NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 2, 2006

In his 2004 book, "The Empty Cradle," Phillip Longman exploded one of the planet's most enduring modern myths. He demonstrated that population growth is not the threat that it has been made out to be and that population decline is the real challenge ahead of us, says the Wall Street Journal.

By the time of the book's publication, many developed nations were already struggling to address the obvious result of falling fertility: What to do when so few babies are being born that eventually there won't be enough workers to sustain your country's economy, let alone support the elderly?

  • One of the most recent answers comes from Portugal, where the birth rate has fallen to 1.7 -- below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per couple. The government has come up with a plan to give tax breaks to people who have more than two children and to levy higher taxes on those who have fewer than two.
  • Singapore, France, Sweden and many other states already employ various incentives to encourage parenthood.

Falling birth rates are a concern for more than just the most prosperous countries, too, says the Journal:

  • Along with all of Europe, Japan and Canada, Longman notes, China and parts of the Middle East are experiencing population loss.
  • In Russia, President Vladimir Putin announced that the government will pay mothers about $9,200 to have a second child.

Falling birth rates are associated with increased economic opportunity. When people don't need to use children as worker bees in a desperate struggle to survive, and -- more important -- when they can imagine a secure future for their offspring, they tend to plan families with fewer children in the hope of showering each with more advantages, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "Making Babies," Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2006.

For text (subscription required):


Browse more articles on Government Issues