“The New Girl Order”

For many, fertility decline seems to be one more reason to celebrate the New Girl Order. Fewer people means fewer carbon footprints, after all, and thus potential environmental relief. But while we’re waiting for the temperature to drop a bit, economies will plunge in ways that will be extremely difficult to manage—and that, ironically, will likely spell the SYF [single young female] lifestyle’s demise. As Philip Longman explains in his important book The Empty Cradle, dramatic declines in fertility rates equal aging and eventually shriveling populations. Japan now has one of the oldest populations in the world–one-third of its population, demographers predict, will be over 60 within a decade. True, fertility decline often spurs a temporary economic boost, as more women enter the workforce and increase income and spending, as was the case in 1980s Japan. In time, though, those women–and their male peers–will get old and need pensions and more health care.

And who will pay for that? With fewer children, the labor force shrinks, and so do tax receipts. Europe today has 35 pensioners for every 100 workers, Longman points out. By 2050, those 100 will be responsible for 75 pensioners; in Spain and Italy, the ratio of workers to pensioners will be a disastrous one-to-one. Adding to the economic threat, seniors with few or no children are more likely to look to the state for support than are elderly people with more children.

The New Girl Order: The Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle is showing up in unexpected places, with unintended consequences.” By Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal, Autumn 2007

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Posted in: Demographics

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