Tuesday 27 February 2018

Generations with few children

I heard a program on the radio (yes, there still is radio) the other day about the current millennial generation choosing to have fewer children than their parents had or no children at all. I don’t know if that is true or not but I suspect it might be as this current generation is considered to be very self-focused (selfish?) and not as tuned into procreation as their predecessors.

In Canada, according to the 2016 census, for the first time in the country’s history, the population has more seniors (16.9%) than children (16.6%). The gap is expected to widen in the future.

Another apparent trend is that people are waiting longer to have children – particularly females – than was the case with their parent’s generation. Fertility is declining. In Canada it is 1.6 children per woman (in the US it is 2.0 children per woman). The trends for most age groups, since the post-Second World War years, is noticeably declining. This is true in the UK as well where women who had turned 45 in 2016 had an average of 1.80 children compared to 2.21 for women who had turned 45 in 1944.

Some analysts attribute the outcomes to increased housing costs and slower wage growth that would certainly affect people’s abilities to raise a family. Job security may also be a factor. Many readers of this will relate to the difficulties their offspring have encountered in establishing themselves and reaching economic security.

What we are seeing may be unique in human history, where one generation decides not to produce a subsequent generation, or produce fewer children such that their own generation may not be replaced. It will be of especial consequence to western civilization as there certainly appears to be families in other parts of the world who have no problem with spitting out children one after the other.

Older people might be concerned about this trend as their own retirement and pension programs may depend on there being a large workforce contributing to government authorized retirement schemes.

Our economy and well-being cannot continue without a healthy labour force paying the bills through their taxes, particularly where social programs for seniors are in place. For just the public-sector pension plans in Canada, the unfunded liability that will be passed to future generations, with no additional people added to the rolls, is already in excess of $300 billion. Many private companies have fallen on hard times recently with the result that employee pensions have been reduced or even scrapped. Bloomberg recently reported that the pension plans of the 200 largest S&P 500 companies also are unfunded to the tune of $382 billion.

For most western nations, the answer will have to come from immigration. Families of the future may look much different – certainly than they did in past centuries. Besides being smaller they will undoubtedly have a greater mix of cultures and races necessitated by the influx of people from all over the world.