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Lockdown "Baby Bust"

brad465

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Here's a report highlighting how in much of the Western World covid lockdowns have caused a baby bust:


For those who thought that lockdown would leave couples with little else to do than procreate, there was a surprise - not a baby boom but a baby bust. Research shows that the US is facing the biggest slump in births in a century and in parts of Europe the decline is even steeper.
When Frederike moved in with her parents to care for an elderly relative at the beginning of the pandemic she thought of it as a gift, a chance to spend time with her family.
But a few months in, the 33-year-old from Germany started to feel a deep sense of loss.
Frederike is single and realised that the pandemic was robbing her of the chance to meet someone and start a family.
"Time feels really precious at the moment and my life has been put on hold," she says.
She tried online dating but going on walks in winter in sub-zero temperatures doesn't encourage romance.
Now, when she's feeling low the same thought swirls obsessively inside her head: "When this is over I'm going to be infertile.
"I'm sitting indoors in the years when I can have a child."
For those who study population the baby bust was not a revelation.
"Having seen how bad the pandemic was I'm not surprised," says Philip N Cohen, professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. "But it is still just shocking to see something like this happen in real time."
In June last year economists at the Brookings Institute in the United States estimated that US births would fall by 300,000 to half a million babies. At the same time a survey of fertility plans in Europe showed 50% of people in Germany and France who had planned to have a child in 2020 were going to postpone it. In Italy 37% said they had abandoned the idea altogether. A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report indicates an 8% drop in births in the month of December.

The report suggests the decline is worse than that caused by the 2008 recession and comparable to the Great Depression, with no rebound currently forecast. In some parts of the developing world the inverse is happening due to difficulty accessing contraceptives and other services that have caused more births, but can't tell if they offset each other.

As someone who believes human population has grown at an unsustainable rate, this is in theory good news if a genuine reduction overall is received and retained for a while. However, the problem we have is the world economy is effectively a pyramid scheme that must keep growing, therefore needing more people constantly to prop it up (both in terms of growth in wealth and supporting those in retirement), or else it will crash. While I'm not against immigration, the way it's been used to prop up this infinite growth system is not right and is causing a brain drain in the developing world, keeping them in poverty and in turn keeping their birth rates higher.

We don't need to control immigration and/or have legal child number limits, what we need to overhaul the world economic system to focus on sustainability, which in turn takes away the demand for more of the former two so they happen less in a natural way. However, convincing world governments to change the system is far easier said than done, but the supposed recovery from covid could well be hampered by population changes in several ways.
 
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lkpridgeon

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It's bad for us (even lower births) as we already have what's considered an ageing population meaning in time the population will start to shrink (not accounting for immigration).

According to the ONS the amount of births per women dropped to an average of 1.65 of which is below the 2.1 level to maintain the population level.

  • There were 640,370 live births in England and Wales in 2019, a decrease of 2.5% since 2018 and a 12.2% decrease since the most recent peak in 2012.
  • The total fertility rate (TFR) for England and Wales decreased from 1.70 children per woman in 2018 to 1.65 children per woman in 2019; this is lower than all previous years except 2000, 2001 and 2002.
With the rest of Europe also experiencing the same issue with a 1.54 average.

Developing countries catchup with this trend through the likes of increased used of contraceptives and improved healthcare. Then the worldwide in general will begin to drop off too. I don't think brain drain is too much a problem, however healthcare provision and as you said access to contraceptives most definitely is.

What might happen (my opinion) is whilst our population shrinks we'll be more willing to invite people over causing populations to shift to lower levels in those areas hence causing the population to decrease anyway without having to do anything. So all in all there's not much need for change on government levels unless we want to speed up the process. The current estimate I've seen however have no references for is around the 2060's
 

HSTEd

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Well it was never going to, and there won't be a significant rebound for years.

We've had a year of no new relationships being formed, this is damage that may never be fully made good.
 

kristiang85

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Yeah, generally in economic uncertainty people will be less likely to consider children.

And seeing my friends and colleagues coping with toddlers whilst locked up at home gives me nightmares.

We've had a year of no new relationships being formed, this is damage that may never be fully made good.

