Thursday, August 30, 2018

Asia's Under-population Crisis

In many Asian countries, concerns about dwindling populations overshadow fears of global overpopulationSocieties overall are aging at a pace that birth rates cannot keep up with — a fact that will pose a major challenge to many a social security system in the future. With the exception of India, women in many industrialized and emerging countries have fewer than 2.1 children on average, which is the rate deemed necessary to maintain a population.

Planners realized that China's one-child policy was headed toward massive social problems should the birth rate remain low.  It now seems that the government plans to abandon limits on how many children families can have altogether, according to draft legislation scheduled to be adopted in 2020. To encourage women to have more children, however, the government needs to make it easier for them to balance work and family life. Wary of the new child-friendly policy, many companies have tried to avoid employing women of childbearing age to save costs. On the other hand, it seems that many families are content to have just one child because of the immense cost of raising a child — in particular, if they are looking at a first-class education — and in view of the obligations that couples have toward their own parents. 

In Iran birth rates decreased rapidly in the mid-20th century. At the time of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, women had an average of six children, and even a record 6.5 kids per woman in the 1980s, a patriotic reaction to appeals by the country's religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, during the war with Iraq to breed a 20 million-strong army. Faced with an exhausted economy and the challenge of an increasingly young population after the war two children became the norm thanks to a massive state family planning program.  In 2005, the conservative hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took over the presidency and having a large number of children once again was declared a blessing while family planning was brushed off as the West's strategy to weaken Iran. Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called previous governments' policies a mistake that needed to be corrected. No more free birth control, a ban on sterilizations, financial incentives for larger families, fewer sex education programs for teenagers, limited college admissions for women who sought certain professions — by 2014, Iran had tried several different ways to coerce a baby boom. To no avail, however: Iranian women have an average of two children.

India, too, has a huge number of young people. However, with economic growth declining, automation on the rise and fewer jobs in the agriculture sector, India hasn't managed to create enough adequate jobs. The overall trend has been a gradual decrease since 1965 and India's birth rate is expected to fall below the 2.1 mark after 2040.

Japan already has a relatively elderly population. One in four people are older than 65, and their proportion is rising. Japan's current population of 128 million is expected to plummet to 112 million by 2045. In 2005, Japan created a cabinet post responsible for raising the birth rate. A few years ago, experts came up with ideas to help remove obstacles that keep people from getting married and create financial incentives — none of which boosted the birth rate. Many companies try to lure workers by offering perks — from recreation and flexible hours to marriage counseling and time off for procreation. None of these initiatives is likely to make a significant change, however, and a few companies are already preparing for completely automated assembly lines to run 24/7. Japan even has plans for robots and artificial intelligence to take over nursing care tasks in the future.

No comments: