Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Korea, France, and the fertility rate

This is something I will expand upon later, but for now...

I thought this Marmot's Hole comment by WeikbuBoy on the problems with Korea's fertility rate was interesting:
Korea looking to the French for the secret to having more babies is like post-Reagan America looking to liberal Holland for the secret to winning the drug war.

Humorous, nevertheless, that a country which demonizes unwed motherhood, criminalizes adultery, and makes it a virtually impossible for men to marry until they are 30, meanwhile treating women as children until they day they suddenly find themselves stuck at home with the requisite one child and no career and no one to help them and a husband who “works” till long after she’s fallen asleep exhausted (assuming his company is benevolent enough to even post him in the same city), and generally whether as a matter of policy or not does everything humanly possible to increase the misery of its citizens and crush the possibility of love (which is taboo in all but the narrowest instances, while prostitution flourishes and is perfectly OK) ~

[pause to take a breath]

~ should then turn around and wonder why its stressed and exhausted citizens have stopped having kids. Here’s a clue: let your employees go home to their families at the end of the day.
Actually, the Korean planners do recognize a lot of this, which is why they're focusing on the French model. This Washington Post article provides a good description of the French system, which has considerable applicability to Korea (if laws are enforced — a big if). 

Anyway, I thought it was a rather innovative idea to decriminalize adultery in order to increase the fertility rate. I'm not so sure, though, if the social problems associated with fatherless children raised by single mothers is such a good trade-off. 

And then there's this question: Are Muslims driving up the fertility rate (or rather, are French women producing as few babies as, say, their Italian counterparts)? Here are some thoughts:
An interesting observation by Toulemon (2007) is that immigrant women from Muslim countries in France have high fertility, 2.5 compared with 1.65 for French-born women, but that immigrant women are much more likely to give birth during the first two years of their residence in France than later, apparently waiting to conceive until they arrive. Adjusting lifetime fertility rates for this tempo effect suggests that "immigrant fertility is about 2.2, not much above average.
The 1.65 for French-born women is rather high, and this is before the new policies were implemented in full force. The link above also mentions that the "Eurabia" fears may be overblown:
Immigrants are not pushing up the birth rate as much as they seem to be" (The Economist, 16 June 2007, p. 32). Similar findings are reported for Sweden (Andersson 2004): "Most immigrant groups tend to display higher levels of childbearing shortly after immigration" (p. 747), but immigrants' fertility behavior rapidly adapts to that of the native population, suggesting that the fertility and population impact of immigration "might be less important than is sometimes assumed" (p. 772).
Anyway, these are some preliminary thoughts. There's a whole bunch of stuff I'd love to write about this, but don't have time right now.

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