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The global financial crisis and the West's fertility decline

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 Contents - Mar 2012AD2000 March 2012 - Buy a copy now
Homily: Benedict XVI: the Annunciation and Mary's virginity - Pope Benedict XVI
Year of Grace: can Australian Catholicism recover its unity? - Michael Gilchrist
News: The Church Around the World
The global financial crisis and the West's fertility decline - Babette Francis
Extraordinary life of new Czech Cardinal, Dominik Duka - Peter Westmore
Campion College's Summer Program on Christian leadership - Br Barry Coldrey
Fulton Sheen Cause: progress report - Msgr Stanley Deptula
The Immaculate Conception and the development of doctrine - Bishop Peter J. Elliott
John Henry Newman on the Immaculate Conception - John Henry Newman
Missions: Bringing hope to Nigeria's abandoned children - Madonna Brosnan
Letters: Abortion silence - Frank Mobbs
Letters: Social get-together - Richard Congram
Letters: Atheism - John Gallagher
Letters: Gay peril - Robert Bom
Letters: Defending marriage - Mark Szymczak
Books: Streams of Grace, by Bishop Julian Porteous - Fr Ken Barker MGL (reviewer)
Books: The Spiritual Legacy of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, by Rev. Charles P. Connor - Michael Daniel (reviewer)
Books: LEAD, KINDLY LIGHT, by Thomas Howard - Michael Daniel (reviewer)
Books: MISSA CANTATA: A Chant Mass for the Assembly, Accompaniments by Geoffrey Cox - Christopher Trikilis (reviewer)
Books: Order books from
Reflection: The wonder of the Incarnation: Pope Benedict's Nazareth homily - Pope Benedict XVI

There is growing acknowledgement among economists that the global financial crisis is connected to the births crisis, the demographic winter enveloping Europe and Japan.

A symposium on the family at the Italian Parliament in January 2012 included a presentation by Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, President of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (the Vatican's Bank). He said the decline in births, from the 1970s to the present time, is what has led to the present situation of economic crisis and illustrated the negative effects that come about when "births are interrupted and the family and children are ignored in the Western world."

There is no growth of the economy: "In the last 30 years children were not born, and the number of inhabitants that we had in Italy in 1980 has remained unchanged hence how can the GDP grow when it grows only when there is more consumption?"

Likewise the dearth of marriages: "How is it that today there is no possibility of getting married before 32 years of age? Because a young couple cannot afford to purchase a house, due to the fact that, even if they are professionals, they earn half of what was earned 30 years ago, due to an increase in tax rates from 25% to 50%.

"Children are not born and the population ages and is of pensionable age. Economically this means an increase in fixed costs. Society has no more money to look after the elderly and as a result is studying the so-called sudden death [euthanasia]."

Barren West

One might think these comments are to be expected from an economist connected with the Vatican, but witty syndicated columnist Mark Steyn, who will be touring Australia in February and is not connected with the Vatican, in a pre-Christmas article wrote about the "other" Christmas story: the pregnancy of Elizabeth, and her husband Zacharias who is surprised by his impending paternity, "for I am an old man and my wife well stricken in years" (Luke 1:13).

"We now live in Elisabeth's world - not just because technology has enabled women in their fifties and sixties to become mothers, but in a more basic sense.

"The problem with the advanced West is not that it's broke but that it's old and barren. Which explains why it's broke. Greece ... has a spending problem, a revenue problem ... At a superficial level, yes. But the underlying issue is more primal: It has one of the lowest fertility rates on the planet - 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren. The family tree is upside down. In a social democratic state where workers retire at 50, there aren't enough young people around to pay for your three-decade retirement. And there are unlikely ever to be again ...

"Banks are a mechanism by which old people with capital lend to young people with energy and ideas. The Western world has now inverted the concept. If 100 geezers run up a bazillion dollars' worth of debt, is it likely that 42 youngsters will ever be able to pay it off? As Angela Merkel said, for Germany an Obama-sized stimulus was out of the question because its foreign creditors know there are not enough young Germans around to repay it. The Continent's economic 'powerhouse' has the highest proportion of childless women in Europe: one in three fräulein have checked out of the motherhood business entirely ...

"If the problem with socialism is, as Mrs Thatcher said, that eventually you run out of other people's money, much of the West has advanced to the next stage: it's run out of other people."

Reuters confirmed this assessment when on 12 January 2012 it reported how Japan's demographic winter and economic malaise are linked: "The Japanese labour force's growth rate started slowing in the mid-1980s and by the mid-1990s the labour force was actually shrinking. According to the Boston Consulting Group, the workforce in Western Europe will decline by 2.4% by 2020, while Germany's will contract 4.2%! How long will it be able to bail out the rest of Europe?"

Sobering statistic

Ajay Kapur, strategist for Deutsche Bank, Hong Kong, dismisses the view that Japan's economic woes since the 1990s reflect specific national 'cultural' traits. Instead, as he points out, "One only has to look at this sobering statistic: in the next five years, all the 18 developed countries for which Deutsche Bank has property market data going back more than half a century will see a decline in their working age population ratios. Furthermore, 60% of those countries will show an absolute decline in the number of citizens of working age, something that is unprecedented ...

"We probably need to go back to times of significant wars (and plagues) to see this sort of environment, where leverage rose and working age populations declined ...".

While we are fortunate that we do not have wars or epidemics killing huge numbers of people, US President Obama is waging a war on people. In January he phoned New York's then Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan to tell him that all insurance plans run by Catholic institutions will have to pay for contraception, sterilisation and some abortion drugs. They have to comply within a year.

Cardinal Dolan responded: "In effect, the President is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences."

President Obama has allied himself with the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the world's major abortion provider, which announced a 2010-2015 plan to increase abortions by 82%. The plan is focused on Africa, but once they run out of Africans, they will pick another target. The Gillard Government, and Prime Minister Rudd before Gillard, also provide abortion funding in Australian overseas "aid".

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 25 No 2 (March 2012), p. 6

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