A few years ago, after I finished a lecture in Tokyo a Japanese physician came up to me and announced, “We are turning out the lights in Japan!”
I sensed what he meant but asked him to elaborate. “We are shutting down labor and delivery rooms in hospitals, doctors are no longer going into OBGYN and pediatric specialties. We are closing schools. Japanese are no longer having children. We are turning out the lights in Japan.”
Sadly, this is not only true of Japan. The same thing is happening in Europe. The difference? Europe admits immigrants, and the immigrants are having babies. Families of European extraction are not having children.
But as Eric Metaxas explains in a recent BreakPoint commentary, Japan is not receiving immigrants.
… in the United States, a relatively young country with lots of immigrants, the [“worker to retiree] ratio is about 4.5 to 1. Japan’s is 2.6 to 1 and it’s projected to be 1.2 to 1 by 2050.
There are two ways you can increase the ratio: Have more kids and/or admit more immigrants. Japan, which values homogeneity, won’t do the latter and are not doing the former: The average Japanese woman gives birth to one child at around thirty, and stops.
Japan’s fiscal-demographic trap is not the result of some law of nature—it’s the product of culture. For a host of reasons, the Japanese placed having and rearing children near the bottom of their “to do” list.
Japan is only leading the way in this regard. Nineteen countries, including Germany and South Korea, have lower fertility rates than Japan. Singapore’s rate is forty percent lower than Japan’s.
Read Metaxas’ full article here.
About 20 countries have especially low birth rates. But not only are these countries nearing the end of the death spiral. as the graphic below depicts, 48 percent of the world’s people live in countries that are beginning the death spiral of declining birth rates.
It gets worse. The map’s data for the United States needs to be updated to reflect a very troubling reality: in the spring of 2013 America crossed the critical threshold and fell below the 2.1 “replacement level” birth rate. Regarding this development, Jonathan Last, author of the book What To Expect When No One Is Expecting, writes:
The latest numbers suggest that an amazingly high percentage of women today—18.8 percent—complete their childbearing years having had no children. Another 18.5 percent of women finish having had only one child. Together, that’s nearly 40 percent of Americans who go their entire lives having either one child or no children at all.
Last continues, “… we’re slowly bifurcating into a society where we have two classes of adults: parents and non-parents.” (For more on Jonathan Last’s insights see The Rise of Childless Americans.)
We are experiencing profound political division in the United States. That political division is rooted in culturally division. I would argue that the cultural divide is, roughly speaking, between the mentality of Judeo-Christian “heartland” and the Atheistic-Materialistic mentality of the coasts. I would argue that this is the backdrop for the bifurcating of society Last observed. Those who consciously function from a Judeo-Christian framework, or live from a Christian memory, are continuing to form families and have children. Generally, those functioning from an Atheistic-Materialistic frame are not.
This is the case in the United States. What about the world at large? There, the divide is between those who are living in modern or postmodern cultures, on the one hand, and those from traditional cultures, on the other. Let’s face it: in the modern and postmodern worlds, being a mother is no longer cool! If this trend continues, more and more nations will be turning out the lights!
- Darrow Miller