World Population Day: What Is the UN Doing?

Billions of Dollars Directed to Reducing Births, While Countries Face Aging Populations

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By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, JULY 13, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Last Wednesday was the United Nation’s World Population Day. Predictably the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) marked it by calling for more funds for family planning.

Wednesday also was the closing day of a London Summit organized by the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, together with UNFPA and other partners.

Participants at the summit committed themselves to provide $4.6 billion in funding for family planning in the coming years, according to a UNFPA press release.

“Contraceptives are one of the best investments a country can make in its future,” the Web site for the London Summit affirmed.

Not an opinion shared by Austin Ruse, who commented Wednesday on the summit in a post on National Review Online. Ruse is the president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a non-profit institute that closely follows the United Nations and other organizations on family and population issues. Ruse said that fertility rates are falling off a cliff and that “the world faces a new reality of demographic winter.”

He also pointed out that “every dollar spent on coercive UN-style family planning will be a dollar lost to the real needs of poor women: basic medical care, skilled birth attendants, education, clean water, and nutrition.”

Winter

Ruse’s point about a demographic winter is well-founded. On July 3 Reuters reported that the number of births in Germany fell to a post-war low last year. This was despite government incentives designed to reverse the trend in what is the European Union's biggest economy.

Preliminary data released by Germany's Federal Statistics Office showed 663,000 children were born in 2011, down from 678,000 in 2010, said Reuters.

In fact, every year since 1972 the number of people who died was greater than the number of children born. In 2011 the difference amounted to 190,000 people.

While people commonly believe that Muslim families have many children, an article in the June issue of the magazine Policy Review by Nicholas Eberstadt and Apoorva Shah said that fertility levels are falling dramatically in the Muslim community too.

The authors admitted that reliable data on some Muslim states is lacking, for example Afghanistan, but they cited estimates of 1.42 to 1.57 billion Muslims, about 22%-23% of the world population.

All 48 Muslim-majority countries and territories have experienced fertility decline over recent decades, the authors pointed out. Moreover, the decline has been greater than the world average decline.

“The remarkable fertility declines now unfolding throughout the Muslim world is one of the most important demographic developments in our era,” the article affirmed.

The latest data confirms the arguments in a recent book, “Population Decline and the Remaking of Great Power Politics,” edited by Susan Yoshihara and Douglas A. Sylva, who both work for C-FAM.

The demographic decline in many nations may be so severe, they explained in the book’s introduction, that some countries might not be able to achieve economic growth, fund social welfare programs, or meet their security obligations.

In recent decades there has been a 60% drop in worldwide fertility rates and the number of people aged 60 or more has multiplied 3.5 times. The ratio of workers to retired people has fallen by 25% in the last 50 years and is expected to fall by another 55% by 2050.

Destiny

“Demographics is not destiny,” they acknowledged, “but it sets the boundaries of the possible.”

The working age population of all developed countries, with the exception of the United States, will stop growing within five years, Phillip Longman pointed out in his essay. Longman, a prominent writer on demographic issues, added that is it not just the richer countries that are affected. Brazil, Chile, and Mexico are likely to have older populations that the U.S. by mid-century.

The latest U.N. projections estimate that by 2050, 75% of all countries, even in underdeveloped regions, will not have enough children to avoid population decline.

Even so Europe is particularly affected, with 18 of the 20 countries with the lowest birthrate being in Europe. The European population, including Russia, is projected to decline by some 128 million by 2050.

Journalist and author Gordon G. Chang examined the consequences of demographic change in China.

The world’s most populous nation has created demographic abnormalities that cannot be remedied for decades, he argued. There are 51.3 million more males than females as a result of sex-selective abortion.

The country will also shortly be hit by an “age wave,” Chang noted. The age cohort of those aged 60 and more, currently at 12.5% of the population, will double by 2030.

China is already short of workers and the working-age population is set to fall from just under a billion in 2015 to 789 million in 2050. This will have serious economic consequences for both China and the rest of the world, Chang pointed out.

Yet, in the face of all that is happening, the United Nations and its friends continue to campaign for billions more to be spent on further reducing the number of children.