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Japan’s Birthrate Falls to New Record Low

South Korea

Europe & Africa

Kenya & Abortion

Empty Maternity Wards in Germany




JAPAN’S BIRTHRATE FALLS TO NEW RECORD LOW – of 1.29 in 2003.  The birthrate, which has been falling for decades, now ranks among the lowest in the world.  It dropped 0.03 points from the previous low of 1.32 in 2002. 

The falling birthrate threatens to leave Japan with a labor shortage in decades to come, to eat away at the country’s tax base, & to put pressure on Japan’s national pension fund.  “We have to take measures to raise the birthrate,” said Chief Cabinet Sec Hiroyuki Hosoda.  He did not, however point to any steps the government planned to take. It was also reported [, 6/04] that there were a record 32,000 Japanese suicides last year. [TOKYO, 11Jun04,; N Valko RN, 15Jun04]

SOUTH KOREA – The birthrate, while still falling, is the lowest in the world, 1.17 children per woman [replacement level is 2.2]. The South Korean population is expected to drop by two-thirds within the next 100 years, from 48 million to 16 million. The gov’t may offer parents money to have more children and raise the retirement age from the current 57 to 60. [“Plummeting birth rate calls for drastic measures”, AsiaNews, 30Mar04, quoted in, 31Mar04; Pop Research Inst Review, Mar/Apr04]

EUROPE & AFRICA – According to demographers, in 1950, Africa had 8% of the world’s population, and Europe had 22%. In 1996, when Europe actually started declining in population, they both had 13% of the population. In 2050, Africa will have 20%, and Europe only 7%. The average African will be 24 years old and the average European will be 52. The 1974 US gov’t document NSSM 200 states: “Assistance for population…should give primary emphasis to the largest and fastest growing developing countries where there is special U.S. political and strategic interest.” Nigeria is one of 13 countries listed. In 4/04, Dr. Haruna Kaita [head, Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ahmadu Bello Univ, Zaria] broke the story that oral polio vaccines in Nigeria contained anti-fertility agents. NSSM 200 also states: “No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion.” [Human Life Int’l Special Report No.234, 6/04]

KENYA & ABORTION – The UNFPA gives Marie Stopes Int’l [abortion provider] $2.8 million each year; $221,000 of this goes to Marie Stopes Kenya. Abortion is illegal in Kenya. [Pop Research Inst Review, Mar/Apr 04]

EMPTY MATERNITY WARDS IN GERMANY – A falling birthrate is threatening to depopulate the country; the loneliest place is the nursery. Germany’s falling birthrate, like that in much of Western Europe, is entering its second generation. This means not only that mothers continue to have one or at most two children – too few to reproduce the population – but also that the number of potential mothers has dwindled.

Dresden, the capital of depopulated Saxony, closed 43 schools this summer because of a lack of children. Elsewhere in the country, there are too many hospitals and even too many roads. “There will be 10 million fewer young people in my lifetime,” observed Frank Schirrmacher [editor Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung] who has written a best-selling book about population trends in Germany.

“In every German city, you could close 20 percent of the hospitals and no one would notice,” said Dr. Möbus, as he made the rounds. There is an ingrained social prejudice against large families. Even Turkish and other immigrants, who constitute half the patients at the hospital, tend to adapt to Germany’s birthrate of 1.3 children per couple within a generation, according to population experts. “It is partly selfishness,” Mr. Schönhoff agreed. “They want a Mercedes, and it costs so much that they can’t afford a child.”

The watershed decline in the birthrate occurred from 1967-1972, when female contraceptives became widely available. After dropping from 2.5 children per couple to 1.5, the rate has drifted downward. Dr. Klingholz [dir, Berlin Institute for Population/Dev’t] calculated that without new immigrants, Germany’s population would wither from 82 million to 24 million by 2100. If the country maintained its current rate of 230,000 immigrants a year, it would still shrink by 700,000 over the next 15 years. Along with the shrinking comes aging.

At current birthrates, the number of schoolchildren will fall nearly 12 percent by 2050. One in every three Germans will be over 65, double the ratio today. “Rumsfeld was right: this is ‘old Europe,’ ” Mr. Schirrmacher said. “With the loss of young people and the growth of old people, this country will become more timid and angst-ridden.”

Other European countries, notably Sweden, have nudged up their birthrates by offering incentives to families to have extra children. But the German government does not have the resources to do this.

Germany’s birthrate is roughly equivalent to that of Spain or Italy, but lower than that of France, which has been encouraging larger families since the 1930’s. France also has a stronger tradition of working mothers.

“Spain, Italy and Germany will be the first societies in human history with more older people than children,” said Mr. Schirrmacher, whose book, “The Methuselah Conspiracy,” has sold 400,000 copies. In a 6/04 report, Deutsche Bank warned that Germany would have to curtail its public services, because tax revenue from a declining population would not support them. Manfred Haubrock [health care finance expert, Univ of Applied Science, Osnabrück] estimates that the number of German hospitals will shrink to 600 from 2,200 in the next decade. [, 18Nov04; ; N Valko RN]