Countries all over the world are experiencing falling birthrates. “Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time…The ramifications and responses have already begun to appear, especially in East Asia and Europe.
From Hungary to China, from Sweden to Japan, governments are struggling to balance the demands of a swelling older cohort with the needs of young people whose most intimate decisions about childbearing are being shaped by factors both positive (more work opportunities for women) and negative (persistent gender inequality and high living costs),” reports the New York Times.
Last week, China announced it will now allow married couples to have up to three children—in a dramatic attempt to increase birthrates. According to NPR, “The policy is a dramatic change for a country which, less than a decade ago, still performed forced abortions and sterilizations of women who had more than one child. The new three child limit raises the previous ceiling of two children. It is a recognition from the country’s top leaders that China will need to undertake drastic measures to counter a rapidly aging society.
‘Implementing the policy and its relevant supporting measures will help improve China’s population structure, actively respond to the aging population, and preserve the country’s human resource advantages,’ China’s Politburo, a top Communist Party governing body, wrote in a statement published on China’s state news agency Xinhua on Monday.
Only five years ago, China officially ended its One Child policy, a raft of restrictions that for more than three decades strictly limited couples to only one child. Those who had two or more children in violation of the policy were fined heavily. Pregnant women were sometimes effectively kidnapped by local family planning officials who cajoled, intimidated, or forced women to end the birth.
In 2016, that limit was raised to two children after years of relaxation to the One Child Policy. Since then, local governments have also extended mandatory maternity leave periods to up to four months. But rising childcare costs and greater participation of women in the workforce have meant fewer families are opting to have more children, even when they are allowed to.
China’s latest census figures released this year show the country’s birthrate has dropped to 1.3 live births per woman, far below the rate of 2.1 most demographers agree is needed to sustain a population at its current level.
Meanwhile, Chinese society is now aging faster than it can produce new workers, threatening to halt economic growth and bankrupt state pension funds. China’s latest census shows the proportion of people between 15 and 59 in 2020 declined by about 7 percentage points from 2010, while that of people 60 or older rose by more than 5 percentage points.
Yet the country’s ruling Communist Party has decided to retain an upper ceiling on family sizes, despite recommendations from China’s central bank to let people have as many children as they want.”
But in a recent poll of 300+ Sermo physicians, the majority said this news was not alarming. While 69% said their country was seeing declining birthrates; and 60% said their patients had expressed a desire to have fewer children and/or delay pregnancy—62% said they were not concerned by the global drop.
When asked why they believe birthrates are dropping around the world, this was what the doctors said:
- 69% said economic reasons
- 64% said women are delaying pregnancy
- 56% said higher levels of education in women
- 55% said better access to contraception
- 55% said increasing numbers of women in the workforce
- 40% said couples feel less pressure to reproduce
Seventy-two percent of physicians believe there could be benefits to a population decrease.
Here is more of what Sermo physicians have to say on this subject—in their own words:
The world is overpopulated and the planet can not sustain it. Thought for the day: could it be an evolutionary change in psychology? To have lesser offsprings to sustain the species?General Practice (GP)
Complex issue. Fewer people overall equates to less CO2 production. But we’re not all fungible widgets, fewer people in certain areas can be a real problem for the economy, sustaining culture etc.Pediatrics (excluding surgery)
There are too many people already in the world for the limited resources of the planet to sustain. A decline would mean better conditions for all, and take the pressure off the forces causing global warming.Pediatrics (excluding surgery)
I think that at this moment, the world does not need so many humans, which we destroy everything in our path in order to generate economic wealth. If there are fewer people, perhaps there will be a little more equality in the distribution of resources.Family Medicine / Practice (FP)
In response to the new 3 children policy, a poll of 20,000 people of child bearing age in China shows that 13,000 responders express no interest in having 3 children. A young couple in their 20s or 30s are already responsible for 4 aging parent, 2 full time jobs, and are stuck with middle class trappings of mortgage and car payments. They have no more resolve or resources to be responsible for 3 kids. The irony is that now that they are allow to have more than one child but they simply can not afford it.Ophthalmology