Introduction: Aging Nations and the Declining Birth Rates
Aging nations are the countries that have more numbers of the older population as compared to the adult or young ones. The advanced countries with a good healthcare system ensure the longevity of the population. There are two major factors that contribute towards the increase in the older age population, i.e., a rise in life expectancy of the people and the decline in fertility rates. When life expectancy upswings, there is a rise in the average age of the populace. The number of old age years of a person increases relative to the years of young age.
The decline in fertility rate fluctuates the balance between the newborn or recently born younger population and people born distantly in the past who are older now. When a comparison is drawn between the two factors, the decline in fertility rate emerges to be a dominant contributor to the aging of the population in today’s world.
Problems Faced By An Aging Nation
- Economic Effects: There are several aspects that are severely hit when there is a shift in the balance between the population of young age and old age people in a country. The aging nations face adverse economic outcomes as the demand for a certain category of products increases while that of other decreases. The effect is also manifested in the form that the older population tends to consume more than their productivity. Older people in developed countries are dependent on various government policies to support their financial needs. In turn, the government collects the revenue in the form of taxes from the working-age group of people and transfers it as public health benefit funds. As the price of healthcare increases, the fiscal strain affects the GDP of the country, and the revenue of the government also drops down1.
- Health Effects: With a decline in the birth rate over the past decade in the aging nations, the maximum population lies between the range of 45 to 60 years of age. With the increase in age, the older people become vulnerable to various infectious diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, etc. Other medical conditions prevalent in older adults are diabetes, cardiac ailments, cerebral damage, kidney failure, cancer, atherosclerosis. It increases the burden on the healthcare system to combat the mortality risk of the higher age group.2
Policies In The Aging Nations To Motivate Birth
The deterioration of the birth rates in the aging countries has taken the form of a looming threat to both the demography as well as to the future of the nation. In order to tackle this issue, countries that are rich in the geriatric population have devised some policies to encourage families or adults to conceive. The major countries that have observed a significant shift in demography towards the old age population are Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Sweden, etc. the policies undertaken by the government authority in some of these countries are as follows:
Policies To Motivate Childbirth In Japan
The primary reason behind the decline in fertility rate in Japan was traced to the delay in marriage. It was backed by different circumstances like the sense of liberty from their responsibilities, the burden of household and family chores, time to save enough wealth for a good married life, no good employment opportunity for women after marriage, insufficient infrastructure facilities like parks, and green spaces for the healthy upbringing of a child. Apart from these factors, the lack of free period for the parents to spend with their children was a major issue. It greatly impacted parental caring, and thus, couples were finding it arduous to raise even a single child. These predicaments were a warning sign about the reduced economic productivity and approaching political risks. Thus, few family support policies were facilitated in Japan like:
Policies To Support Child-Rearing
Japan provides a relatively modest universal public healthcare coverage. As per different studies, there are a significant number of daycare centers in Japan. The local government authority looks after the facilities of the daycare services. The figures indicate that around 60% of the children daycare centers are public while the other 40% is owned by the government. The fees are determined based on family income and financial support from the government. The Angel Plan falls under the policy of aiding child-rearing. It expanded the daycare proposition to provide counseling of new parents or inexperienced parents who are living away from their families. The Ministry of Health and Welfare of Japan pursued the outlay of this policy in conjunction with labor, education, and construction ministries to help parents in child-rearing
Policies To Not Rely Only On Women To Function As A Caretaker
It is a popular notion that a woman is a primary bearer of the burden of child-raising. Women were supposed to focus on the upbringing of the child and insulating social values in them. While a male member of the family was more centralized towards the caring of old ones. The gender socialization was promoted to trade off the lines between the caretaking. It prevailed to generate a sense of obligation in men to accept their part as a caretaker for their newborn baby.
Policies For Parental Leave
Japan government also facilitated the policy to provide parental leave to either father or mother of the newborn, in case both are employed. They are allowed to take leave after their child’s birth, and they will receive 25% of their current salary throughout the duration of the leave. The government also urged the private sector to comply with this policy.3
Policy To Motivate Childbirth In Germany
Among the countries of Western Europe, Germany has witnessed the lowest fertility rate in the last decade. The country has also seen a plunge in the employment rate of new mothers or mothers with young children. In order to transpose this declining trend of birth rates, the government of Germany has adopted the policy of the Parental Leave Benefit system. The policy predominantly focuses on enhancing the labor force participation of new mothers and their return to work rates as the child grows. The government follows the model of the Scandinavian countries that includes the development of good daycare centers for children and the dependent wage benefit to new mothers for one year. The Scandinavia model has noticed a surge in the return rate of women to work. It has boosted the fertility rates and reduced the monetary losses for the family due to the increase of expense after childbirth.
