Thursday, August 28, 2008

Low birth rate countries need to look at how they treat women in the workplace (Japan is a case in point)

The CIA publishes statistics on birthrates around the world. For example, there is a 2008 “World FactBook” table of “annual births per 1000” with Niger leading the wolrd at 49.62, and the United States in place 152 with 14.18 births per thousand. Japan is at 223 with 7.87.

Blaine Harden, of the Washington Post Foreign Service, found a similar CIA table expresses as lifetime births per woman, where the United States is in position 127 at 210, and Japan is in place 217 at 122. The article (on p 10 Aug. 28, 2008) is “Japanese Women Shy from Dual Mommy Role: As birthrate keeps dropping, experts worry about growing willingness to do without childen – or childish husbands”, link here. The article online contains a two-minute video, filmed by Harden, of a Tokyo single woman Takato Katayama.

The social status of women seems to be a driving factor in lowering birthrates as countries increase their per-person standard of living, especially in the cities. To encourage women to have enough children to keep the working population stable, companies would need to provide more benefits for working mothers, and society would have to encourage more women to return to work after pregnancy. Western Europe is already finding this. Such efforts would run counter to philosophical egalitarian arguments about equal duties (and especially hours and work schedules) equal pay.

Personal "self-centeredness" or lack of socialization, or, for that matter, sexual orientation are not being depicted as causes of low birthrates outside of politically conservative circles, like the religious right.

The Post article shows Mali (also in west Africa, near Niger) as having a high birth rate, and Singapore, for all of its social conservatism and pro-natal attitudes, has a lifetime per woman birthrate of 1.08.

Japan has the highest percentage of people 65 and over and lowest 15 and younger.

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