Total Fertility Rate
In Europe there are significant decreases in birthrates. The replacement fertility rate is roughly 2.1 births per woman for most industrialized countries. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime. All of the European countries have a TFR less than the replacement rate of 2.1. The average is 1.53 and Lithuania records the lowest TFR at a rickety 1.22 (see the table at the end of this post).
So why are women in Europe having less babies? A New York Times article No Babies? attempts to answer this question. It concludes that there would seem to be two models for achieving higher fertility: the neosocialist Scandinavian system and the laissez-faire American one. The socialist model helps families with generous government support. The U.S. has a much more flexible work environment which can be helpful to families. In the article, Arnstein Aassve, a sociologist, put it this way:
You might say that in order to promote fertility, your society needs to be generous or flexible. The U.S. isn’t very generous, but it is flexible.
The article briefly mentions that some blame the low birthrate to secularism. That “the West has divorced itself from God and church and embraced a self-interested and ultimately self-destructive lifestyle abetted above all by modern birth control.”
Religion and Fertility
In 2007 the TFR in the United States rose to 2.1, the highest since the 1960s. A factor contributing to this healthy birthrate is the conservative and religiously oriented nature of American society, which encourages larger families. Closer to my home, Utah has a TFR of 2.6, attributed to the 69% Mormon population that traditionally have larger families primarily motivated by religious belief. Even closer to home, my wife and I have five children. Prior to my adult conversion to the Gospel I had planned for no children. As a member of the Church my views on children changed as I learned about the purpose of life and why God has placed us here on Earth.
Not only in Europe but world-wide there are declining birthrates. The world TFR has fallen to 2.61 in 2008 from 2.80 in 2000. But Europe is in the most critical situation. Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau, in discussing Spain and Italy said:
Maybe tinkering with the retirement age and making other economic adjustments is good. But you can’t go on forever with a total fertility rate of 1.2. If you compare the size of the 0-to-4 and 29-to-34 age groups in Spain and Italy right now, you see the younger is almost half the size of the older. You can’t keep going with a completely upside-down age distribution, with the pyramid standing on its point. You can’t have a country where everybody lives in a nursing home.
And a more direct warning from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)
Children are so often seen as boat anchors, a drag on society, and consumers of resources. But children are the future. Only by populations increasing into the millions have many advances been possible. Let’s not throw it all away.
European 2008 Total Fertility Rate by Country
Click ONCE on column headers to sort.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1.24|
This list is updated occasionally, with newer additions listed first.
The vanishing workforce — Germany will lose 20% of its workers.
Lithuanian census reveals population slump — Dropped 10% in a decade.
Germany Faces Economic Downturn with Falling Births — Aging also a factor.
The new baby boom — Average number of children a woman has is 2.8
Spain’s cash-for-kids plan fails to boost birth rate
Hungary Population Drops to Less Than 10 Million for First Time Since 1960
Rumkin.com Population Counter — Watch the German population decreasing.
Latvia: The Demographic Price Of Procrastination
In need of a miracle
Eastern Germany Confronts Skilled Labor Shortage