A World Without Children
By Jeff Jacoby
June 22, 2008
In 1965, the population of Italy was 52 million, of which 4.6 million, or just under 9
percent, were children younger than 5. A decade later, that age group had shrunk to
4.3million - about 7.8 percent of Italians. By 1985, it was down to 3 million and 5.3
percent. Today, the figures are 2.5 million and 4.2 percent.
Young children are disappearing from Italian society, and the end isn't in sight.
According to one estimate by the UN's Population Division, their numbers will drop to
fewer than 1.6 million in 2020, and to 1.3 million by 2050. At that point, they will
account for a mere 2.8 percent of the Italian nation.
Italy isn't alone. There are 1.7 million fewer young children in Poland today than there
were in 1960, a 50 percent drop. In Spain 30 years ago, there were nearly 3.3 million
young children; there are just 2.2 million today. Across Europe, there were more than 57
million children under 5 in 1960; today, that age group has plummeted to 35 million, a
decline of 38 percent.
The world's population is still growing, thanks to rising longevity. But fertility rates – the
average number of children born per woman - are falling nearly everywhere. More and
more adults are deciding to have fewer and fewer children. Worldwide, reports the UN,
there are 6 million fewer babies and young children today than there were in 1990. By
2015, according to one calculation, there will be 83 million fewer. By 2025, 127 million
fewer. By 2050, the world's supply of the youngest children may have plunged by a
quarter of a billion, and will amount to less than 5 percent of the human family.
The reasons for this birth dearth are many. Among them:
As the number of women in the workforce has soared, many have delayed marriage and
childbearing, or decided against them altogether. The Sexual Revolution, by making sex
readily available without marriage, removed what for many men had been a powerful
motive to marry. Skyrocketing rates of divorce have made women less likely to have as
many children as in generations past. Years of indoctrination about the perils of
"overpopulation" have led many couples to embrace childlessness as a virtue.
Result: a dramatic and inexorable aging of society. In the years ahead, the ranks of the