The Postponement of Childbirth in Europe

At the present time some 66 countries have fertility rates which are below the level necessary for population replacement (TFR 2.1). Within the next decade the number of counries in this group is set to grow to the point where a majority of the world’s population will be living in regions where the existing population no longer replaces itself. This development in an of itself is no disaster – many countries arguably suffer from excessive rates of population increase – but equally reducing fertility too rapidly can lead to economic and social ‘imbalances’ that may well turn out to be, in and of themselves, ‘undesireable’.

Understanding why this is happening has begun to present an important challenge for many areas in contemporary social science as there are evidently factors involved in the process which embrace areas as diverse as demography, sociology, anthropology, psychology, political science, economics and of course biology.

One of the characteristic features of this most recent fertility decline is that it is driven largely by a delay in childbearing: couples (and obviously in particular this means women) wait longer and longer before taking the decision to have a child. Understanding the dynamics behind this ‘delay syndrome’ is the key to developing a social policy to address the consequences, so it is particularly timely that the Vienna Institute of Demography was host last week to a Conference on this very topic: The Postponement of Childbearing In Europe. A number of interesting and important papers were presented, and I will be looking at a number of them between now and xmas. Indeed I have opened a page on my website which will be dedicated to the Conference.

But, just as a taster, why is postponment so important?
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Kurdish TV in Denmark

One of the many reasons I continue to support the Turkish EU accession process is because I think it will be good for human rights and democracy in Turkey, and good for the Kurds. This latest spat between Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Danish hosts, is simply another good example of this at work. The pressure is constantly on Turkey.

Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan boycotted a joint press conference with the Danish leader in protest at the presence of a Kurdish TV station on Tuesday (15 November), highlighting European values on free speech.

“There is a fundamental difference between Turkey and Denmark in matters of freedom of expression,” the Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the press conference his Turkish counterpart avoided.

The Turkish prime minister was visiting the Danish capital Copenhagen as the first stop in a tour around EU capitals to discuss the prospects of Turkey’s EU membership. Mr Erdogan stayed away from the press conference in protest at the presence of a journalist from the Danish-based TV channel Roj TV.

Turkey has repeatedly urged Denmark to close the channel, which sends news, entertainment, debate and children’s’ programs to Kurds in Denmark, arguing it is financed by the Kurdish rebel party, the PKK, which is on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations. Danish police are investigating the station, but have not found evidence of links to forbidden organisations so far.

Source: EU Observer

Turkey Under More Scrutiny

The EU’s tug of war with Turkey over human rights continues. This weekend attention has been focused on an academic conference held at Istanbul Bilgi University to discuss issues arising from and surrounding the massacre of Armenians which took place following the collapse of the Ottoman empire.

The most surprising thing in fact may have been that the conference was held at all. As the Chronicle of Higher Education Reports:
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Confronting Demographic Change

Confronting Demographic Change is the title of a two day conference currently being organised by Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimir Spidla. The emphasis of the conference is on gender and family impact issues.

You can find a background briefing paper here.

This is also an interesting presentation.

Here’s a summary of the objectives. It’s very ‘commission speak’ of course, but at least it marks a growing recognition of the problems we are all going to face. I’m also intrigued by something: “Demographic changes, globalisation and rapid technological change are the three major challenges facing Europe today”. I’m intrigued to know when the hell they figured this out, especially since (if for globalisation you read China) it is something I have been arguing for over five years now, in this precise combination.
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The First Chink of Light

There is a very interesting article in todays Financial Times. For the first time an executive board member of the ECB – Lucas Papademos – has spoken openly about the difficulties presented by having a single monetary policy for such a diverse set of economies. In fact these comments take on more significance in the light of the fact that Papademos is vice President of the ECB, and widely tipped to replace Otmar Issing as Chief Economist when Issing retires.
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We don’t have a Plan B.

Because no one has one. Well, no one has a public plan about how to handle one or more rejections of the European consitution in upcoming national referenda. But as the French referendum is approaching and the numbers do not look too good for the “yes” camp, unofficial Plan Bs are suddenly everywhere, if only to scare the naysaying Gauls into becoming responsible citizens. I know it’s common knowledge by now, but let me repeat it once more – a French “non” would be the worst case, and have possibly nuclear consequences for the EU as we know it. So scaring the voters a little seems like a reasonable approach to me.

In this vein, Bettina Thalmeyer of the Munich based Center for Applied Policy Research has put together a list of possibilities for the day after (and has published a paper about it (in German)) – hoping that it will not be May 30 (the translation and slight modifications are mine, table in the extended).

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Not Everybody Likes Orange

Or the idea that while Russia can bring hundreds of millions of goodies for Kuchma and Yanukovych, the European Union, Poland and other countries to the west have things to offer too.

One publication from Ukraine sees the conference we mentioned as evidence that Germany has been plotting a coup in Kiev. (The URL in the article takes me to a binary stream that I didn’t trust; maybe someone else can enlighten us on what temnik.com.ua is all about.) It doesn’t look like the authors — who considered the fall of Milosevic a coup, too — have discovered Fistful yet.

Anyway, below the fold is a taste of how the other side thinks. (Thanks to the Ukraine List for the translation.)
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Parmalat: Just Another Scandal?

On a day which sees the Parmalat heat being turned up to full blast, with a looming ‘cara a cara’ between former Chief Financial Officer Fausto Tonna and Parmalat chief legal counsel Gian Paolo Zini, and while in the United States a class action law firm has named investment bank Citigroup Inc and auditing firm Deloitte & Touche Tohmatsu among defendants in a lawsuit against the food group – a lawsuit incidentally filed on behalf of a U.S. pension fund (oh when, oh when will we get class action lawsuits here in Europe) – on such a day it might well be worth asking ourselves one simple question: is this just another one-off scandal?
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