Thursday, January 17, 2013

A few population-related news links

This evening, I thought I'd share a few interesting population-related news links I've collected in the past couple of weeks.

* The Discover Magazine blog 80 Beats summarized a recent study of young game-playing children in Beijing suggesting that these children are less trusting and more risk-averse than one might expect.

* On a perhaps-related note, an article in the latest issue of The National Interest by John Lee examines at length the consequences of China's rapid aging on its economic model, among other things.

* An article in The Guardian contrasting a relatively prosperous Chinese northeast with a stagnant Russian Far East makes the point that Russia need not fear millions of Chinese crossing their country's northern frontier. What incentives would there be for them to leave?

* The Taipei Times covered a recent statement by the head of the South Korean central bank calling for more immigration to ameliorate the effects of population aging.

* An Inter Press Service article notes that rising life expectancy for Japanese women is, unfortunately, being accompanied by falling incomes.

* The Population Reference Bureau's Behind the Numbers blog notes that birth rates have continued to decline throughout India.

* In Canada, a recent article in The Globe and Mail notes that there's an east-to-west income gradient for immigrants in Canada, immigrants in Québec enjoying substantially lower wages than their counterparts in Ontario who in turn earn less than their counterparts in western Canada.

* In the Atlantic Canadian province of Nova Scotia, meanwhile, the provincial government is trying to boost its attractiveness to immigrants in the face of declining immigrant numbers and a local population tending to decrease.

* In Europe, the Portuguese-American Journal notes that statistics indicate that more than one million Portuguese have left the country in the past fourteen years. This sort of emigration, which if anything seems to be accelerating, has obvious consequences.

* In the nearby Spanish region of Galicia, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation's Swissinfo takes a look, in the article "From Galicia to the Jura", at one community in Galicia that has been marked by emigration to Switzerland as a natural life stage for a half-century. (Likewise, emigration isn't slowing down.)

* A New York Times article profiles the Chinese of Barcelona, who have apparently so far resisted the effects of the Eurozone recession well.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More on France versus Germany

My post last Monday compared French and German fertility patterns, as key elements in French and German demographic patterns. It's been noted for some time that the populations of Germany and France, the first and second-largest countries in the Eurozone and European Union by population and the anchors of the European Union, are evolving in very different directions. In my 2008 post on Eurostat's demographic projections for 2060, for instance, I noted that the projections assume that the French population will grow to surpass a shrinking German population.

These differences have continued. Gérard Cornilleau's blog post at the French Economic Observatory, "France-Germany: The big demographic gap", outlines the extent to which fertility in France and Germany has been different for the past half-century.

The demographic trajectories of France and Germany are the product of Europe’s history, and in particular its wars. The superposition of the age pyramids is instructive in this regard: in Germany the most numerous generations are those born during the Nazi period, up to 1946; then come the cohorts born in the mid-1960s (the children of the generations born under the Nazis). In contrast, in France the 1930s generation is not very numerous. As a consequence, the baby-boomer generation which, as can be easily understood, kicked off earlier than in Germany (starting in 1945, at a time of a baby crash in Germany that ended only in the early 1950s, with the German baby boom peaking somewhat late, in the 1960s), was limited in scale, as people of childbearing age were not numerous. On the other hand, the birth rate in France slowed much less in the wake of the 1970s crisis, and most of all it has risen again since the early 1990s. This has resulted in the fertility rate remaining close to 2 children per woman of childbearing age, so that the size of the generations from 1947 to the present has remained virtually constant. German reunification led to a collapse in the birth rate in former East Germany, which converged with the rate in ex-West Germany in the mid-2000s. Overall, French fertility has generally been higher than German fertility in the post-war period, with the gap widening since the early 2000s. As a result, the number of births in France is now substantially higher than the number in Germany: in 2011, 828,000 compared with 678,000, i.e. 22% more births in France.

A recent German study goes into more detail. France is going to be enjoy a relative advantage over Germany in that its working-age population will not shrink.

During the post-war baby boom, women in both France and Germany gave birth to more children than today. However, while fertility rates in Germany declined significantly in the mid-1970s and have been fluctuating around the number of 1.4 children per woman ever since, French rates have never dropped below 1.7 and have even climbed back to about 2.0 children recently. Since the decimated generations of German women, who were born in the 1970s and after, are in the midst of their childbearing careers today, the downward trend is gathering pace: Since the 1960s, the number of newborns has halved - from 1.35 million to less than 700,000 per year. Furthermore, due to the constantly shrinking cohorts of potential mothers, this figure is likely to decrease even further. The picture looks different in France: Here, around 750,000 children are being born every year for quite some time already.

