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March 29, 2005

The EU Just Doesn’t Get It.

From the EU staff magazine:

Why are there so few births in Europe?    

It seems to be due to late access to employment, job instability,       expensive housing and a lack of incentives (family benefits, parental leave, childcare, equal pay, etc.)      

"Politics alone cannot solve the problem," said Commissioner  Špidla. "They have to go hand in hand with a picture in society that does not stamp women who re-enter the labour market after maternity leave as "bad mothers" and men that take care of children as "softies".      

What should we do?      

The Commission wants to open a debate on how to tackle the problem of its ageing population. Should EU policies for work-life balance and equal  opportunities be harnessed to boost population? How should immigration into the EU be managed?      

The Commission will organise a European Conference on 11 July in Brussels gathering experts, high-level policy makers and civil society to discuss those issues.

These people are insane. Absolutely doolally, incapable of the merest rudiments of joined up thinking.

Just consider, the US birth rate is higher than that in western Europe. US pampering of mothers and fathers (maternity, paternity pay and leave, longer working hours, shorter holidays) is less than it is in western Europe. This shows that our low birth rates should or could be solved by more pampering? Is there actually anyone in that organisation with their head sufficiently out of their arse to actually look at the world around them?

To take just one other argument, that of equal pay. Now as any good little economist will tell you, if you raise the monetary value of women’s labour, more of them will perform such labour. That is, more of them will go to work rather than staying at home and doing the other type of labour every few years. If you wanted, as one might as a solution to this demographic problem, to raise the birth rate one would want to lower women’s wages in respect  to those of men, reducing the opportunity cost to women (and the family) of having more children as opposed to a career.

Now no, I’m not seriously suggesting that women should be forced out of the workforce when they marry or have children, as used to happen just a couple of generations ago. I am asking that these people who run the Continent on our behalf actually think for a moment, try to do that joined up logic thing. What do you actually want, freedom and equality for women or a higher birth rate? It appears that you can’t have both.

Oh, and yes, I would love to be part of that civil society thing on July 11 th. Anyone know how to snag me an invite and an expenses claim?

March 29, 2005 in European Union | Permalink


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Though the EU countries with policies in place to 'pamper' women most have less of a birth rate (really, replacement rate) crisis. Those where women who leave jobs to have children often face probable unemployment (e.g. Italy) have the worst birth rate crises. How do you explain that? Making comparisons with the US, who have a huge Hispanic immigrant population, is comparing apples and oranges.

Tim adds: Sweden has a higher ratio of first generation immigrants than the UK does.

Posted by: Jarndyce | Mar 29, 2005 4:54:07 PM

The birthrate falls whenever women control their own lives.

Contraception and legal abortion have solved the physical part. Jobs, legal equality, and the demise of religion remove social incentives. Self esteem is today's creed.

Bearing and raising children is damn tough. Those who regard themselves as the hub of the universe don't like "tough"; they like Gucci.

Don't get me wrong. I don't give a damn. It just seems the explanation is not all that mysterious.

Posted by: Ken | Mar 30, 2005 4:04:47 AM

Ken is totally right. Falling birth rates are a result of women being in control. Its hardly a mystery.

As for
....It seems to be due to late access to employment, job instability, expensive housing and a lack of incentives (family benefits, parental leave, childcare, equal pay, etc.)....

As compared to the Middle East where each women has 5 children, mainly due to the excellent access to employment and maternity welfare system!!!!

How stupid exactly are these people?

Posted by: EU Serf | Mar 30, 2005 11:24:55 AM