Concept Paper Final Draft: “Demographic Winter and Its Effect on Society”
For years, people have in mind that the world’s population has been increasing annually. While it is true that a daily increment of 215,060 and yearly growth of 1.10% is happening on our world population of 7,174,592,903 (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, population Estimates, and Projections Sections), the demographic trend is actually changing in contrast to the beliefs of many. Historical events that occurred in the past, particularly the World Wars, have paved the way for the eradication of a large portion of mankind, but it also resulted to population explosion. The Baby Boom, a demographic phenomenon in Western countries, rose to fame wherein rapid growth in population was recorded around 1960s.
This is usually ascribed within certain geographical bounds and when the number of annual births exceeds 2 per 100 women (or approximately 2% of the total population size) (Wikimedia Foudation, Inc). As the paper progresses, such belief will be proven as a myth these days. In 1968, Stanford University Professor Paul R. Ehrlich published the controversial book, The Population Bomb which warned of the mass starvation of humans in the 1970s and 1980s due to overpopulation. People grew scared of the idea of a population explosion and its detrimental effects to society. As they acquired the paradigm that babies are burden, a trend not to be sexually active anymore in Western countries was created. This, in turn, resulted to a new demographic occurrence called by demographers as Demographic Winter. Demographic winter is a global phenomenon characterized by population decline in birth rates. The term “nuclear winter,” popularized in the 1980s, alluded to the catastrophic environmental impact of a nuclear war.
The long-term consequences of demographic winter could be equally devastating (Feder). The Total Fertility Rate, the expected number of children born per woman in her child-bearing years of 2.1, is said to be the point of equilibrium in which a country’s population is neither growing nor decreasing. Essentially, a woman must replace herself and a man. This TFR is important because this only shows that an average woman is able to produce 2.1 children during her lifetime which is needed because some children die before maturity and also to stabilize the number of the population. (Fluctuating Fertility: The Baby Boom and the Baby Bust). When the Total Fertility Rate of a State is 2.1 births per woman who has reached the end of her productive life (that is around 50 years old), the Net Production Rate is 1, that is to say, the state has reach population age stability.
When it is not, or is less than the nation’s previous TFR, the nation undergoes the phenomenon called demographic winter. (Fluctuating Fertility: The Baby Boom and the Baby Bust). Although demographic winter is a global incident, geography and the country’s economic status are underlying factors that contributed to what extent and to which nations such an event would occur. Demographic winter is currently more evident in developed countries such as in Europe, Australia, East Asia (Japan) and North America (U.S.), whose populations were the first to mature. Maturity here is defined as the average age of the population relative to the economic development of society. These countries also suffered the worst depopulation during the World Wars and experienced rapid population growth after (Yew). We shall focus more on these countries as we elaborate the concept of demographic winter for the cases which will be mentioned later applies more to their population trends. Of the 10 countries with the lowest birth rates, 9 are in Europe.
Overall, the European fertility rate is 1.3, well below replacement level (2.1). No European nation has a replacement-level birth rate. Italy’s fertility rate is 1.2. Spain’s is 1.1 (Feder). That means, in the not-too-distant future, these countries will lose half of their people in every generation. Russia’s birth rate fell from 2.4 in 1990 to 1.17 today – a decline of more than 50% in less than 20 years. Each year, there are more abortions than live births in the Russian Federation (Demographic Winter). In U.S. alone, Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is almost 3.5 in the early 1960s, then began declining sharply — to below 3.0 in 1965, to about 2.5 (and temporarily holding steady) in the late 1960s, and down to about 1.8 by the mid-1970s. Hence, the TFR fell by almost half between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s. After a decade of stability at a level of about 1.8, the total fertility rate rose slowly after 1986, reaching 2.08 in 1990. It presently stands at a little over 2, just slightly below the replacement level of 2.11 (Fluctuating Fertility: The Baby Boom and the Baby Bust).
Japan’s TFR has continued to fall since dropping below 2.0 in 1975. It slumped to an all-time low of 1.26 in 2005. The number of babies born in the nation in 2012 fell by 13,705 from the previous year to hit a new low of 1,037,101 (Durden). With such data on hand, we now ask: “what are the factors that led to demographic winter?” According to the documentary film Demographic Winter: a Decline of the Human Family, fertility decline is caused by (1) economic prosperity, (2) sexual revolution, (3) women in the labour force, (4) Divorce revolution, and (5) inaccurate assumptions. As developed countries continue to rise in their economic status, a paradigm shift among members of the labour force occurs. Previously, babies are considered as blessings and investments by parents. Nowadays, they are viewed by parents as an added expense and burden to them. As standards of living in the urban areas of different countries continue to increase, life becomes harder to sustain.
