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All across the developed world, nations are seeing the “graying” of their populations. In Asia, nations like South Korea and Japan are prime examples, with China and its one-child policy not helping matters in that region. All across Europe, nations are facing similar challenges. And while America is doing better, we still have record-low fertility and birth rates.

This week, though, it's Portugal that deserves special attention in light of a new report showing that of the 28 nations in the European Union, it is Portugal whose birth rate is leading the decline:

Early estimates by Eurostat show that Portugal 'lost' 60,000 inhabitants last year, to 10.42 million – the result of the negative difference between births and deaths (-2.3) plus the migratory deficit (-3.5). According to the report, 82,800 people were born in Portugal last year, while 106,500 died, and there was net emigration of 36,200.

The consequences of too much “graying” are well-established, especially economically. Economic devastation, especially in nations like France and Greece that have enormous social welfare states, is projected for many nations. Fewer workers supporting more retirees means these expensive systems — already teetering on the brink of destruction — will come crashing down. Labor shortages are also possible.

The effects of Europeans bringing fewer children into the world will also have enormous cultural implications. The Judeo-Christian foundations of the continent are already being challenged by Muslim immigration, and as that religion's adherents continue to bear more children Europe may well see an enormous cultural shift.

One of the few positives of low birth rates means that Christians — especially Catholics — with traditions of encouraging large families may also increase their influence in Europe and America. One conservative author, for example, said last year that “it is entirely possible that we are sitting at the high watermark of secularism right now in America.”

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