Weirdly most of my single friends over in London have not only found partners in the past year, they've already moved in with each other. There's at least four serious new couples I know of.

But I guess London was already pretty used to app based dating.
 

notlob.divad

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this is damage that may never be fully made good
Only if you consider it a bad thing in the first place. As the OP alludes to, a reduction in the global population, or at the very least a slow down in the rate of growth, is the only way to provide long term sustainability on a planet with finite resources.
 

HSTEd

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Only if you consider it a bad thing in the first place. As the OP alludes to, a reduction in the global population, or at the very least a slow down in the rate of growth, is the only way to provide long term sustainability on a planet with finite resources.

Until we end up with serious societal damage and potentially a collapse in the standard of living because of the demographic transition.

Ultimately the planet's resources, with sufficient engineering, are so large as to be functionally unbounded.

The planet can support a certain population with the current industrial-agricultural model, but that is not the only model that could exist.
Indeed it previously had a far smaller carrying capacity before the Green Revolution, and a far smaller one than that before the invention of modern agriculture.

There is no reason that this has to stop, at least until we have a full blown Kardashev scale civilisation.
 

DB

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Only if you consider it a bad thing in the first place. As the OP alludes to, a reduction in the global population, or at the very least a slow down in the rate of growth, is the only way to provide long term sustainability on a planet with finite resources.

Indeed. With every other species the carrying capacity of the environment is normally recognised and acknowledged, but for some reason much of humanity seems to thing that the same doesn't apply.

Ultimately the planet's resources, with sufficient engineering, are so large as to be functionally unbounded.

It's really not - everything is reliant on fossil fuels in many ways and those are by their nature finite. Pollution and its impacts are also a very significant issue.
 

ainsworth74

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Indeed. With every other species the carrying capacity of the environment is normally recognised and acknowledged, but for some reason much of humanity seems to thing that the same doesn't apply.

Fundamentally the problem with doing so is that it eventually leads to the question of "Who decides which people can have children and which cannot?" and "How do you enforce those requirements on people/nations that decide they do not wish to be so bound?" to ensure that the human population is within that window of sustainability. It is quite a large can of worms. Which is not necessarily an argument against opening the can but equally I don't think it's particularly surprising that there aren't many people who are willing to grapple with it either!
 

HSTEd

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It's really not - everything is reliant on fossil fuels in many ways and those are by their nature finite. Pollution and its impacts are also a very significant issue.

Fossil fuels are not some sine qua non for civilisation?

Alternative energy sources with almost ludicrous abundance do exist.
 

yorksrob

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Even if you could theoretically extract unlimited resources (of which I'm highly sceptical) you would still run out of space - which would have a massive negative impact on bio-diversity due to reduced habitats.
 

HSTEd

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Even if you could theoretically extract unlimited resources (of which I'm highly sceptical) you would still run out of space - which would have a massive negative impact on bio-diversity due to reduced habitats.

At the population density of the Netherlands the Sahara, hardly an enormous bastion of biodiversity at the best of times, could support 4.7bn people.

The things that can be achieved with sufficient engineering are.... impressive.

EDIT:

In Summary, there is no dramatic need to reduce the population, given that impacts per capita can be driven to a fraction of current levels.

Population stability is also definitively preferable to a decreasing population that will cause us no end of problems in the long run.
 
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DB

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Fossil fuels are not some sine qua non for civilisation?

Alternative energy sources with almost ludicrous abundance do exist.

And what do the objects and machines used to harness these alternative energy sources use in their construction? Yes, fossil fuels. In particular, plastics which are made using oil products.

In Summary, there is no dramatic need to reduce the population, given that impacts per capita can be driven to a fraction of current levels

Current agricultural systems are hugely damaging to the soil and to most other wildlife, and are only sustained by artificial fertilisers and pesticides - which rely on, yes, oil.

Population stability is also definitively preferable to a decreasing population that will cause us no end of problems in the long run.

Decreasing population is not necessarily an issue - it rather depends on the timescales, i.e. how quickly it occurs.
 

HSTEd

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And what do the objects and machines used to harness these alternative energy sources use in their construction? Yes, fossil fuels. In particular, plastics which are made using oil products.