An added mouth to feed is just something that can’t be considered especially by realists. Richer countries want to invest and spend their money on adults, the more affluent, whom they can use for further economic development than children. Sexual revolution is also eyed as a contributing factor wherein Feminism is evident. The number of women in their 20s who had a child in 2012 decreased by 16,200 from the previous year, while the number of births among women aged from 35 to 39 and from 40 to 44 increased by a combined total of about 8,700. As more women are empowered and gain equal treatment in education and employment, they now opt to join the labour force, the corporate world and pursue career paths than devoting themselves to family life. Growing valuable time of working mothers constructed the mindset that they don’t want children, they want jobs instead.
The labor force participation rates among married women with children, particularly young children, have been steadily increasing since 1970. In 1985, nearly half of all women with children under age 18 were in the labor force, as compared with less than 40 percent in 1970 (Hayghe). Moreover, the declines in fertility rates, as well as declines in family size, increasing childlessness, and delayed childbearing have freed many women to pursue employment opportunities outside the home. Completed family size, for example, decreased from 2.4 children in 1970 to 1 .7 in 1984 among white women, and from 3.1 to 2.2 children among blacks (U.S. Department of Health And Human Services).
With the increase of participation of women in the labour force, an inverse reciprocal in the fertility rates is also observed. Along with sexual revolution and the greater involvement of women on the labour force, divorce revolution can be viewed as a related contributing factor to the decline of fertility rates. With more women gaining financial and social capabilities in the society, marriage is now viewed as something superficial especially with the legalization of divorce in developed countries such as the United States. Not only has marriage been increasingly pushed to a late age, but once accomplished, marriages are more likely to end in divorce than at any previous time in History. Preston and McDonald (1979) estimated that although 16% of all marriages in the United States in 1915 ended in divorce, 36% of the 1964 marriages will end that way. However, by 1988, the data were suggesting a levelling off at about 43% of marriages ending in divorce (Schoen and Weinick). The United States is certainly not unique in experiencing an increase in divorce probabilities.
William Goode, in his book World Revolution and Family Patterns (1993), compiled data for Europe showing that throughout the said continent the percentage of marriages that will end in divorce virtually doubled between 1970 and the mid- 1980s. For example, in Germany in 1970 it is estimated that 16% of marriages would end in divorce, increasing to 30% in 1985. In France, the increase went from 12% to 31% during that same period of time. Australia has experienced similar trends (Weeks). With the said increase in the number of divorce cases, an inverse reciprocal for the fertility rate equals. Thus, divorce revolution is a cause of demographic winter. And lastly, the main culprit for all the causes of demographic winter is the inaccurate assumption made from the increasing population.
As mentioned earlier in this paper, Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich’s controversial book “The Population Bomb” propagated the idea that the rapid increase in population will eventually lead to population explosion causing food shortage. Such occurrence according to him cannot be sustained by the global community. Malthusian Theory stating that human population grows exponentially while food production grows at an arithmetic rate, made people including Ehrlich that such insustainability and shortage in resources is truly imminent. The predictions came true but not exactly as Ehrlich perceived it. The effects are mainly unfelt in the developed world and food production grew exponentially at a rate higher than population growth in both developed and developing countries. Food per capita is the highest in history. During the greatest population-growth period in human history, food became cheaper and more abundant (prices dropped up to 70%). Population growth rates, on the other hand, significantly slowed down especially in the developed world (Erlich).
The sad reality at present is this misconception still lingers on the thoughts of the educated ones. This now resulted to interference of government to population growth by creating and implementing policies that aims to decrease rates of population growth. Examples are Reproductive Health Act in U. S. and One-child policy in China and Singapore. The biggest impact on fertility from the pill was from eliminating “unwanted pregnancies” by 70% of married woman (Demographic Winter: The New Economic Reality). Secularization is also a factor that affects fertility rates. The anti-Christian, anti-family ideology which can be rooted to the Marxist view of activists currently sweeping across most of Western civilisation has precipitated a culture of death that is slowly but inexorably killing off the human family. Those who believe about meaning of life have children. Those who don’t, don’t (Feder). We can therefore say that all aspects of modernity work against family life and is in favour of singleness, having a small family, or opting to have no child at all. Add up to that none of these problems can be easily fixed. It’s who we are and what we’ve become increasingly in these modern times.
