A new trend, and also a fear, has been born in the scientific arena: demographic winter, which means the disappearance of the human race by slowly decreasing the number of people.

I remember a few years ago (like 7 years) watching a documentary on Discovery showed what the Earth would look like in future: cities on sees, huge blocks, every square meter was used to build something because ground wouldn’t be enough for the population.
At the beginning of the 90’s environmentalists were claiming that the health of our planet was affected by the increasing number of people living on it. So, they called for “population control” – part of their plan was to help women around the world to have as many or as few children as they wanted. Recently, they changed their mind. Why? Because of the alarming low fertility rate that developed and developing country face. But to make any prediction on any wave of massive population decrease is premature, because the phenomenon is “too new” according to Philip Longman.

The common ground that they came to: it is very hard to predict demographic trends. Whatever methods you use, history has shown us (or them) several times that human behavior over long periods of time (especially when it comes to family and money) is, more or less, unpredictable. For example, Philip Hauser projected in the 1940s that U.S. population would peak in 1990 at 190 million. In 2004, we’re more than 100 million past that “peak.”

Certain facts: ageing population – a concern of every government that also has a low fertility rate: the whole health care system and pensions is going upside-down: less youth and more elderly in a country means either a more efficient work of the youth or an increase in governments spending for supporting the elderly. A healthy economy can be drawn like a pyramid: its base is made of children, in the middle are the adults, and the elderly in the top. So that means: a well-functioning country has more children than old people. But in most of developed countries this pyramid is reversed.

One of the causes of this fact is life excepectancy (around 70 years for men and 80 for women in UE) due to the great technological improvements in health care systems. Another cause that became a controversy – is that countries don’t make lots of babies. The psychological studies  show that prosperity determines individualism. So, people don’t need to relate with the others and , of course, selfishness becomes the chief of their actions. But, though Western European countries apply to this rule (with a fertility rate of 1.6 children per woman), the USA surprises the demographers with a fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman.

Of course, the number of births and deaths is a governmental matter.  A low fertility rate is affecting worse the countries with a maternal role incompatibility. This means that public policies don’t motivate (directly or indirectly) the women to have babies. Countries like Spain or Italy have no flexibility in working schedule for women, there are less benefits for children or the schedule of stores in not accessible for workers.

This issue takes place in the circumstances of a very strong sexual revolution. The greatest consequence of the sexual revolution (from the ’60) is the contraceptive pill. And the problem is that contraceptive pills are taken by married women (70% of married women use these pills).

So, if prosperity means individualism and this individualism is encouraged by medicine – is there any doubt concerning the demographic winter?

Diana Moldovan

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