EDITORIAL

‘Demographic winter’ leading to decline in fertility worldwide

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Winter is coming, unless we change the “weather.” That’s clear from the results of a recently published study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This study, however, was not about things meteorological. Rather, it was about population trends in 195 countries throughout the world (including our own) from 1950 to 2017. The results show that nearly half the countries examined currently have fertility rates which are below replacement level (2.1 children per woman). This means that much of the world is currently headed for a “demographic winter” in which there will be more elderly people than children. It’s an alarming situation with spiritual, social — and economic — consequences. For example, without enough young people to replenish the labor force and pay taxes, it will be very difficult to finance the pension funds of retirees who are living longer lives thanks to the blessings of modern medicine. Civil governments will also be pressured to take unpopular steps to remain in the black, such as raising the retirement age, raising taxes and cutting benefits.

One of the major factors contributing to this decline in fertility worldwide (and especially in the West) is, not surprisingly, the increased availability of contraception. It’s instructively ironic that artificial birth control, which has been (and is) used by many for purely economic reasons, is now predicted to have such devastating economic consequences.

However the weather can be changed. This foreboding “demographic winter” can still, at least to some extent, be avoided. But that will only happen if a significant number of Catholics (and others) come to embrace and live the teaching that the Church proclaims concerning marriage, and family life — and openness to children.