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The Other Population Crisis: What Governments Can Do about Falling Birth Rates
The Other Population Crisis: What Governments Can Do about Falling Birth Rates
By Steven Philip Kramer
Woodrow Wilson Center Press / Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013, 192 pp
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Many countries are going gray, as the average age of their citizens increases. Two quite different factors are driving the change: people are living longer, and they are having fewer babies. The potential fiscal strains arising from greater longevity have received a lot of attention; the implications of falling birthrates, much less. With this book, Kramer aims to correct the imbalance. He believes that falling birthrates pose a serious threat to a number of wealthy countries, not only to their economic well-being but also to their national security. With a decrease in fertility comes a loss of economic vitality, an increase in dependency ratios (the number of retirement-age citizens who need the support of working-age ones), and the decline of rich countries relative to the rest of the world. Those changes might destabilize international migration. Kramer describes and analyzes the policy reactions -- or absence thereof -- to declining birthrates in France, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and Sweden. He concludes, on the basis of the French and Swedish cases, that governments can increase fertility rates with policies that make it easier for women to raise families and also pursue careers. But such approaches succeed only when governments commit to them for the long term and are willing to use public funds to pay for them.