In a hundred years, the population of Latvia will have dropped to around 10 percent of its current level; if current demographic trends continue, there will be only 300,000 Latvians in the world in 2100, the newspaper "Latvijas Avize" was told by Ilmars Mezs, director of the Latvian office of the UN's International Organization for Migration.
"The only way to stop immigrants overwhelming your country is to create more of your own children," believes Mezs, adding that if the demographic situation is not improved, the preservation of culture - the Song Festival, choirs, the Latvian language - are meaningless. "If we do not make sure that we have our own descendents, then there is no point in worrying about what to preserve or what songs to sing."
Mezs notes that despite difficult historical conditions such as wars, plagues and famines, the country's forebears always managed to create a new generation and sustain the nation, adding that if they had made calculations based on their financial situation the way their descendents now do, many of the country's current inhabitants would never have been born.
The UN expert notes that with each year, Latvia loses the equivalent of the population of a medium-sized town, such as Kuldiga or Talsi, due to deaths exceeding births. Meanwhile, "the Estonians have achieved the growth of their nation by a small county every year, while in Latvia every year we lose a whole town," said Mezs.
According to Mezs, the problem in Latvia is the cult of possessions and careers. "We cannot afford children, because we have to finish our university course and start a successful career. After that we need to buy a big flat, pay off the loan for our new car, travel... but children come much lower in our list of priorities."
Additionally, I would like to note that I agree quite entirely with Eliana Marino's guest blog this July past, exploring the particulars of the Latvian situation (below-replacement fertility, high mortality, very high emigration) and the ways in which this is already harming Latvia's future. Being concerned about population dynamics in Latvia is an entirely legitimate concern.
But. I really have to say that, as a member of the younger generation that's often blamed for not producing enough children to keep working-age populations large and young, the strategy of blaming the young for not making massive compromises that previous generations chose not to make themselves, all with the goal of supporting previous generations in the expected style, is difficult. Why shouldn't I judge if I can afford to be a parent right now? Should I have stayed out of university? Is wanting something other than a studio apartment a sin? Maybe I should opt out of urban civilization entirely and become a peasant, tilling the fields to support a family of antedelivian proportions.
Please. If young people can't afford the sacrifices needed to be parents at an early age, governments--elected, it should be noted, disproportionately by people from older age groups than the young being denounced--should perhaps try to change the economic and other structures which might keep us from being parents at a young date. Damning us for things not under our control and for not having done things others haven't done ourselves could be very counterproductive.