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For decades Americans have endured the drumbeat of overpopulation activists predicting global devastation. Paul Ehrlich was one of the more notable activists who wrote a best selling book in 1968, called The Population Bomb. It was a frantic prediction of what was in store for the world if population trends continued. He wrote, “In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.” Mr. Ehrlich’s book became the “bible” of the environmental movement. As a result, countless gloom and doom overpopulation prophets who, after looking into their eco-friendly green crystal balls, were predicting the world would end as we know it.
In part, they were right, except for the wrong reason. Societies in many countries are experiencing a crisis that threatens their way of life as they know it. However, it’s not a problem of too many people. It’s because they don’t have enough people.
Countries around the world, some already in panic mode, are worried about their dwindling populations. Europe has been the hardest hit. While some die-hard overpopulation activists continue to wring their hands about overpopulation taxing the earth’s resources, several countries have enacted policies and programs to encourage their citizens to have more babies.
Developed countries require 2.1 births per woman to replaced a country’s existing population. Iceland is the European country coming the closest to meeting this demand. The latest statistics of the European Union say Iceland’s fertility rate is 2.03 per woman. It is followed by Ireland, France, then Norway and Finland. Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom fare worse. Eastern and southern Europe are losing the highest number of people.
The leaders of many of these nations have looked to the future and don’t like what they see. Austria will pay parents $547 per month until their youngest child reaches the age of three. It may even make additional payments for as much as $192, depending upon the child’s age. In addition, parents are eligible for tax benefits of about $64 per month for each child. The government also pays many education-related expenses. Mothers can get up to 48 months of pension benefits and are guaranteed paid maternity leave, two months before and after birth. Some parents can even decide the hours they will work until the child is in school.
The Prime Minister of France recently announced financial incentives to encourage parents to have a third child. The mother has a choice to either take a one-year unpaid leave with payments of $940 per month. Or she can select a three-year absence with payments of $642.
Italy has been dramatically affected by the birth dearth. This is ironic, considering it is the cradle of Catholicism, which is opposed not only to abortion but also contraception. Italy’s Minister of Labor and Welfare first offered women 1,000 euros to every mother of a second child. That program was then expanded to also include women who have their first child. The mayor of one Italian town, where only 4 babies were born that year, felt the government’s offer was too little. He is offering mothers 10,000 euros over a five-year period for each additional baby born. Another irony is that research in Italy revealed money isn’t what motivates women to have more children. It’s knowing that their husbands would share the child-rearing and household duties, apparently not common in Italian culture.
For many years Bulgaria has experienced more abortions than live births. It has been estimated they will lose up to 40% of their population. The Bulgarian cabinet has approved a strategy to reverse their population decline. However, ending legal abortion isn’t part of the plan.
Jitka Rychtarikova, a professor of demographics at Charles University in the Czech Republic, said abortion “has turned childbearing into a choice rather than an act of nature.” This country also faces serious depopulation problems.
Russia, long known for its high abortion rate, is trying to deal with their birth dearth. The decline is equivalent to 100 Russians dying every hour. President Vladimir Putin recently called the situation “the most acute problem of contemporary Russia.” He’s calling for the increase of childcare benefits and more generous birth bonuses. Putin said, “We must at least stimulate the birth of a second child.”
Forty years ago, South Korea legalized abortion and refused maternity benefits to women having a third child to slow population growth. Now the government is spending $20 billion to stop an alarming population decline that threatens their economic growth and national security. The money will go toward paying for kindergarten for all children. They will also give financial assistance to families with three or more children. Billions will be spent on more daycare centers and hundreds of millions will be used to help infertile couples conceive. In addition, South Korea is concerned about a future shortage of soldiers. As a result, new policies will encourage more soldiers to have additional children. One perk is to allow a military family the choice to live anywhere in the country after the birth of a third child.
Singapore is planning to ease its immigration rules to help alleviate its baby shortage. It is launching an aggressive program to attract migrant workers to prevent an increasing shortage of manpower. A government official said their shrinking population “will compromise our defense capabilities.”
One country is already benefiting from its programs to encourage women to have more children. Japan is celebrating that for the first time in six years, the number of births has increased. They still have a long way to go before they are up to replacement level.
Excluding immigration, America has been below replacement level since 1972. Lately, there’s been a slight increase in births, bringing our fertility rate up to 2.03, just below replacement level.
The European Union estimates that there will be a shortage of 20 million workers in their member countries by 2030. They also acknowledge abortion is one of the major reasons for this precipitous population decline. But sadly the EU continues to take a firm pro-abortion position. If the EU and other nations around the world, America included, want to realistically deal with this serious problem threatening our future, we must all realize that babies are a nation’s most precious renewable resource. That begins with ending abortion.