Children in fast-altering societies

We are strange creatures because on this planet we are the only people that have such a wild appetite for death. Next, we wonder why the world has so many human beings. Due to birth control and other abortive treatments, medications, and technologies, we have managed to depopulate certain parts of the world to the point of extinction and increase the number of elderly people.

The number of people over 60 years will quadruple by 2050, from about 600 million to nearly two billion, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects. In 2002, one in 10 people was 60 years of age or older but by 2050, the rate will be one in five!  Many delegates from developed countries complained at one UN-sponsored international assembly on ageing that young people are working double-time to support senior citizens ‘ old-age benefits and pension plans.

When we come to think about it, a rapidly ageing population is a concern especially among developed countries where high birth levels are seen as the sure path to economic woes, while low birth rates spell industrial development, high GDP and women’s emancipation.

Across Western Europe, less and fewer children are born, due to the widespread use of contraceptive devices and procedures. In many Western European countries, the population rate is below replacement level.

The rate of population growth of the European Community was already reaching nil in the 1990s. The population of Germany has been declining since 1974, with the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg and Denmark seeing zero growth since the early 1980s.

It is not unlikely that native Western Europeans will have vanished before the dawn of the next century because of what French demographer Michèle Tribalat terms a “demographic replacement process.” Immigrants and refugees from other countries are gradually replacing the original population of Europe.

Asian countries which have vigorously embraced developed nations ‘ birth control systems also face the prospect of extinction and rapidly ageing populations. Birth rates are below replacement levels in Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan and even in Sri Lanka. In the year 2000, China’s census puts its birth rate at 1.6, roughly below what it needs to sustain its ageing population.