How a declining birth rate affects you

HomeEditorialsHow a declining birth rate affects you

by Steven Feldman

At the recent NAFCD conference in Nashville, Fox Business News personality Stuart Varney gave his take on what this country can expect in the short term and over the long haul. The good news is he expects things to turn around soon—soon meaning after the elections when he believes there will be a change in the Oval Office. (Mind you, Varney’s views slant to the right.)

But Varney also focused on something I hear few, if any, people ever talking about, something that could affect us all: a declining global birth rate.

Birth rates have fallen very sharply throughout the developed world. It’s significant because it has fallen below replacement population levels. A 2.1 birth rate is required to keep the population stable. That means 2.1 live births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. In many countries, it is as low as 1.2 or 1.3. In Scandinavia, the number is 1.5 or less. In the Iron Curtain it is 1.4. It’s worse in Asia: Japan, 1.3; Singapore, 1.1 and China, 0.9.

This means a significant swatch of the developed world–about 45 countries–is losing population as you read this. Hundreds of millions of people are deciding to have far fewer children. Germany will lose a quarter of its population in one generation. It’s also extreme in Japan where there are many older people and fewer babies.

Here’s why this matters. More people are living on retirement benefits of the fewer people who are working. And those people who are working are having fewer children. That’s a huge demographic problem. Consider it a “generational clash” between the ever-expanding seniors and the dwindling ranks of youngsters who’ll fund their retirements. Those retirees are living longer than ever, and they’ve been assured entitlement payouts.

Don’t think for one second it doesn’t affect us here in North America. It’s coming home to roost in this country in social security, Medicare, etc., which will soon eat up half of all collected tax revenues. There aren’t enough babies these days to save entire nations—let alone states including California and New York– from crushing debt and pension liabilities. States are becoming insolvent because of this demographic program.

Right now we are seeing retired state workers receiving massive pensions and living longer and longer. Varney’s research uncovered 10 San Diego public employees who’ll collect $61 million between them in the next 25 years; California firefighters retiring at 55 and taking in $284,000 in pension payments each year for life; and a nurse in Cincinnati who’ll earn $154,000 in annual pension income after making just $54,000 a year on the job.

Eight years from now—we’re talking 2020, folks–55 of 100 adults will be 65 or older. That is not a functioning society. How can a society function with more than half its population retired? But he did sound a hopeful note. The U.S. has a higher birth rate and lower ratio of seniors to youngsters than just about any other industrialized country. While that number is 52% in Germany and 51% in France, in the U.S. the number is only 29%. We are still a young, vigorous, dynamic, innovate society. But it’s not because women today are having more children. It is the result of immigration. As Varney put it, “Eager, young baby makers that flee north of the border change our demographics.”

Something to think about.


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