>> 23 Sep 2004

Baby Love

Please feel free to shoot me down in flames if you like, but I thought encouraging people to breed for the good of the country was a hallmark of Nazism and early 20th Century communism. Not so, it would appear. A few day days ago feminist minister, Patricia Hewitt, argued that having children was a moral duty every woman owes to the country. It's all to do with the guff spouted from certain quarters about an ageing population and its effects on the economy.

In 2003 the fertility rate in the United Kingdom was 1.71 children per woman of childbearing age. It is quite a healthy figure compared to some countries in Europe. France has the EU's highest fertility rate (1.90) whilst Italy has the lowest (1.26). For anyone interested, the Irish fertility rate is 1.87 and falling faster than anywhere else in the Union. However, the most interesting statistic concerns the fertility rate in Germany. Not only has that country had low fertility since the end of WW2 (it is currently 1.38), but it also suffers a double blow by virtue of a declining population. Taking the country as a whole for historical purposes, Germany has experienced a declining population since the end of the 1960's. By contrast, it was Europe's leading economic and industrial power for most of that time. This seems to confound the theory of organic linkage between ageing populations and economic decline.

Aside from the demographic implications, the fact that the government now thinks it has a moral duty to tell people to have children is shockingly bad-mannered. What about those of us who don't want children? What about those of us who are fed up to the back teeth with surly, chocolate-smudged brats running amok everywhere we turn? What about those of us who want to pursue a career coupled with independence? Having children should be purely an issue for the people directly concerned; it most certainly is not the business of an interfering busybody propping-up a highly incompetent administration.


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