But the question here that remains is, if we are experiencing demographic winter, why is that population continues to grow? This now can be attributed to the Alternatives of developed countries to compensate for their declining population which is immigration (esp. on Europe and Australia) (Demographic Winter: The New Economic Reality). Also, the issue of ageing population comes in. What we currently perceive is that death rate is less compared to before. Less people are born but also lesser die thus creating that aged population. Given the origin, definition and causes of demographic winter, let us now focus to its effects on society. This can now be classified into (1) biological, (2) political, and to the (3) economy. However, these can be inter-related. Research has shown that demographics can have a significant impact on countries’ stability, governance, economic development and the well-being of its people (Population Action International).
As stated earlier, an ageing population is an issue that can be attributed to biological effects of demographic winter. In 1998, there was a 48-year lag between births and peak spending of those individuals. Japan is one of the countries to first experience demographic winter after the world war for they did not experience the Baby Bomb, unlike U.S. Developed countries will have this age trap or the said modern inverted pyramid wherein number of grandparents is greater than the number of children. This is in contrast to the trend before wherein the number of children is greater than the grandparents’. With this occurrence, the children will not be able to sufficiently take care of the old due to lack of number. Also, some countries might cease to exist. There are fifty-nine (59) nations, namely, Russia, China, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Italy, Germany, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, (Central Inteligence Agency) – with 44% of the world’s population – that are now experiencing below-replacement birth rates. Worldwide, there are 6 million fewer children (under age 6) today than there were in 1990. The United Nations estimates that if current trends continue, by 2050 there will be 248 million fewer children (under age 5) than there are now.
Overall, Europe’s fertility rate is 1.3; a birth rate of 2.1 is needed just to replace current population. In this century, countries such as Italy, Spain, Russia and even France could cease to exist – at least as they’re currently constituted. Demographer Philip Longman (author of The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birth rates Threaten World Prosperity) observes: The on-going global decline in human birth rates is the single most powerful force affecting the fate of nations and the future of society in the 21st century. “Demographic winter is a great predictor of a country’s fate and future because children are essential for a country’s economic survival,” Longman added. As Japan’s population has aged beyond 48 years old, its consumer spending has steadily declined. Here now enters the effects to economy. Never in history is an ageing population able to develop a prosperous economy (Demographic Winter: The New Economic Reality). Why? The ratio of young to old will shift dramatically and wreak havoc upon existing social security and healthcare systems.
The economy at large may also suffer, as the elderly cease spending and a smaller generation of workers is crippled by the taxes needed to support their parents. “The world this will bring about, according to the filmmakers, is bleak: grandparents left untended and alone in the streets of Europe as intergenerational bonds are shattered; the potential desolation of small countries such as Latvia, and a worldwide depression that will touch even those countries that don’t disappear under the sheath of snow that the film shows blanketing the entire globe.” (Joyce). So argues Harry S. Dent, Jr., an economist who specializes in “demographic-based economic forecasting,” and who predicts that the West will follow Japan’s aging population bust. Politically, demographic winter can be associated with the voting body. A political analysis said that political preference reveals that the metaphorical eggs of Republicans rest entirely in one basket: the votes of older white people. According to the exit polls conducted by the New York Times of the 2012 presidential election, Republican nominee Mitt Romney won 59 percent of white voters, and 56 percent of voters over age 65. The intersection of those two areas is the demographic base of the Republican Party, and it is dying.
Markos Moulitsas posited that conservatives’ endeavours to weaken the social safety net have made it harder for these seniors who comprise the Republican base to stay alive (Atkins). While some may still debunk and not accept the fact that such phenomenon is happening, it just happens, and will still continue despite of us shunning the thought of it. Demographic winter is no joke. Further neglect of the declining rates of population growth will soon not only affect political, biological, and economic aspects of society but may also jeopardize even the existence of mankind in the future. I value intellectual integrity and the highest standards of academic conduct. I am committed to an ethical learning environment that promotes a high standard of honor in scholastic work. Academic dishonesty undermines institutional integrity and threatens the academic fabric of the University of the Philippines. And because I believe that dishonesty is not an acceptable avenue to success, I affix my signature to this work to affirm that it is original and free of cheating and plagiarism, and does not knowingly furnish false information.” ______________________________
Mary Philline Descalzo
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