Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"strengthening the family and increasing the birth rate"

I've covered the Russian demographic disaster previously. Now ...

"Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has unveiled plans to reverse Russia's declining population. The government will spend 1.5tn roubles ($53bn; £33bn) on raising the birth rate and extending life expectancy."

Not only that, this summer they'll be hosting in Moscow what's described as the first world pro-life and pro-family demography conference. Ironic, considering that Russia is still the world's abortion capital. Maybe Mr Putin needs to consider figures like these :

"In 2001, 1,320,000 children were born in Russia, while 1,800,000 abortions were performed. The abortion rate in the USSR peaked in 1964, when 5.6 million abortions were performed, the highest number in Russia’s history."

Makes the UK, where about 25% of pregnancies are aborted, look a model of restraint.

Russia also shares with the UK the demographic feature that some ethnic groups have a lot more babies than others. Encouraging more Russians may, for example, encourage even more Chechens.

Quite how you encourage people to have more babies is an interesting point. I'm generally inclined towards Steve Sailer's theories on Affordable Family Formation, but there are a host of other cultural factors. AFF is IMHO generally valid as a pointer to relative fertility within a given group - say working and middle-class white Americans or Britons. But that wouldn't, for example, explain why those of Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage have so many more babies than white Brits - my guess would be that rearing five children on housing benefit in East London compares most favourably with raising them in Sylhet or Mirpur. 'Affordable' means different things to different cultural groups.

The Japanese are from 2010 paying parents £175 per month per child, something this father of four would have loved (and although UK child benefit stops when they leave school, strangely the student grant people consider them to be dependent up to the age of 25). Be interesting to see if it works, although remembering the insane house prices in Japan family formation still isn't exactly affordable.

But there's more to having children than affordability. What sort of country will they grow up in? When I look at a possible UK future, I often wonder what possessed us - and I encourage my children to have an exit strategy. Over the last week, I read two books on Russia - Roderic Braithwaite's 'Moscow 1941' and the late Anna Politkovskaya's 'Putin's Russia'. In many respects - incompetence, corruption, despotism at local and national levels, the cheapness of human life, the country doesn't seem to have changed that much in seventy years.

Politkovskaya's book is almost unreadable in its depressing quality. Her Russia isn't a place you'd ideally choose to sprog in. One tale of brutality and corruption after another - to the point where you start to wonder whether things can really be this bad. Then you remember her murder. Which le Carre novel is it where the quality of information is attested to by the murder of the provider ?

Along with AFF (with allowances made for group differences), I'd suggest that confidence is key to sprogging in a world with freely available and effective contraception, just as we're always told that confidence is key to business investment decisions - and what greater investment than children ? The hope and expectation that your children will have a better life than their parents will IMHO be a key driver of fertility, all else being equal. True for the baby-boomer parents of the post-war West, true for the Bangladeshis and Mirpuris of Bradford and Tower Hamlets. But for today's Russians ? And today's Brits ?


Anonymous said...

I guess I'm a small case study in looking at the exit strategy. Myself and the wife have previously talked about emigrating (A visit to Vancouver got us looking, lovely place) but it only really got serious when the little one arrived.

The wife has been in tears thinking about him growing up in this country. Discussions have included the relative merits of a much higher mortgage to hopefully get a decent state school compared to sticking where we are and chocking down £9k a year in private school fees.

That was the point we realised there must be a better way. Thus Australia, and Adelaide in particular, start to look mighty inviting to someone not yet 30 and with sought after IT skills.

No avoiding the fact it will still be the hardest decision of our lives though. Dreading the idea of telling Granny and Grandad we are taking their Grandson away if we do indeed make the jump.

All thanks to the political establishment of the last 30 years, with special mention to the last 14. To say it makes me sick to the pit of my stomach would be an understatement.

Mark said...

'The hope and expectation that your children will have a better life than their parents will IMHO be a key driver of fertility, all else being equal.'

Applying this principle to changes in the Russian birth rate over the last 2 decades shows interesting trends. It was at its lowest in the years 1993- 2002 (the 'shock therapy' years).This tends to support the hypothesis made by the 'Lancet' in 2009 about the disastrous effects of 'shock therapy'- and not the predictable rejoinder to it extruded (where else ?) in the 'Economist'. Thereafter, and notwithstanding the rampant corruption & brutality reported by Anna Politkovskaya and others, the birth rate has risen significantly.In 2009 indeed, the Russian population grew for the first time since the dissolution of the USSR.

Another striking feature of Russian demography (and one very different to our own):only 1.6% of the population are of ethnicities not native to the Russian territory.

Anonymous said...

If yo want more babies make motherhood attractive nd not a part time occupation. In other words do away with feminism.

DJ said...