No, plastics are made using reduced carbon, plastics are pretty much entirely agnostic about from whence the carbon comes.
Just because a large fraction of the current supply is made with oil products does not mean that it has to be this way forever.

Current agricultural systems are hugely damaging to the soil and to most other wildlife, and are only sustained by artificial fertilisers and pesticides - which rely on, yes, oil.
Very little in the way of fertilisers are produced from oil, the dominant fossil source for fertilisers for a very long time has been natural gas.
But again, fertilisers are agnostic on where the energy used to create them comes from.

And again, current agricultural systems are not he only agricultural systems that can ever exist.
 

DB

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And again, current agricultural systems are not he only agricultural systems that can ever exist.

No highly intensive agricultural system is going to be less damaging to all other wildlife. It's also going to be heavily reliant on fossil resources.

You are clearly a techno-utopian. I am not so I don't think we are going to ever agree on this - the endpoint of current trajectories will almost certainly be collapse of the current model of civilisation, as has happened to every other large-scale civilisation in the past - the difference in this case is the extent to which the environment will be rendered toxic as a result.
 

notlob.divad

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Until we end up with serious societal damage and potentially a collapse in the standard of living because of the demographic transition.

Ultimately the planet's resources, with sufficient engineering, are so large as to be functionally unbounded.

The planet can support a certain population with the current industrial-agricultural model, but that is not the only model that could exist.
Indeed it previously had a far smaller carrying capacity before the Green Revolution, and a far smaller one than that before the invention of modern agriculture.

There is no reason that this has to stop, at least until we have a full blown Kardashev scale civilisation.
Better a gradual collapse in the standard of living due to population decline than a catastrophic immediate collapse when the planet's ecology can no longer sustain the pressures we as a species are putting on it.
 

HSTEd

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Better a gradual collapse in the standard of living due to population decline than a catastrophic immediate collapse when the planet's ecology can no longer sustain the pressures we as a species are putting on it.
I would rather neither?
 

notlob.divad

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Fundamentally the problem with doing so is that it eventually leads to the question of "Who decides which people can have children and which cannot?" and "How do you enforce those requirements on people/nations that decide they do not wish to be so bound?" to ensure that the human population is within that window of sustainability. It is quite a large can of worms. Which is not necessarily an argument against opening the can but equally I don't think it's particularly surprising that there aren't many people who are willing to grapple with it either!
I don't feel there is a need for anyone to decide for others. The trend in MEDCs with good standards of living (in particular female education levels) is for birthrates to fall, initially to parity and then below. As other countries are encouraged to develop and thus rollover similar economic threshold, there is no reason that they won't follow similar trends, all be it at their own pace.

I would rather neither?
Which won't be an option for the world's population as a whole. Populations in more developed countries will be able to prop up their own living standards by exploitation of the world's poor, but their living standards both relatively and absolutely will fall as a result.

No highly intensive agricultural system is going to be less damaging to all other wildlife. It's also going to be heavily reliant on fossil resources.
And that doesn't even scratch the surface of the problems surrounding the supply and distribution of fresh water availability on the planet.
 
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ainsworth74

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I don't feel there is a need for anyone to decide for others. The trend in MEDCs with good standards of living (in particular female education levels) is for birthrates to fall, initially to parity and then below. As other countries are encouraged to develop and thus rollover similar economic threshold, there is no reason that they won't follow similar trends, all be it at their own pace.

Well indeed hopefully that won't be necessary as the idea is just fraught difficulties from practical and ethical standpoints. But I do worry if birthrates will fall quickly enough. I believe current projections are that the population will peak somewhere in the back quarter of this century at around the ten billion mark. Is that sustainable? Can we eek out enough food, water and shelter from the planet for that many people without either subjecting most to grinding poverty or subjecting ourselves to massive climate change? I don't know the answer to that but it's worrying that the even though the signs all suggest that as countries develop (and as you say female education levels increase) that birthrates fall that we may not have time to allow that to take its course without massive upheaval and suffering.

