Pope Predicts Population Winter
On Wednesday, January 5th, Fox News Digital carried a headline saying that the, “Pope criticizes couples who adopt pets instead of children.” According to Fox, Pope Francis declared that, “”Today… we see a form of selfishness. We see that some people do not want to have a child. Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children.”
But the Pope wasn’t really talking about pets. He was talking about a population implosion. An implosion among developed nations from the United States and China to South Korea, Sweden and Italy.
The birthrate of the United States, for example, dropped 7% in 2020. The birthrate in China did even worse. It plunged by 18%. And in Japan, the New York Times reports that “adult diapers now outsell baby diapers.” In other words, there are now more incontinent Japanese elders than Japanese babies.
This is dangerous. In countries all over the world, the working young support their retired elders. In the United States, for example, it takes three workers paying in to social security to support one retired person.
In 1945, there were 41 workers paying in for every retired social security beneficiary. Today, for every elder the number of younger workers is only 2.9. In other words, the number of workers for each retiree is below the three needed to keep our aging population afloat.
If you reduce the number of children, who will support the elderly?
What’s more, societies depend on the working young to grow their economies and to introduce the technologies that will increase the standard of living. We depend on the young for upcoming life changers on a par with the smartphone, Google, and Facebook.
So to keep our economies growing and to support our elders, we rely increasingly on immigrants. Yes, the immigrants who some love to curse are upholding the standard of living of those who hate them.
The population problem straddles the globe. It takes an average birth rate of 2.1 children per woman to merely keep the population as is. But country after country is falling below that number. The average woman in the United States, for example, has only 1.7 children, way below the replacement rate. In China, too, on average a woman gives birth to only 1.7 kids.
All of this came to the pope’s attention in May of 2021 when the United States and China issued their new census figures. Both countries were on the verge of shrinking. On May 15th, 2021, Italy had a conference on its own demographic crisis. The pope was a key speaker. He warned of what he called a “demographic winter.” When a population implodes, he said, a “civilization becomes aged and without humanity, because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood.” In the Pope’s words, “”A society that does not welcome life stops living.”
Then, in January of 2022, the pope took up the theme again. It wasn’t dogs and cats that he opposed. He wanted to see more men and women becoming fathers and mothers. Parenting, he said, is a crucial source of fulfillment in human lives.
Unfortunately, in the modern world, it doesn’t look that way. Childcare and higher education can cost a fortune. A fortune folks on ordinary salaries can’t afford.
Which is why governments all over the world are experimenting with the tools that appear in Joe Biden’s build back better package. 33 countries have paid family leave. 108 countries have child tax credits. and at least five countries are trying to ease the cost of childcare.
These are not socialism. They are tools to rescue capitalism from population crash.
Meanwhile John Deere is offering its own solution to the lack of young, able-bodied laborers—self-driving tractors that cut down the need for farm workers and that can plant seeds on their own. The answer to population winter may be robots.
World Bank, Fertility rate, total (births per woman), https://data.worldbank.org/
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