One of the great worries of long-range thinkers in the major developed countries has been declining birthrates -- and with it the societal problem of how to support a growing population of retirees with the taxes from a shrinking workforce.
According to the Financial Times, those worries may be overblown, that in some of the largest economies the birthrate has not only stopped falling but in some cases has reversed itself and begun rising.
A country needs 2.1 births per woman to keep its population stable, but, according to the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, the birth rate in 37 countries with developed economies is 1.77 for women born in 1975.
According to the Times, sharply falling fertility rates became apparent in the 1970s, "but much of that drop came as women began to enter university and the workforce, postponing, but not averting childbirth."
Pardon us for being baffled by the seeming obtuseness of German demographers, but this was hardly a hidden phenomenon. The Times says that the Planck researchers, in calculating the number of births a woman would have over the course of her lifetime, did not take account the fact that women are having babies later.
Again, from the vantage point of the United States, this development was hardly a state secret.
The result, according to the Times, was that the institute's traditional calculations underestimated the number of births per women by 20 percent.
Moreover, the fertility rate is rising in the English-speaking world, with countries like the U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland likely to be able to sustain their populations. Be sure to make a big fuss over new babies. Your comfortable retirement may depend on that little bundle of joy.
Scripps Howard News Service