Then again perhaps we're just a few decades from toxifying ourselves into the early stages of extinction so perhaps this will all be irrelevant anyway:

The end of humankind? It may be coming sooner than we think, thanks to hormone-disrupting chemicals that are decimating fertility at an alarming rate around the globe. A new book called Countdown, by Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, finds that sperm counts have dropped almost 60% since 1973. Following the trajectory we are on, Swan’s research suggests sperm counts could reach zero by 2045. Zero. Let that sink in. That would mean no babies. No reproduction. No more humans. Forgive me for asking: why isn’t the UN calling an emergency meeting on this right now?


The chemicals to blame for this crisis are found in everything from plastic containers and food wrapping, to waterproof clothes and fragrances in cleaning products, to soaps and shampoos, to electronics and carpeting. Some of them, called PFAS, are known as “forever chemicals”, because they don’t breakdown in the environment or the human body. They just accumulate and accumulate – doing more and more damage, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Now, it seems, humanity is reaching a breaking point.

Swan’s book is staggering in its findings. “In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” Swan writes. In addition to that, Swan finds that, on average, a man today will have half of the sperm his grandfather had. “The current state of reproductive affairs can’t continue much longer without threatening human survival,” writes Swan, adding: “It’s a global existential crisis.” That’s not hyperbole. That’s just science.

...

 

TPO

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Well indeed hopefully that won't be necessary as the idea is just fraught difficulties from practical and ethical standpoints. But I do worry if birthrates will fall quickly enough. I believe current projections are that the population will peak somewhere in the back quarter of this century at around the ten billion mark. Is that sustainable? Can we eek out enough food, water and shelter from the planet for that many people without either subjecting most to grinding poverty or subjecting ourselves to massive climate change? I don't know the answer to that but it's worrying that the even though the signs all suggest that as countries develop (and as you say female education levels increase) that birthrates fall that we may not have time to allow that to take its course without massive upheaval and suffering.

Then again perhaps we're just a few decades from toxifying ourselves into the early stages of extinction so perhaps this will all be irrelevant anyway:



Well said.

I get a bit fed up of people moaning about falling birthrates then going on to say how we all need to cut consumption and live more sustainably.

The quickest way of reducing carbon emissions would be to cut the human population by half, but of course no-one wants to be in the culled half ;) so we should be encouraging birthrate decline and finding a solution to the pyramid scheme rather than encouraging more breeding.

Perhaps we should also be encouraging the chemicals which reduce fertility? <D

Otherwise Gaia will eventually do it for us- a new Black Death or maybe a nasty plant disease (the main foodcrops we rely on are few and very genetically un-diverse, knock out the commercially planted varieties of Corn, or Wheat or Rice and a large proportion of the world population will starve to death) or a climate collapse which achieves the end of culling the human infestation.

I find it breathtaking how people don't understand the risk from reliance on the crop yields from monoculture genetically un-diverse varieties which are pumped full of oil-derived fertilizers to survive. Many soils have fewer than 100 harvests left too.

I've switched to making all my own bread/pastries etc using UK-grown "YQ" flour from genetically diverse-population wheat developed by Wakelyns Agroforestry (https://wakelyns.co.uk/), and use a lot of UK-grown pulses and so on- Hodmedods (https://hodmedods.co.uk/) has a good range for those inclined to look. You can eat well when using more sustainable crops. There's ways of getting good yields with minimal fertilizer and using genetically diverse populations of staple crops, the technology really needs to change direction and work with the environment and conditions not against it.

Then we look at things like earth-sheltered homes and greenhouses, and the productiveness that can be achieved from a garden growing fruit and veg, and permaculture. But that's another massive culture change required; but even the basics of dealing with poor home insulation and food waste would reduce emissions seriously and combined with a falling birth rate we'd be well on the way to carbon reduction.

Assuming that we can just rely on "technology" is a bit naive, as it's not just about technology- it's how we use it. We already have the technology to use genetically diverse lower-impact crops and insulate homes, but the politricks being what it is plus the culture of "want, want, want more stuff and NEED to constantly make lots of noise to bolster my ego" tends to prevent real gains being made. And that's just in the UK........ and without bringing things like religion into the equation.......

