OTTAWA, Ontario, February 8, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Data released this week from the 2011 Canadian census shows an encouraging “small increase” in the country’s overall fertility rate - a rate that has seen an upward trend since 2003, rising from 1.53 to the current rate of about 1.7. The replacement level birth rate is 2.1 children per woman.
As demographers celebrate the small uptick in the fertility rate, a Canadian marriage and family think tank is raising awareness that a sustainable birth rate and a flourishing economy goes hand-in-hand with stable marriage.
“Anyway you slice it, a healthy society that has enough people to support its elders needs to have the replacement rate of 2.1,” said Andrea Mrozek to LifeSiteNews. Mrozek is the manager of research and communications at the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC).
Despite the uptick in the country’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Mrozek called Canadian demographics “troubling,” pointing out that it remains at a level that is “not sustainable.”
“We don’t have people to support our parents and grandparents,” she said.
Mrozek pointed to research co-sponsored by the IMFC where an a panel of experts in economics, demographics, and social structures found that “the long-term fortunes of the modern economy rise and fall with the family.”
The report, titled “The sustainable demographic dividend: What do marriage and fertility have to do with the economy?” highlighted the foreboding problem faced by western societies including Canada of an increasing elderly population as the productive working-age population stagnates or shrinks.
Data from Statistics Canada has indicated that within a decade there will be more Canadians over the age of 65 than under the age of 15.
“The lesson here is that nations wishing to enjoy robust economic growth and viable welfare states over the long-term must maintain fertility rates high enough to avoid shrinking workforces and rapidly aging populations,” the authors of the report related.
One aspect of the problem the authors make clear is that it is not simply the quantity of the up-and-coming generation that is essential to economic growth, but also the quality of that generation.
The authors found that children reared outside of an intact family are “significantly less likely to acquire the human and social capital they need to become well-adjusted, productive workers.”
The authors found that “divorce, non-marital childbearing, and delayed or foregone marriage” allows for a large numbers of children and adults to “spend a major portion of their lives outside of an intact, married family.” The authors highlighted recent statistics that show that more than one in three children in western countries are born outside of a stable marriage.
“Our research suggests that large sectors of the modern economy are more likely to flourish when men and women marry and have children,” they said.
To avert a future social collapse the authors are calling on businesses, government, civil society, and ordinary citizens to “strengthen the family.” They have proposed a number of suggestions and family policies that they say are “appropriate” measures to inject new life into an aging society.
One measure calls for the government to “honour work-family ideals of all women” by recognizing “diversity among women” and focusing not only on the needs of working mothers but on needs of home-centered mothers.
Another measure calls for the government to “support marriage and responsible parenthood”.
“There are limits to what any government can or should do to promote marriage as an institution. Nonetheless, public policy should stop penalizing marriage and should also support initiatives to educate the public about the benefits of marriage and the hazards of single parenthood. This is no different in kind from government efforts to educate the public about the benefits of properly installed car seats for children or the hazards of smoking.”
A further measure calls for a “clean up” of the culture.
“Television and other global media, as we’ve already seen, appear to have played a big role in driving birth and marriage rates down. From pop stars’ efforts to push the sexual envelope, to Hollywood films, violent video games, and ubiquitous Internet pornography, the global media sends a strong message to young people around the world that a family-centered way of life is passé.”
As a final measure, the authors call for political authorities to “respect the role of religion as a prenatal force.”
“Childlessness and small families are increasingly common among secularists. Meanwhile, in Europe and the Americas, as well as in Israel, the rest of the Middle East, and beyond, there is a strong correlation between adherence to orthodox Christian, Islamic, or Judaic religious values and larger, stable families.”
“In recognition of the contribution that religion makes to family life and fertility, governments should not persecute people of faith for holding or expressing views that are informed by religious tradition, including ones that buck progressive or nationalist sensibilities.”
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