The neighbouring countries also differ when it comes to migration: France has been recording net immigration of maximum 200,000 people for the last 40 years. Germany's migration figures, on the contrary, exhibit considerable upward deflections: in times of the guest worker immigration, but also after the end of the Cold War, when around three million ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union, and in consequence of the Yugoslavia War, numerous refugees entered the country. Meanwhile, however, the attractiveness of Germany as an immigration country has declined considerably. In 2008, statisticians observed net immigration of a mere 4,800 people. That same year, France welcomed 67,000 immigrants, mostly North Africans, who reunited with their families in Europe. In France, both nationals and foreigners have more children than their respective counterparts in Germany.

However, even France is not spared from the trend of demographic ageing. Not only because life expectancy is increasing steadily in both countries - the French figures of 84.4 years for women and 77.5 years for men are even significantly higher than in Germany, where women average 82.3 years, while men can expect 76.9 life years -, but also because the French have less children than in the past. Here too, a generation of families with many children is replaced by one with comparatively few, although at a different level than in Germany. While in Germany the share of under 20-year-olds in society will decrease from 19.5 per cent in 2007 to 15.1 per cent in 2050, in France it will drop from 24.7 to 21.9 per cent. Analogously, over the same time period the share of over 64-year-olds will rise from 19.9 to 33.2 per cent in Germany, while, in France, it will only reach 26.2 per cent in 2050 - up from 16.5 in 2007.

At a rate of two children per woman, the number of people of working age - defined here as 20 to 64 years - will remain constant in France until 2050. In Germany, however, the potential labour force will shrink by almost 15 million. This development is expected to have impact on both countries' economies. While Germany outscores its neighbouring country by far in terms of absolute GDP, GDP per capita is nearly the same in both countries. In view of Germany's rapidly ageing society, France could not only overtake its Eastern neighbour population-wise, but also economically. Germany will need to massively invest in education and be able to trigger innovations as well as to raise productivity levels in order to compensate for its labour shortages.

Due to the proceeding demographic ageing, the two countries will find it increasingly difficult to finance their health care and pension systems. Particularly in France, the low employment rate of the 55- to 64-year-olds is an increasing matter of concern for policy-makers. While a retirement age of 67 is a settled matter in Germany, the French public is still debating - despite a higher life expectancy - if it is reasonable to continue working after having celebrated one’s 60th birthday.

(This, is goes without saying, is a significant change as Euractiv noted in commenting on an INED comparative study of French and German patterns.)

In 1800, France had a population of 30 million, twice that of Germany when calculating those who then lived within what are its current borders. However, over the following 150 years, the situation was reversed. "In the mid-18th century, women in both countries had 5 or 6 children on average," noted Pison in the study.

"But by the end of the century, the practice of birth control was spreading in France, and fertility fell from 5.4 children per women in the 1750s to 4.4 in the 1800s and 3.4 in the 1850s. In Germany, on the other hand, it was not until the late 19th century that German women, in turn, started to limit their family size. This timing differential is often attributed to the early spread of Enlightenment ideas across France, or to the lifting of religious constraints."

"One consequence of the early fertility decline was slower French population growth in the 19th century compared with its European neighbours, and early population ageing ... The crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 was attributed to the superiority of the Prussian education system, but also to the demographic decline of France which was believed to have lost its triumphant vigour of the Napoleonic First Empire. Similar reasons were given to explain France's vulnerability in the face of its German enemy at the start of the First World War. These ideas served to justify the introduction of pronatalist policies at the end of the 19th century." By 1939, Germany’s population had reached 60 million, compared to 41 million in France. “German growth was due to a surplus of births over deaths, with a birth rate that remained consistently above the death rate throughout the nineteenth and early 20th centuries (discounting war years),” observed Pison. “By contrast, the curves of births and deaths in France remained very close over this same period, and the resulting low level of natural growth was even cancelled out by the losses of the 1914-1918 war. It was only thanks to immigration that the population did not totally stagnate between 1900 and 1939." Beginning at the end of the 19th century, France saw a strong influx of immigrants, rising notably in the years immediately after World War I. "Germany, on the other hand, far from being a country of immigration, saw an exodus of it inhabitants towards the New World," Pison underlined. "Without this emigration, its population would have increased even further.

