baby, parenting, baby recession, birth rate

Are Babies the Key to Ending the Recession?

June 22, 2009 05:04 PM
by Haley A. Lovett
Economists say higher birth rates could prevent economic problems, but countries must battle falling fertility rates and the recession to encourage reproduction.

In Some Countries Having Children Can Secure Job, Create Economic Stability

Ulrich Blum, president of Germany’s IWH economic research institute, says that having more children could benefit both parent and country.  According to Reuters, Germany has job protection laws in place for new parents, and so having children could prevent job loss during the recession. Also, more children will mean more balance in population age and could prevent undue strain on government systems from an aging population.

Similarly, in Canada, some expect to see a rise in birth rates during the recession. According to the Calgary Herald, some women may use the job guarantee provided by the Canadian government during their maternity leave
(similar to that in Germany) as a way to keep their job during the recession. Although during the Great Depression Canada saw a sharp decline in birth rate, experts told the Calgary Herald that the modern welfare state may help increase birth rates. Others see job loss and consequent increased "leisure time" as a potential cause for a birth boom.

Background: In US, Birth Control Use Rises; Birth Rates Fall During Recessions, Depressions

During the year leading up to the recession, the birth rate in the US saw a slowdown, according to figures released in May 2009 by the National Center for Health Statistics. According to the BBC, the number of births only grew by 0.9% in 2008 as compared with 2.7% in 2007. And while experts are reluctant to say exactly why the birth rate has slowed, some point to the economic downturn, the high housing costs of 2006, and a decrease in immigration.

In the early months of 2009, according to a New York Times article, clinics that performed vasectomies noticed an increase in the  number of procedures performed. Although no agency collects precise data of the number of vasectomies, clinics such as Planned Parenthood have noticed the increase, and visits to a vasectomy information site have gone up nearly 20%.

An AP article from March of 2009 also noticed the increasing trend of vasectomies, and also pointed out that clinics and family planning organizations have noticed an increase in the number of abortions and in the number of women seeking financial help to pay for birth control.

During the Great Depression, the U.S. and other affected countries saw birth rates drop to record lows.

Reference: Birth Rates on the Decline, Population Aging Worldwide

In late 2008, researchers predicted that the population of Hungary will shrink by almost 13 percent over the next few decades. Researchers attribute the decline in fertility rates to citizens waiting longer to get married, women choosing not to get married, and emigration out of the country. Other countries in Europe have seen similar trends, however Great Britian, Ireland, Cyprus, and Luxembourg seem to go againt that trend and may see population increases.

A 2008 report from the U.S. census indicated that fewer women are having children in the U.S., and that the average number of children per woman has dropped from 3.1 to 1.9 in the last 30 years. In order for a population to stay at its current size (excluding the impact of immigration), women would need to average 2.1 children each.

In Italy male fertility has declined a great deal since the 1970s. A study found that the number of active sperm found in Italian males may have been reduced by half in the past 30 years. Researchers point to environmental pollutants as the cause of the decline in fertility and some research suggests that this trend may be a worldwide phenomenon.

Related Topic: Governments Encourage Reproduction

In light of falling birth and fertility rates worldwide, some governments have started trying to encourage citizens to have more children.

In Japan, where fewer women are getting married and having children, some companies have mandated shorter working hours to encourage employees to spend more time with their spouse and procreate.

According to Slate Magazine, Russia instituted a "Day of Conception", and any citizen who gives birth nine months from that day would be eligible for cash and prizes. Some countries with higher fertility rates than average (France and Scandinavian countries, for example) may be benefitting from generous benefits to new parents that include long, paid, maternity leave. Spain, according to Slate, gives money to parents for each child born, and other countries offer financial help for in vitro fertilization or money for childcare.

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