For years, the Japanese government has been desperately trying to encourage its citizenry to have more sex to combat the collapsing demographics the nation faces, trying guilt (blasting their “sexual apathy”) and punishment (imposing a “handsome tax” to make lief more even for ugly men), to no avail.
Now it appears Finland is suffering a similar fate. As Bloomberg reports, Finland, a first-rate place in which to be a mother, has registered the lowest number of newborns in nearly 150 years.
The birth rate has been falling steadily since the start of the decade, and there’s little to suggest a reversal in the trend.
Demographics are a concern across the developed world, of course. But they are particularly problematic for countries with a generous welfare state, since they endanger its long-term survival.
For Heidi Schauman, the statistics are “frightening.”
“They show how fast our society is changing, and we don’t have solutions ready to stop the development,” the Aktia Bank chief economist said in a telephone interview in Helsinki.
“We have a large public sector and the system needs taxpayers in the future.”
As Bloomberg notes, that’s a surprisingly low level, given the efforts made by the state to support parenthood.
Perhaps nothing illustrates those better than Finland’s famous baby-boxes.
Introduced in 1937, containers full of baby clothes and care products are delivered to expectant mothers, with the cardboard boxes doubling up as a makeshift cot.
The idea behind the maternity packages was prompted by concerns over high infant mortality rates in low-income families.
The starter kits were eventually extended to all families.
Offering generous parental leave and one of the best education system in the world doesn’t seem to be working either.
Reversing the modern idea that it’s ok not to have kids is impracticable. Opening the doors to immigrants is a political no-go area (Prime Minister Juha Sipila’s center-right government relies on the support of nationalist lawmakers).
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Antti Rinne, caused a stir in August when he urged women to fulfill their patriotic duty and have more babies.
“The discussion has revolved around gender equality and the employment of women, with the issue of natality sent to the background,” she said.
What Finland really needs is a political program that treasures the family and increases the value of parenthood, the economist argued.
The baby boxes that are delivered to expectant mothers contain all sorts of goodies. They include bodysuits, leggings, mittens, bra pads, talcum powder, lubricant, a hairbrush and a bath thermometer.
One suggestion is to leave out the condoms.