'Generational war' looming in Canadian society with lower birth rates as main culprit
By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic
Are worldwide fertility rates declining? Dr. Dermot Grenham, a lecturer at the London School of Economics, contended that they are when he presented his findings on the subject April 20 at SFU's Harbour Centre campus in downtown Vancouver.
Grenham's lecture was called "It's about the people: why governments mess with demographics at their peril."
"Canada's future does not look particularly rosy," said Grenham. In the 1950s Canadians had the highest fertility rate in the G7 group. Now the birth rate is in the middle of the pack.
He predicted that with an increasing number of baby-boomers retiring, Canada will mandate another rise in the age when workers can collect pension benefits (for example, from 67 to 70). However, he warned, if younger workers balk at this measure, the problem "could lead to a generational war; the young denying the benefits to the older living longer."
The push to legalize euthanasia, now a political hot potato, might gain momentum. A utilitarian government could "find euthanasia convenient from a financial point of view or be less inclined to stop a euthanasia movement."
The lecture went on to population measurement. According to studies done by the United Nations, a population will remain constant if there are 2.1 births per woman; this is the replacement rate. This figure is due to two factors: boys are born more often on average and all girls do not survive to their child-bearing years.
Also, a country's population is dependent upon: fertility (the birth rate), mortality (the death rate), and migration (immigration and emigration). Thus, when a "nation's citizens get older, coupled with a declining birth rate, then less women are born. It's a vicious cycle."
China, with its one-child policy, continues to be the flag bearer in this department; in what Grenham called the "four-two-one" problem, four grandparents bring up two parents who have one child.
An availability of abortion on demand and a preference for a son has led to an unbalanced sex ratio of 120 boys to 100 girls in China. Canada's ratio is 105 boys to 100 girls.
Grenham summed the Chinese situation up, "If you have a son, people celebrate. If you have a daughter, people commiserate."
Grave consequences of a low birth rate are already apparent in Europe. He remarked, "Italy, Spain, Poland: in these Catholic countries you wouldn't think the fertility rate would be so low, but they already have more deaths than births."
Germany's population is currently around 85 million; Grenham predicted it would decline to 65 million by 2075. In Moscow, apartments built during the Soviet era play an important role. Advertisements urge parents to have more children, "but the flats are very tiny; it's almost impossible to have a large family."
He went on to dissent with the UN's estimate that the earth will reach 10 billion people by 2100. "I don't think we'll get there. It's much easier to cut the birth rate and a lot harder to bring it back up, once a couple's habits become ingrained and they pass on the same way of thinking to the following generation."
He stressed the problem could be fixed if governments provided an environment in which couples could decide how many children to have: the opposite of a one-child policy.
He concluded, "Ordinary people must be allowed to make choices for themselves."