This French demographic advantage, however, does not necessarily have to translate into a French economic advantage relative to Germany. It's perfectly possible to imagine a France that does have a larger working-age population than Germany while still having a less efficient economy. One recent article contrasts in its very title "Germany's business boom vs. France's baby boom". Cornilleau in his analysis notes that France has breathing room that Germany lacks--France's relatively slower aging makes French pensions more affordable despite being more generous than Germany's, for instance, while France can boost employment rates in a way that Germany cannot, and French potential rates of GDP growth are consequently higher. Will the potential necessarily be realized, though? Demographics are very important, but other factors can intervene to prevent the realization of these demographics' potential.

Jacques Attali warns that this profound difference between the two largest economies of the Eurozone could tear the currency apart.

This explains much of what we live today: Germany has absolutely nothing to gain from inflation, which will impact savings, therefore the elderly, to the benefit of borrowers, who are the youngest. And of course, without young people with a job, the German pensions will not be fundable. Germany must therefore keep most of its resources to try to fund at least part of its pensions, while France has less to fear from inflation and should have an interest in maintaining important social spending (in terms of family, childcare facility, female employment, housing, taxation) that accompanies in a very substantial way its demographic structure.

These differences in demographic trends in the same currency zone will eventually be as unbearable as differences in public debt and competitiveness. For, if we continue like this, the Germans will have to borrow money from the French to pay for their own pensions.

("Will the French necessarily have the money to lend?", Attali might have gone on to ask.) He himself recommends that Germany try to adopt French policies and attitudes, with a more open attitude towards immigration also being key. Will Germany necessarily do this, though? Or will France and Germany continue to diverge?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

On how non-traditional families and higher fertility in developed countries go together

One question that multiple commenters raised in my year-end post asking what readers would like to see is the question of what sort of policies and cultural changes would be necessary to boost fertility rates in developed countries. I'd point these readers to the pragmatism voiced in a recent post at the Global Sociology Blog, "Let’s Make 2013 The Year We Bury The Concept of 'Traditional Family'".

It has never been a cultural and historical reality. It is an ideological construct, like any claimed “tradition”. There is no objectivity to it. Family structures are always a product of the intersection between structure, institutions and culture. Just go read Stephanie Coontz’s Family: A History. It’s all there. The boundaries of what makes a family have always been porous and who counts as kin or relative has always involved an ever-changing cast of characters. In other words, rather than corresponding to an objective reality, the invocation of “traditional family” obfuscates rather than illuminates. It is a power play, an attempt to reify and solidify a definition of a certain, limited type of family for ideological purposes. It is time to reject the phrase once and for all, along with the political content embedded in it.

[. . .]

The family, as social institution, is structured at the intersection of a multiplicity of social forces to which it has to adapt. Conversely, it also has some impact on these forces. But this means that “family” in an of itself does not exist. In multiplicities of social contexts, one will find multiple family forms, some more patriarchal than others.

And this is really what is at stake here: the emergence and greater acceptability of non-patriarchal family forms, from single-mother-headed households to LGBT families (with or without children), to child-free singles (men and women). The invocation of “traditional family” is reflects the weaning power of a social control device. Time to finish it off.

As Aslak Berk noted in his July 2009 post "The decadent shall inherit the Earth" and as I noted in September of that year in a longer piece comparing West Germany with France, policies and cultural attitudes which militate against forming non-traditional families--LGBT families, families with working mothers, et cetera--don't boost the number of traditional families so much as discourage the formation of families, and the births of children, tout court. Aslak, first:

The problem with the traditional family from a demographic perspective is that it often forces the mother to choose between career and children. In very traditional societies, where women do not have the opportunity to pursue careers, this does lead to high fertility rates. But once you give the women the opportunity to pursue careers, the traditional family structure makes them choose, and a lot of them will choose their careers and maybe one child. Countries with more flexible family structures that give women the opportunity to combine their careers with motherhood get a double bonus: both higher female employment rates, since those who would prioritize motherhood in a more traditional society get the chance to work, and higher fertility rates, since those who prioritize their careers have more children. Indeed, an often-noted trend in the demographic literature is the emergence of a strong correlation between female labor force participation rates and fertility in developed countries.