TPO
 

takno

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Well indeed hopefully that won't be necessary as the idea is just fraught difficulties from practical and ethical standpoints. But I do worry if birthrates will fall quickly enough. I believe current projections are that the population will peak somewhere in the back quarter of this century at around the ten billion mark. Is that sustainable? Can we eek out enough food, water and shelter from the planet for that many people without either subjecting most to grinding poverty or subjecting ourselves to massive climate change? I don't know the answer to that but it's worrying that the even though the signs all suggest that as countries develop (and as you say female education levels increase) that birthrates fall that we may not have time to allow that to take its course without massive upheaval and suffering.
The most widely-accepted model suggested 10bn peak in 50 years or so, but it's a little dated and things have been moving unexpectedly quickly in the last few years. There were already some newer models kicking around before Coronavirus which suggested we may already be at peak global population. The only things which would move faster than what is already happening are probably a disease a lot more deadly than Covid, or a global war.
 

Ianno87

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And seeing my friends and colleagues coping with toddlers whilst locked up at home gives me nightmares.

Probably the most effective form of contraception ever devised!

In fairness, it's lockdown that has made this hard. When you can ordinarily get out and about, it's more than doable.
 

brad465

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The most widely-accepted model suggested 10bn peak in 50 years or so, but it's a little dated and things have been moving unexpectedly quickly in the last few years. There were already some newer models kicking around before Coronavirus which suggested we may already be at peak global population. The only things which would move faster than what is already happening are probably a disease a lot more deadly than Covid, or a global war.
While this particular event won't be as fast as maybe a deadlier disease or WW, we are approaching the timeframe that the baby boomer generation will be dying off in far greater numbers, simply as they reach life expectancy. They were born from 1946-1964, making them around 56-75 now, so I reckon from the middle of this decade onwards the global death rate could well increase notably, most pronounced in the Western world where this generation is widespread.

While I hope this won't cause a major panic (although after Covid all bets are off), I expect the consequences of an increased death rate because of what I describe here will cause a number of scientific and political investigations and possibly even lead to countries adopting birth incentives, unless of course we all realise by this point that capitalism's infinite growth principle is stupid and we've moved towards sustainability, but that remains to be seen.
 

david1212

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Back almost 12 months ago I would have put a decent size bet on a spike in the birth rate last Christmas and on into January and February.

There are two sides to this. Currently more and more of our green space is being lost to housing, there is more travel and more pollution from it that is a factor in the policies for greener vehicles. Also a greater usage of worldwide resources that can either not be replenished at all or only at a rate far less than usage.

Against this go forward 20 - 50 years if fewer people of working age the burden on them for the elderly i.e. those now 20 - 50 will be greater.

As to the current birth rate I wonder how it varies with both social class and ethnicity? Specifically for England and Wales maybe this will come out in the census?
 

brad465

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Back almost 12 months ago I would have put a decent size bet on a spike in the birth rate last Christmas and on into January and February.

There are two sides to this. Currently more and more of our green space is being lost to housing, there is more travel and more pollution from it that is a factor in the policies for greener vehicles. Also a greater usage of worldwide resources that can either not be replenished at all or only at a rate far less than usage.

Against this go forward 20 - 50 years if fewer people of working age the burden on them for the elderly i.e. those now 20 - 50 will be greater.

As to the current birth rate I wonder how it varies with both social class and ethnicity? Specifically for England and Wales maybe this will come out in the census?
Yes there are many in society who want immigration cut, to stop building more houses in their local areas and/or population control measures, but the reality is our infinite growth model is the reason all of these things are going up. If we focus more on sustainability I can see the issues at hand naturally dropping as demand drops.
 

Yew

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Who'd have thought that making it illegal for single people to form relationships would have any effect on birth rates.
 

HSTEd

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Worth noting that a significant drop in the birth rate in Scotland will push it into full blown demographic collapse immediately.

Even before this it's population was only sustained by immigration.
 

Peter Mugridge

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Given that most families will have spent much of the past year cooped up with each other and little opportunity for the adults to "be on their own with each other", is it really surprising that the birth rate has dropped?
 

Mintona

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Yeah to be honest after spending the last twelve months at home with our little one the wife won’t let me get anywhere near her :lol:
 

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