April 20th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Budget 2019: The dark side of 'back in the black': no vision

EUTHANASIA FYI: How to navigate the voluntary assisted 'dying' process

CANBERRA OBSERVED Take your tax cuts and be merry, for tomorrow ... is another day

FOREIGN AFFAIRS New Middle East alliance will challenge Saudis

LIFE ISSUES ALP abortion policy blithely tramples all our consciences

SOCIETY AND TECHNOLOGY Will Artificial Intelligence do the walking for you?

LIFE ISSUES Trump, Shorten and Morrison on abortion

GENDER POLITICS Women abused at Women's Day March

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Bill Shorten's bizarre electric car policy

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Revitalising marriage and family: an especially lay apostolate

ASIAN AFFAIRS Entire nations going out without a baby's whimper


MUSIC 1+1=Sublimity: Explanations are like the back side of a tapestry

CINEMA Shazam!: Ambitious teen finds out what's in a name

BOOK REVIEW What will be left us after the deluge?

BOOK REVIEW Author puts some great minds to work



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Entire nations going out without a baby's whimper

by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, April 20, 2019

East Asia is dying. All East Asian societies have birthrates below the replacement rate and, as a result, their populations will shrink.

The accepted replacement rate is 2.1 babies per woman. Australia, for ins­tance, has a birth rate of 1.8 babies per woman, but we can gather immigrants from all over the world to make up the difference. South Korea is the fastest ageing developed country in the world. Its birth rate is 0.98 – less than one child per woman. The total number of babies born in South Korea last year was 400,000 – not enough to replace those dying.

In all the countries in East Asia –Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Singapore and South Korea – naturally born citizens are on the decline. In South Korea, most women work, but it is very difficult to persuade men to do housework. Education is very expensive, but lack of education means the child’s chances in life are greatly diminished. The South Korean Government is spending billions begging women to have babies, but they aren’t listening.

Japan ‘s birthrate is declining precipitously. The number of births last year was the lowest since records began being collected in 1899. On current trends, Japan’s population will decline from 126 million today to 107 million in 2050. These simple statistics conceal one fact peculiar to Japan; the Japanese are very long-lived. Japan is a super-ageing society with no parallel in history.

Japan is the most elderly society on Earth. More people are needed to care for the elderly. More people are working longer; it is common to see elderly people, who 20 years ago would have been enjoying their retirement, still at work.

Japan’s problems are partly social and partly economic. Due to the casualisation of the workforce, some 30 per cent of men are not in regular work. Women want a man who can provide for them and their families; most men in casual employment cannot do that.

In days gone by, women were expected to resign from their jobs when they got married. Many highly educated women these days prefer a career to a family. It is common to see two-child families, but uncommon to see any larger. The Japanese are importing more caregivers and blue-collar workers from Southeast Asia to fill gaps in the economy, but it will be many years before these immigrants win popular acceptance.

The “salarymen” are officials from Japanese companies who spend their time carousing with their colleagues and customers until late at night. They can easily be identified by their suits and general loudness. Hard to believe, but most Japanese men envy them. Their families hardly ever see them as this lifestyle is not conducive to family bonding.

Singapore was one of the first Asian countries to adopt policies to reduce the number of births. These policies were too effective. When the government became alarmed at the declining birthrate, it attempted to turn the tap on again but Singapore’s women wouldn’t cooperate. The pragmatic Singapore government, realising the policy to restrict births was counterproductive, sought to entice foreign “talent” to fill the gaps. Now around 25 per cent of Singapore’s population is foreign-born.

Hong Kong under the British was a laissez-faire economy. The British did not want to interfere in Hong Kong’s society. Although it could hardly be called a democracy, as the final arbiter was the governor, appointed by the British, the courts enforced the rule of law.

The birth rate in 1961 was 3.5 babies per women; since then it has fluctuated at around 1 to 1.5 per woman. Hong Kong’s greatest problem has always been lack of space; housing is limited and very expensive. Hong Kong is also a highly competitive society that puts a high premium on material success.

Taiwan has a de-facto one-child policy. Voice of America (VOA) has reported that Taiwan has the lowest birthrate in the world. The birthrate is 0.92 – less than one child per woman.

A number of factors have contributed to this. First, as a traditional Chinese society, the Chinese zodiac must be taken into account. Everyone wants a Dragon baby, especially a boy, and no one wants a Tiger baby, especially a girl; she may turn out to be a “mother tiger” who will frighten suitors away. The birthrate fluctuates according to the year of the zodiac.

Most women in Taiwan are in the workforce. Men do very little housework. Most women must also look after their children, and their family, and they also have a duty to care for their elderly parents.

Education is highly valued in Taiwan and, as in South Korea, it is very expensive. Most children start learning English in kindergarten. Later, they go to cram school every day after school. They have no childhood. Parents want no more than one child. Southeast-Asian caregivers are common, but the government restricts their entry. Many women in the workforce have high-paying jobs and are unwilling to sacrifice their career to raise children.

China is attempting to reverse the effects of its disastrous one-child policy. The fertility rate was 1.52 in 2018, considerably more than other East Asian nations, but still below replacement rate. Interestingly, China’s postage stamp for the auspicious Year of the Pig shows two parents and three little piglets. China has found it is easier to cut the birthrate than to restart it.

The East Asian countries need to make three changes. First, women will not marry men who cannot support them and their family. Men need good jobs. The casualisation of the workforce has been a disaster; free-market economics gone mad. Second, teaching babies English while they are still in nappies, is stupid. Let kids have a childhood instead of sitting in cram schools. Boys in East Asia love baseball, let them play baseball. Third, persuade husbands that besides supporting their family, they should also help around the house, so women have more time to be mothers.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm