number which has raised questions regarding the sustainability of our species and concerns of overpopulation. While our population may still be rising, its rate of growth has actually slowed to a great extent. In this piece, we will examine the reasons behind this slowdown in growth, as well as the policy implications for Europe and the welfare state.

The population projections for the European continent, in particular, merit notice. To maintain a stable population, the average birthrate must remain at 2.1 children per woman. The worldwide rate in 2000 was 2.7 children, a drop from 4.5 in 1970; however, Europe’s rate has plummeted to 1.4 children. In The Next 100 Years, Stratfor’s George Friedman provides two primary reasons for the decline in birth rates: lower infant mortality rates and higher life expectancies, both due to advances in medicine and nutrition.

According to Friedman, children in agricultural societies “had become the basis of wealth,” as more children resulted in more output. After the industrial revolution, this situation flipped: instead of manual labour, children pursued longer educational opportunities and thus became a net financial burden. Despite these changes, family behaviour did not change until the 20th century, eventually resulting in these lowered birth rates.

Perversely, as raising children has grown more expensive for parents in developed Europe, the declining population of youth increases the difficulty of sustaining the welfare state. Among the rationales behind raising more children in pre-industrial societies, one powerful reason was retirement security – in an era when no social security or safety nets existed, having more children increased the prosperity of the family as a whole and provided the parents with a modicum of comfort. The welfare state filled this gap in many European societies, as early as the Chancellorship of Otto von Bismarck in the 1880’s, and refined by the Scandinavian states in the following decades. However, with ageing populations, European states have seen increased demands for these welfare services, yet with a decreasing amount of working-age citizens to fund them.

The United States faces similar issues, yet to a much lesser extent than Europe. As of 2011, the US fertility rate remains at 2.1, in line with projections for maintaining a stable population (mainly due to our Hispanic Christian immigrants). This puts the United States in the drivers seat going forward because we do immigration well. The United States, while not perfect has been the original country founded not upon a Nationality but upon an idea. That idea is to bring your humble, tired and poor masses to this land of opportunity.  Because we have conducted this 235 year experiment – we have become very good at assimilation.

Europe, in contrast, is in a decidedly negative position. Its nation states with their homogeneous (or at best two culture states – think Switzerland) have a built in knee jerk reaction to immigration and the foreigner in general.  . Immigration remains a politically touchy subject in Europe and a rallying cry for extremist parties, due to issues with integration into these relatively insular societies. To boost their birth rates, European nations have implemented policies which reward families who have children, via tax incentives and increased maternity leave. Will these policies suffice to staunch Europe’s population decline?

For more articles like this please visit: The National Angels and Eagles Website

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