Next, me.

Jean-Marie Le Goff's paper "Cohabiting unions in France and West Germany: Transitions to first birth and first marriage", in issue 7.18 of Demographic Research, sheds life on this phenomenon through a comparison of France and the former West Germany. The two territories, each with roughly similar populations and roughly similar levels of development, have diverged significantly in the post-Second World War period.

French total fertility rates (TFR) have traditionally been higher, on average by the value 0.3 to 0.7 since 1965 (Council of Europe, 2001). In 1965, the TFR was 2.7 in France and 2.4 in West Germany. In both countries, the TFR decreased drastically until the middle of the seventies and levelled off thereafter. In 1999, the TFR was 1.8 in France and 1.4 in West Germany. Moreover, pronounced differences in nonmarital births between France and West Germany have emerged since the beginning of the eighties. France witnessed a big increase in non-marital fertility rates; from roughly 11% in 1980 they reached 41% in 1999. In West Germany, the increase in non-marital births was less pronounced, from 8% to 18% (Council of Europe, 2001). In most developed countries, an increase in non-marital births occurred simultaneously with an increase in non-marital unions (Kiernan 2001a and b). France appears to follow this pattern, but West Germany constitutes an exceptional case.

Women in France, Le Goff argues, have access to a whole variety of family structures, from the traditional nuclear marriage family to a family marked by cohabitation to single motherhood, with a relatively long tradition of recognizing the responsibilities of parents towards their children regardless of their legal status, with the idea of mothers working outside of the home not only being accepted but supported by any number subsidies to parents to affordable and accessible day care. In West Germany, social and policy norms tend to support traditional family structures. The result? In France, people are childbearing age are split between two sectors, one defined by marriage relationships and the other defined by cohabitation relationships. On the other side of the Rhine, people of childbearing age are split between people who have children and people who don't. Katja Köppen's Second births in Western Germany and France (Demographic Research 14.14) further points out that whereas Frenchwomen seem to enjoy an institutional structure that encourages motherhood and there isn't a contradiction between high levels of education--hence employment--and fertility, there is such a contradiction in western Germany, with government spending priorities in the latter country being directed towards the support of traditional families. It's not too much of a surprise, then, that the German Federal Statistics Office reports that of childless women is rising, particularly in the former West Germany.

The number of childless women is increasing in Germany. As reported by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), in 2008 21% of the women aged 40 to 44 years had not given birth to a child. By contrast, 16% of the women who were ten years older (birth cohorts from 1954 to 1958) and only 12% of the women who were 20 years older (birth cohorts from 1944 to 1948) were childless. A share of 26% of the women aged between 35 and 39 years had no children yet in 2008. However, the proportion of childless women will still decline in this age group.

These and more 2008 microcensus core results regarding childlessness and births in Germany were announced today by Roderich Egeler, President of the Federal Statistical Office, at a press conference in Berlin.

In the eastern part of Germany, the number of childless women is by far smaller than in western Germany. While in the ‘old’ Länder, 16% of the women aged 40 to 75 years have no children, their share amounts to only 8% in the ‘new’ Länder. Regarding younger women, too, the difference is considerable. In the ‘old’ Länder, a share of 28% of the women aged between 35 and 39 years (birth cohorts from 1969 to 1973) have no children yet, while the relevant proportion amounts to not more than 16% in the ‘new’ Länder.

Sobotka points out that West German women have evidenced considerably higher rates of childlessness than their French counterparts since the 1940s.

This growing body of research points towards a strong conclusion: if a developed country, or at least a country well advanced in the demographic transition, wants high cohort fertility, it has to support alternative family structures in such a way that women will have the autonomy necessary to combine participation in the work force with motherhood. Times have changed, and if any number of countries--Germany included--are to avoid very prolonged demographic winters they're going to have to adapt.


Thursday, January 03, 2013

What blogs like Demography Matters do you follow?

What other demographics-related blogs do you read, or write? Volunteer suggestions in the links.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A question to our readers

As the year 2013 approaches--Toronto is in the Eastern Time Zone so I can still say that for a few hours--I'd like to ask readers of Demography Matters what they'd be interested in seeing covered here in the coming year. Are there trends in fertility and mortality, immigration and emigration, family formation or family dissolution, et cetera, that you'd like to see more on? Are you interested in focused regional coverage?

Happy New Year!