FAMILY "DOWNSIZING"

Chris Doss itschris13 at SPAMhotmail.com
Thu May 4 22:41:00 MDT 2000




I thought the comment a particularly repulsive example of the moral
obtuseness rampant in the US media.  "Let's see, how can we explain pain and
suffering in a way understandable to our upper-middle-class readers?"

But still, I find this article particularly
>poignent, especially the quote comparing “family downsizing”
>to "company downsizing."
>
>Jack A. Smith
>
>
>
>New York Times, May 4, 2000
>BIRTHRATE DIPS IN EX-COMMUNIST COUNTRIES
>
>By STEVEN ERLANGER
>
>PRAGUE, May 3 -- The collapse of Communism in 1989 produced a sharp
>drop in the fertility rate throughout Eastern and Central Europe that
>could reduce the region's population nearly 20 percent by the year 2050,
>according to a United Nations report issued today.
>
>With political collapse and economic uncertainty, many women almost
>immediately stopped having children or decided to delay motherhood,
>according to the report by the United Nations Economic Commission for
>Europe, part of a larger economic survey of Europe.
>
>And in more developed countries, the transition to capitalism has
>produced
>new economic opportunities for both women and men, making early
>childbearing less common.
>
>A result will be a smaller labor pool and a quickly aging population,
>said
>Miroslav Macura, the chief of the population unit that prepared the
>report.
>With the rise in emigration and at least temporary increases in
>mortality rates
>in large parts of the region, which includes Russia and the European
>parts of
>the former Soviet Union, he said, a population of some 307 million could
>fall
>to about 250 million in the next 50 years.
>
>With the fall of Communism, real incomes have declined in the region and
>are only slowly recovering, with larger gaps between rich and poor. At
>the
>same time, governments have cut back support for families with children,
>while services like day-care centers have become private or more
>expensive.
>
>"People have been impoverished and decided that having kids at a time of
>poverty and misery is not the right thing to do, so they cut back," Mr.
>Macura
>said in a telephone interview from Geneva. "This is family downsizing
>comparable to company downsizing."
>
>Western Europe is also facing reductions in the fertility rate -- which
>measures
>the average number of children born to women of childbearing age -- and
>an
>aging population, which is raising the prospect of an economy without
>enough
>young, skilled workers to grow and pay for the rising number of
>pensioners.
>The answer is likely to be more immigration from Central and Eastern
>Europe,
>which may create new political problems in Western Europe and further
>diminish the skilled work force to the east.
>
>In Eastern and Central Europe, the decline in childbearing is much
>sharper
>than in the West. When a population has a fertility rate of 2.1 children
>per
>woman, it replaces itself, Mr. Macura said. But by 1997, the average
>fertility rate
>in the transition economies was 1.37, a third lower than in 1988. In the
>market
>economies of Western Europe, by contrast, the average rate was 1.58.
>
>The rate fell most sharply after 1989 in the former East Germany, where
>in 1993
>the rate had dropped to 0.76. By 1998, it had improved to 1.06, rising
>to a figure
>still smaller than both Latvia and Bulgaria, whose rates had fallen to
>1.09 and
>1.11 respectively.
>
>The more prosperous countries of Central Europe will make up some of
>their
>population decrease from new immigration that will come from even poorer
>countries to their east, suggested Tomas Kucera, a professor of
>demographics at
>Charles University in Prague.
>
>He also said that the large generation born in the early 1970's, which
>is
>currently postponing motherhood, is likely not to postpone it forever,
>especially as economies stabilize. But they will have fewer children,
>often no
>more than one.
>
>"Fertility will never again reach pre-1989 levels," Mr. Kucera said.
>
>Given the high levels of unemployment and underemployment in Central
>and Eastern Europe, having fewer children is "rational economic behavior
>in
>some ways," Mr. Macura said. He suggests that in Russia and many of the
>poorer states, a smaller labor force will help. But he concedes that
>paying for
>the benefits and illnesses of an aging population will be difficult, and
>that some
>countries, like Russia, will see a sharp decline in its population as a
>strategic
>threat to its influence and power.
>
>Still, despite Russia's high mortality rate, women are still having
>babies early
>in Russia, as well as in Ukraine and Belarus, Mr. Macura said. The
>United
>Nations study projects Russia's population to decline by 18 percent in
>the next
>50 years, but the drop is relatively small in percentage terms compared
>with
>Hungary, 25 percent; Bulgaria and Latvia, both 31 percent; and Estonia,
>34
>percent.

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