Thursday, March 18, 2021

Pandemic and Procreation

 Joshua Wilde and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany predicted in October they predicted that by February there would be a 15.2% decline in births. Now they see that slump extending until August. It would be the largest fall in births in more than a century, lasting longer than the effect of the 2008 recession or even the Great Depression in 1929.

In June last year economists at the Brookings Institute in the United States estimated that US births would fall by 300,000 to half a million babies.

At the same time a survey of fertility plans in Europe showed that 50% of people in Germany and France who had planned to have a child in 2020 were going to postpone it. In Italy 37% said they had abandoned the idea altogether.

A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report indicates an 8% drop in births in the month of December.

Early data from Italy suggests a 21.6% decline at the beginning of the year and Spain is reporting its lowest birth rate since records began - a decline of 20%.

Nine months on from the start of the pandemic France, Korea, Taiwan, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have all reported monthly birth figures for December or January that were their lowest in more than 20 years.

However, elsewhere it is different. The UN's sexual and reproductive health agency says the pandemic has caused nearly 12 million women in 115 countries to lose access to family planning services and could result in 1.4 million unintended pregnancies.

In Indonesia alone, the government predicts half a million more babies will be born because of the pandemic. The country's national family planning agency says up to 10 million people stopped using contraception because they couldn't access clinics or pharmacies in that time.

In the future if there are less people of working age, there will be less tax revenue generated to pay for pensions and healthcare for old people who in turn are living longer. There are solutions to this problem - increasing the retirement age for example or encouraging immigration - but those have political implications. Many countries have tried to increase the numbers of babies born with little success. Once birth rates decline it's extremely difficult to convince women to have more babies.

Covid: From boom to bust - why lockdown hasn't led to more babies - BBC News

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