Sailer's AFF Theory has a lot to recommend it, but I don't think it can be the whole story, absent a demonstration that there are a lot of couples not having kids/having very few kids who would otherwise breed vs people who are, say, single, childless by choice etc

I think this points to a more general flaw in the social conservative movement of people ignoring the morbidly-obese elephant in the room.

Anonymous said...

It is not just how many babies but which ones.
Having more chavs or Muslims is not a great idea.

Pub Philosopher said...

Slightly off topic but vaguely relevant, you might want to have a look at this:

And this:

Ed West said...

Here's a question. If Japan ages and continues on its immigration policy then surely as the population declines real estate will get cheaper and the TFR will start to correct itself?

In Russia's case real estate presumably isn't the problem, Communism was. All post-Communist societies suffered massive demographic decline, East Germany after 1989 the sharpest in history. And Poles only start breeding like good Catholics when they come here.

The USSR was the first country to legalise abortion and the first to re-criminalise it. I wonder if history will repeat itself?

Sgt Troy 11th Dragoons said...

"Along with AFF (with allowances made for group differences), I'd suggest that confidence is key to sprogging in a world with freely available and effective contraception, just as we're always told that confidence is key to business investment decisions - and what greater investment than children ?"

We are told that by sunshine spivs, it is much sounder and saner to consider fundamentals.

But letting that go Laban just suppose that we entered a "sprogging" race with our enriched friends. It seems to me that this would be like pitting a 45 year old chain smoker who had been on the piss for the last 25 years with a 4 minute miler.

Let's defy gravity and suppose we could sort of keep up. But what would the population of this island be then?

It is already too great to sustain existing living standards.

What happens when it gets to 80 millions or so? It is not a pleasant prospect. The infra-structure and the available resources would obviously be wholly insufficient, it would just bend; socially, ethnically, religiously it would be a power-keg. Life would simply not be worth living, it would be hell.

To suggest a competitive birth rate with people who have utterly outbred the resources of their own countries is not logical, it is not sane.

There are more obvious and potentially promising lines to pursue

Anonymous said...

Don't mention the youtube

Guardian dhimmis delete it on a regular basis

anon1 said...

Laban: "I've covered the Russian demographic disaster previously."

Are there any historical examples of "disastrous" consequences ensuing from a sub-replacement birth rate in a given country?

The best example of negative side-effects of a relatively low birth rate, that comes to mind is the example of France and how it fared against Germany in the two world wars; apparently there were more French 18-year-olds than German during WW1, but fewer French 18-year-olds during WW2. That is hardly cause for the Russians or Japanese to fret too much about their populations in the present day.

On the other hand, overpopulation in China, India and sub-Saharan Africa has had and continues to have serious consequences for those populations.

Until there is a good reason to do so why not refrain from repeating cached thoughts about "demographic disaster", which are promoted by replacement-immigrationists, until there is more (any?) evidence of disastrous outcomes coming about due to low birth rates (bearing in mind that it would be extremely naive to extrapolate present birth rates indefinitely).

Hexe said...

Men don't have a say in reproduction at all -- the women have decided that they don't want children(and that is that)

And until one of those conditions is fixed (either men be put back into control by removing contraceptives and letting nature take it's natural course(to the detriment of us all)) or women can be once again convinced to be of the opinion that motherhood is great way of spending your life -- until then, no amount of politics will change the situation.

But it's not only women that have to change here, modern men are useless as fathers and partners (and the new cohorts that has been gender-neutralised even more so, you ain't seen nothing yet...)

To be honest, I don't see an exit strategy here, and we will not go back to the way we were simply because we don't know how to and most of us wouldn't want to. This current mess will play out until new cohorts are born who will have other ideas than we have, just like the 68 generation that set about to dismantle western culture as we know it(and is currently succeeding).

anon1 said...

Of course we must presume that, as a Goddist, Laban writes his bottom line "abortion is bad" because this is what is implied by the bible, and then fills in above it the ostensible evidence to support this claim. Which is why most of what he says should be taken with a pinch of salt.

This is not to say that Russia's birth rate issue might not turn out to have serious consequences, but that it is not yet nearly appropriate to refer to it as a disaster. The dysgenic consequences of differential abortion between different classes of people should also be a source of concern.

First anonymous commentator: have you not considered home educating your child?

Mike Courtman said...

"In Russia's case real estate presumably isn't the problem, Communism was."

The two are closely connected, Russia has a serious lack of affordable housing because not enough houses were built during the communist years. It wasn't just bread Russians had to wait for.

Besides expensive housing and student loans (restrict university places to save money, rather than encourage more students to get into debt) another reason women aren't having babies is egalitarian ideology. If smart women think that less smart women are just as able to have intelligent kids then they are more likely to put their careers ahead of having of kids.