Saturday, 22 January 2011

Female fertility: The top ten

Demographics - this will be a new topic for the blog. So, lets start at the top; the ten countries with the highest female fertility rate - the average number of children a woman has during her lifetime. All of them are in Africa.

Full disclosure - I don't believe in the over-population myth. It leads to all sorts of moral confusion. Often, there is an implicit racist assumption behind the claims of over-population. A child born into a poor family in Africa is just as valuable as one born into a privileged consumption-drunk wealthy family in the industrialized world.

The high birth rate in Africa is nothing to worry about. Their carbon footprint is low, the children of Africa aren't responsible for global warming, and if Africans want large families, it is their right.

However, I do worry about the low birth rate in Europe. In most countries in the continent, the female fertility rate is below the level necesary to replace the population. This has led to a dangerous imbalance in the age distribution. We now have far too many old people relative to children. Ultimately, it will lead to economic stagnation and an intolerable fiscal burden.


Sackerson said...

VG, Alice.

dearieme said...

"Their carbon footprint is low": I suppose that that'll stay true as long as they stay pregnant, barefoot and in the corn patch. Though where the new corn patches are to come from might be worth considering, especially if China has bought much of the fertile land.

Anonymous said...

Come on, how many African women want to have 6 children?

Por African women are dominated by poor African men.

If they could control their own reproductive systems they would choose to have fewer children.

But that's racist, innit?

BTW: what about the recent data on US abortion broken down by ethnicity? Genocide, innit?

RB London

Jo said...

'their right' but someone else's problem.

Davidb said...

At last I can disagree with you dear Alice. Its not the Carbon footprint that matters. Its how many calories they eat, how much crap they produce, how much biomass they consume and the pressure they place on world water and land use to sustain their lives that matters ( I simplify here).

In the "developed" world we conquered death in childbirth, bad hygiene, and a host of diseases. Now if it were the case that those poor africans were still dying in their droves and thus by having 6 kids they'd end up with 2 who could keep their parents in their dotage, then I d kind of say that arguably you were right. However they too no longer die in droves. The populations of their countries are exploding, and they are destroying their share of planetary diversity equally as we guilty westerners are.

So in short, it would be far better if there were far fewer humans of all races and tribes. There is plenty for a few billion of us to live long, healthy, resource rich lives. But not for as many of us as there are now. Our European population is in decline. Some countries ( ones with high allegiance to skypixies and low female education rates especially) need to reduce their populations too. Its sanity, not racism.

Zed said...

Davidb - Africans aren't producing very much polution. The continent has low population density, and doesn't consume much in terms of carbon fuels. Therefore, what is the problem with them having six kids. Because they die - we all die in the end. That can't be a justification.

Anonymous said...

Surely they are in a malthusian trap?

If Brtain had the same birth-rates we'd see mass poverty here also.

DavidB said...

Zed, its not the pollution issue. We all eat. We all drink. We all produce sewerage. To feed a larger Human population requires increased agricultural production, larger fishing catches, water.

One way or another, the humans eat just about everything. They compete for space with the rest of the fauna of the planet.

Deforestation, species extinction, collapsed fisheries.

Its not just africa. The Indian population was 400 million when the Raj ended. I believe it now exceeds 1 billion.

Our whole lifestyle in the west, and that is clearly aspired to by places like China and India, is only possible because of oil. A finite resource.

It is unsustainable.

Zed said...

David B, there are a billion bacteria living in my toilet. I have good reason to believe that their existenc there is quite sustainable, despite my efforts to destroy them.

The fact that there a billion indians tells us nothing. The fact that their living standards are increasing is much more revealing.

One hundred and ten years ago, the most respected economist in England - a chap called Jevons - warned that the British empire was on the edge of collapse. Why did he think that? Coal was going to run out.

Eighty five years later, the British government closed down the coal industry despite having hundreds of years of supply still left in the ground.

The importance of oil in GDP has been declining since the 1970s. Its price, which is a good guide to its scarcity hasn't changed much in forty years. Technological change has consistly ensured that we haven't run out of energy or food yet.

Even if the world does warm up a little, no serious scientist suggests that the human race will disappear.

So, take an african attitude to global warming. Calm down, relax and enjoy life.

Zed said...

One more thing, DavidB, what do you mean when you say "it would be far better if there were far fewer humans of all races and tribes"? Better for who?

Let us assume that the birth of one person were prevented, allowing the rest of us to have a more resource-rich lifestyle. One couldn't say that it was better for her, since she would no longer have an opportunity of life.

At the root of what you are saying is something self-centered and selfish. You are really saying, "I don't want more Africans in world, because I want more for me".

Elby the Beserk said...

Very interesting lectures on this matter here

davidb said...

As a youth I learned the great flaw in socialism was that where people wanted to be equally rich, socialism made them equally poor.

Zed sir, we subscribe to two different world views and I have no desire to proselytise for my religion. I respect your opinion. Mines is very different.