It is common to hear people talk about the huge expense of raising children. Yet, most figures reported about how much it costs to raise a child are based on what parents actually spend, not what children actually need – which is a pretty big distinction.
We all know that a reliance on ‘things’ won’t bring our children contentment and long-term happiness. But, amid the constant bombardment of advertising, it takes effort to avoid falling into the materialism trap and instead encourage gratitude and imagination. The result is that many children have far more than they need, as do most adults.
This mother was moved in a fit of frustration to take away all her children’s toys. At first it sounds a little harsh, but the effect is worth considering. She discovered that her children actually liked not being overwhelmed by ‘stuff’. She writes:
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Claims the West is declining due to low fertility rates are exaggerated according to a new study by the University of Oxford. It is a hopeful finding. Although, on closer inspection I’m not sure how comforting it is that the study seems to simply identify that non-Western countries are in an even worse position, rather than finding that the West is in a good one.
According to the study published in the journal Population Studies the fate of the West is manageable “with effort and some pain”. That doesn’t sound exactly reassuring either.
A recent McKinsey Global Institute study concluded that over the next 50 years population growth will decline to 0.3 per cent annually. Financial analysts consider that the implications of this slowdown on global changes in the standard of living and investment opportunities could be enormous.
In New Zealand the following report has not seemed to generate much media interest although it is extremely troubling and also extremely relevant to the euthanasia debate which is simmering away in the background. (At the last election in 2014 the opposition Labour party forced one of its MPs to withdraw her private members bill on the enthunasia issue as it was felt not to be a vote winner. It didn't help the party which recorded one of its worst election results in history. However, the issue is still cropping up from time to time.)
We recently discussed the changing ethnic make-up of New Zealand babies. However, while some are having more babies than others, the question remains why total fertility rates remain so low.
Last week New Zealand journalist and radio personality, Duncan Garner, was moved to write about the value put on raising children in modern New Zealand society. Using his own family as a case study, he investigated the importance of the work his wife does at home. He writes:
My wife's three-month break from paid work ends on Monday – and she can't wait to get back into the workforce. It's not that she doesn't love being at home with our 4-year-old son, she dotes on the little man, but she's ready to be "normal" again and, as she puts it, to "contribute" to the household.
Like most children, I grew up listening to my mother’s choice of music. One of my earliest favourites was “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston. For some reason the lyrics struck a chord with me:
“I believe the children are our future Teach them well and let them lead the way Show them all the beauty they possess inside… Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be”
The lyrics still ring true for me. If the children really are our future then the Eurozone has a seriously questionable one. There is not nearly as much children’s laughter around.
Figures released by the European Union’s statistics agency late last week show that the number of children aged less than 15 in the 28-member bloc decreased by 10 million over the last twenty years, and it is a trend that is set to continue.
Over the last couple of years we've spoken a few times about the predictions of the United States of America's changing demographic makeup. In 2012 Shannon talked about the rise of Latin Americans as an increasing force on the political landscape. A year later, she noted that for the first time the number of white deaths outstripped which births in the US. This year I looked at the USA's population in 2060, while Shannon discussed an interesting Economist podcast on the general issue only last month. What we haven't discussed before is the shaky future of MTV (I'm actually not sure if MTV is still popular – I'm no longer au fait with what is cool with young people, if I ever was...) The reason that MTV's future is looking shaky is that the share of teenagers in the USA's population is higher now than it will be for the next…
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The ethnic make-up of New Zealand is changing. The Health Ministry published its annual report on maternity last week and, for the first time, the Asian birth rate in New Zealand climbed ahead of the European rate. Maori and Pacific birth rates still remained by far the highest, propping up the overall New Zealand fertility rate.
The New Zealand Herald infographic below shows the total number of births per 1000 women over time. It seems to indicate that Asian women are aware that 30 is the age that fertility begins to decline, as births peak sharply just before this age. The median age for Māori and Pacific women giving birth was five years younger than for Asian and European women.
Today’s story is a wonderful story from the Netherlands about a way to help cash-strapped students while also alleviating the loneliness of the disconnected elderly. As PBS reports, the Humanitas retirement home has adopted a win-win scenario:
“A nursing home in the Netherlands allows university students to live rent-free alongside the elderly residents, as part of a project aimed at warding off the negative effects of aging.”
The students get to live in small, rent-free apartments in return for spending at least 30 hours a month acting as “good neighbours” to the elderly living at the retirement home. The students do a number of activities with their elderly neighbours including watching sports, celebrating birthdays and offering company when senior fall ill. This is all extremely important since:
After having son number six, North Carolina mum Cher Lair and her husband Stephen decided they were destined to be a 'boy' household. They told their local ABC News:
"Initially, on baby three and four, I’m thinking, there’ll be a girl at some point. They can’t all be boys. But after four and five and six, you’re kinda thinking, yeah they can," she said.
When she learned she was having a seventh child, the family entrusted a friend with knowing the gender first, and she baked a cake to either reveal pink or blue inside. You will smile as you watch her reaction as she finds out what's inside the cake!
Lair comments that "We are happy we got exactly what we were supposed to get with all these six and with a girl,". How lovely!
The sex educators preaching to our teenagers are beginning to realise that, if they want young people to view having babies in a positive light, they might have to change their focus from simply drumming home how not to get pregnant.
Having reached the grand old age of 31 this week, I am increasingly encountering friends who are not finding it quite as easy to get pregnant as they had always thought it would be. For many, there is a mind shift from babies as something to be avoided at all costs (a mind-set many have drummed into them through their teens), to a desperate desire to get pregnant and the realisation that children are a gift and that fertility is not forever.
Welcome to Demography Is Destiny. We launched this to counter two media memes: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling to unsustainable levels. The real story is that intelligent and inventive human will rise to the challenge of climate change and that our real problem is the coming demographic winter. The editors of Demography is Destiny are Marcus and Shannon Roberts, who live in Auckland, New Zealand. Send them your comments and suggestions.