Paper Example on Social and Economic Implications of Low Birth Rate

Published: 2021-06-30
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Middlebury College
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Research paper
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By definition, the birth rate is a ratio representing the total live births to the total population in a particular region or community, over a particular period. Arguably, the fact that the global population is estimated to be over 7 billion people and still continues to rise, it may seem ironical and totally uncalled for, to even begin to claim that there are countries that experience extremely low birth rates leading to a stagnant population. Nevertheless, the truth is, a majority of the countries across the parts of Europe experience very low birth rates and this, has mainly led to a substantial decrease in their population. This being said, the core intent of this research paper is to discuss both the social and economic ramifications of the European low birth rates, with a particular reference to the different population policies being used by the government to mitigate some of these consequences.

To begin with, fertility and birth rates, whether low or high, have a substantial impact on a regions social and economic growth and the cultural stability, among many other implications. While the worlds population has become a central debatable point, scholars have increasingly contended that the fertility and the birth rates in European countries have, over the last five decades, declined dramatically. This being the case, in the modern day today, a majority of the European countries have their birth rates falling below the long-term replacement rate. For this reason, the low fertility rates which have in turn led to a significant decrease in the continents birth rates, has increasingly caused a shrink to the continents labor force. This, in its deepest essence, puts a majority of the European countries at a significant risk of economic instabilities which include the inability to pay pensions and handle varying health care demands, among other hazards.

Besides, the domineering birth rates in most of the European countries has continually led to changes in the population age structure. According to recent literature, these changes in population age structure become the primary attributes of absolute a majority of the social consequences such as population decline in these countries. Additionally, with age structure as an important determinant of economic growth, modern day scholars have raised concerns that brewing low birth rates in Europe primarily decrease age populations which have led to a distinct economic growth decline, which has, in turn, lowered the living standards of most of the European countries.

Bloom and Canning (2008), contend that, although there is a considerable disagreement about the primary causes of the declined birth rates in Europe, it is with no doubt that the persistence of low fertility leading to a decline in the birth rates, adversely affects the economic growth in a majority of the European countries. In this respect, according to the Europeans Commission, a prediction is made that one of the most significant consequences of the decline in population as a result of the low birth rates is a commensurate decline drop in the working age population. The commission predicts that if this low birth rate trend persists a majority of the European countries are bound to experience a 40% decline in the working-age population over the next couple of decades.

Moreover, while very low birth rates may be attributed to a regions institutional settings, Kohler, Billari & Ortega (2006) point out that despite being a major industrialized country, the low birth rates experienced in Europe have the potential to cause massive public deficits shortly. According to these scholars, these public debt consequences will be as a result of mounting pension costs and health care spending which automatically compels the government to spend a lot more on research and development.

While the global population debates are mainly characterized by discussions over the worlds population influx, a significant discussion concerning the low fertility, which has in the resent past characterized a majority of the industrialized countries, takes a toll on the population debates. This being the case, a ton of negative consequences revolving around the fact that there are fewer young persons and their prospects, has already become a reality in a majority of the European countries. In this respect, because low birth rates eventually lead to fewer men and women of working ages, the ramification, in this case, is a smaller tax base which is required to finance the social security payments. Besides, regardless of the fact that the potential economic difficulties which are used to finance social security benefits tend to receive the most attention, there are other negative low birth rate effects which are often ignored. For instance, low fertility reduces the rate of scientific and technological innovations since this kind of advancements mainly come from the younger generation. Additionally, research has it that, those countries that suffer low birth rates are bound to experience a technological and a scientific innovations stagnancy. This is significantly attributed to the fact that, in most cases, the younger generation is generally more adaptable and hence the reason why a majority of the new industries necessarily attract the young and industrious workers who are not yet committed to the older and declining firms in the market.

Population Policies Used By the Government to Mitigate the Low Birth Rates Consequences

While the issue of low birth rates continues to be a major social, economic and cultural problem across most of the European countries, the government in a majority of these countries has put in place various policies which primarily seek to address low fertility. Firstly according to Lutz & Scherbov (2003), the government in most of the affected European countries have come up with pronatalist policies that seek to encourage a majority of the European women to have children. This includes encouraging them to take up certain initiatives such as providing child care, financial support, or even providing a flexible work environment.

Additionally, certain non-governmental institutions in Europe have been formed with a primary focus of discouraging delayed childbearing, which is an idea that has proved to make sense, owing to the fact that the attribution of the low national birth rates, to increase the age of women at first birth. Nonetheless, while these are some of the measures taken by the relevant authorities to increase the birth rates in the European countries, some government organization contend that this should not be treated as a crisis. For instance, Sobotka (2004) suggests that one of the primary reasons why low fertility should not be taken as a crisis is because it is an issue that can be effectively offset by a substantial increase in immigration into the particular country in question. Nonetheless, although there are relatively high and contentious immigration policies in some of these countries, encouraging significant in-migration to the countries with a declining economic growth and a level working-age population may be one of the most effective and reasonable routes to avoiding an economic shutdown.

Moreover, putting into consideration that the consequences of low fertility in Europe takes place from a broader perspective and affects various sectors ranging from health to economic sectors, then in this case, there is the need for the government, whether local or national government, to provide sufficient publicly funded reproductive health and social care so as to achieve the required birth rates which will mostly mitigate the chances of either a social or economic shut down. Additionally, by so doing the government will boost the birth rates in the affected region, and as a result, a younger population will contribute to the nations and also the global progress, as a whole.

In conclusion, while different population growth or decline trends are associated with different implications, in the long run, low birth rates are associated with a diminished economic growth. In Europe for instance, studies increasingly indicate that in the short term, low birth rates have the capacity to raise the per capita income since it significantly lowers the families, which has adverse effects on the working age population. Thus, in a nutshell, due to the decline in the age population, which is a result of low birth rates, then, whatever the short-term boon which might have been gained by the European nations from a low youth dependency, this will eventually become overwhelmed by the economic burdens which are as a result of old-age dependency.


Bloom, D. E., & Canning, D. (2008). Global demographic change: dimensions and economic significance. Population and Development Review, 34(S), 17-51.

Keilman, N., & Council of Europe. (2003). Demographic And Social Implications Of Low Fertility For Family Structures In Europe. Population Studies No. 43 (1st ed.). Council of Europe.

Kirk, D. (1968). Europe's population in the interwar years (1st ed.). Gordon and Breach.

Kohler, H.-P., Billari, F. C., & Ortega, J. A. (2006). Low fertility in Europe: causes, implications and policy options. In F. R. Harris (Ed.), The baby bust: who will do the work? Who will pay the taxes? (pp. 48-109). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Lutz, W., O'Neill, B. C., & Scherbov, S. (2003). Europes population at a turning point. Science, 299(March), 1991-1992.

Meyer, H., & Rutherford, J. (2012). The future of European social democracy: Building the good society. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sobotka, T. (2004). Is lowest-low fertility in Europe explained by the postponement of childbearing? Population and Development Review, 30(2), 195-220

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