A family that has welcomed a new child used to encounter high-income loss after the employment break due to childbirth. The main objective of the Parental Leave Benefit policy was to compensate for middle and high-income parents who were not able to bond with their newborns and enjoy parenthood. It also focuses on equalizing responsibility among parents and giving women the opportunity to resume their work even after childbirth. It generated a sense of job security among the females and allowed them to spend time with the infant for their development. The Scandinavian policy adopted by Germany is a policy mix of various provisions like subsidized child care, modification in the tax system, and flexible working circumstances.4,5
Policy To Motivate Childbirth In France
In the 1960s, France noticed a sheer deterioration in the total fertility rate. But with the passing decade, France has emerged as the European province with impressive and stable fertility rates. This can be acknowledged by the development of various family policies that shifted the aging nation to a well-balanced nation with high childbirth proportions. The childbirth motivating policies have led to an increase in the childbearing age and also seen a growth in non-marital births. Some of the major aspects of the family policies of France are as follows:
- A significant amount of the national wealth of the French government is used for public expenditure on families with infants
- The tax benefits are a major part of government spending that benefits both married couples as well as couples having a child under the civil partnership. Low-income families with children receive financial support in the form of social assistance and housing subsidies
- Parental leave with restricted compensation in lieu of salary helps to facilitate the childcare services and, prevents the sudden economic burden on the family
- Working parents are allowed to take leave for up to three years after the birth of the child. After the duration of their parental leave, they can return to their job with the equivalent role or with the same employer. The leave is integrated with the payment of half amount of the salary or their minimum wage to compensate for the loss
- Families with children receive a certain amount of financial help in the form of family allowance. Families having a certain threshold income are eligible for the family allowance to support the care and rearing of their children
- The French government provides free pre-schooling to children between 3 to 6 years of age.
All these policies adopted by the French government to encourage childbirth have shown a positive impact on society. The diversified system of family policy comprising of auxiliary resources like money, time, services, etc. helped the couples to agree on expanding their family.
Policy To Motivate Childbirth In Sweden
Sweden has witnessed a great demographic transition from being titled as an aging nation to develop as a country with good and stable fertility rates. The family-friendly policies in Sweden have made it possible to shift the dominant geriatric demography. The main reason for the fluctuations in the birth rate was the increased participation of women in the employment sector. It was followed by a delay in childbearing or preference to one child over large families. The flexible scheme that brought a shift in the paradigm is as follows:
Parental Leave Scheme
Parental Leave Schemes of the Swedish government are highly malleable and substantial. It revolves around the idea of shared responsibility of parenthood between the mother and the father. Thus, fathers are encouraged to take leave to assist mothers in child-rearing. The total leave granted to either of the parents is 360 days and can be taken as a split short break. It has eased the way for new mothers to return back to work while availing their leave as per their convenience
Childcare depends on the earning potential of the parents as well as the virtue and expense of the childcare facilities. It is important that the childcare facilities of the country be stable and good otherwise it will lead to reduced productivity of parents. In Sweden, public childcare for children below the age of 3 years is well established and funded. The municipal corporation is accountable for organizing public childcare programs like childcare centers, family childcare, and after school homes. Apart from these private childcare facilities are also in abundance to take care of the child’s need
Family Policy Regulations
The other aspect that the Family Policy of the Swedish government covers is the job security of parents who have discontinued work or are in parental leave. Sweden provides 18 months of job protection for the new parents, and furthermore, they are legally permitted to work for short hours till the child attains eight years. It is accompanied by a subsequent reduction in their earnings. For women, there is an alternative to part-time work to help them focus on the upbringing of their child children.7,8
The aging nations face the threat of low economic returns as well as a reduction in GDP. It is due to the healthcare burden of the geriatric population on the government. As the birth rate decreases, the nation faces a future crisis of youths of potential employees. The main factors that are responsible for this shift are focus on the upbringing of the child and childcare system. With passing decades, the government of aging nations has come up with various policies to motivate childbirth in the fertile population. Policies like parental leave, job security, compensation on parental leave, childcare centers, etc. have helped the couples to focus on reproduction without worrying about the upbringing of their little ones.
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- Dublin, L. I. (1947). Problems of an aging population: Setting the stage. American Journal of Public Health and the Nations Health, 37(2), 152-155.
- Boling, P. (1998). Family policy in Japan. Journal of Social Policy, 27(2), 173-190.
- Schönberg, U., & Ludsteck, J. (2014). Expansions in maternity leave coverage and mothers’ labor market outcomes after childbirth. Journal of Labor Economics, 32(3), 469-505.
- Spiess, C. K., & Wrohlich, K. (2006). The parental leave benefit reform in Germany: costs and labour market outcomes of moving towards the Scandinavian model.
- Thévenon, O. (2016). The influence of family policies on fertility in France: Lessons from the past and prospects for the future. In Low Fertility, Institutions, and their Policies (pp. 49-76). Springer, Cham.
- Pylkkänen, E., & Smith, N. (2004). The impact of family-friendly policies in Denmark and Sweden on mothers’ career interruptions due to childbirth.
- Oláh, L. S., & Bernhardt, E. M. (2008). Sweden: Combining childbearing and gender equality. Demographic research, 19, 1105-1144.