By macleans.ca - Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 0 Comments
Blame the post-industrial, consumption-based economy and its demand on female workers
Is the family history?
A sweeping new study by renowned urban theorist Joel Kotkin makes a depressingly convincing case for the decline of the family as the key decision-maker, growth engine and motivator for modern society; in its place is a world increasingly filled with self-indulgent singletons. Where can we go to change such a trend? Home seems like a good place to start.
The relentless tide of demographic change in the developed world is well documented. Fertility rates are down, populations are getting older and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see how our vast array of health and social welfare programs can be supported by a shrinking work force.
In new research prepared for the Singapore government, Kotkin takes this analysis back a few steps. Underlying the drop in fertility and the growing aging population, he observes, is a decline of the institution of marriage and the primacy of family in society. We now live in a “post-familial world.”
“The Rise of Post-Familialism: Humanity’s Future?” by Kotkin and several co-authors trace several important economic forces behind the rapid diminution in the urge to find a spouse and procreate. Chief among these is our post-industrial, consumption-based economy and the ever-growing demands it places on workers, and in particular women. This trend can be seen in every rich country, but may be most pronounced in bustling Singapore, where the fertility rate is nearly half what’s required to maintain a steady population level. “In Singapore, women work an average of 53 hours a week. Of course they are not going to have children. They don’t have the time,” says demographer Wolfgang Lutz in the report.
Kotkin further links the economic decision to skip children with a broader decline in marriage rates—driven by institutional change, diminished religiosity and a greater preference for a solitary, unattached life. Again there’s plenty of evidence to support his thesis: 70 per cent of women in Washington do not live with children, for example. And by 2030 it’s estimated one-third of Japanese males under the age of 50 will have never married. “You can be single, self-satisfied and well. So why have kids?” asks one Japanese researcher rhetorically. “It’s better to go on great holidays, eat good food and have your hobbies.” Children are no longer a biological imperative, but rather the perceived route to a less-appealing lifestyle.
These same broad trends are playing out in Canada as well. The 2011 census reveals the share of married couples to be declining as a percentage of total households. And couples without children now outnumber couples with children. Only Canada’s liberal immigration policies have insulated us from the worst of global depopulation trends. But these impacts will eventually be felt across the developed world.
Of course an unmarried and increasingly childless world shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. It’s largely our own creation. Given ample choice, many inhabitants of wealthy countries have opted to avoid the complications and expense of marriage and child-rearing in favour of greater personal freedom. Certainly no one is about to advocate less freedom as a solution to all this. And deliberate government policies aimed at artificially raising the birth rate or encouraging marriage are typically doomed to failure.
Kotkin, thankfully, is not entirely without hope. He points to international surveys showing significant interest among younger generations in being good parents or having a successful marriage. Aspirations of a family life are not entirely dead. Further, there’s scope for government policies to stem this decline in family formation without impeding freedom, choice or progress.
First, he advocates greater international migration to provide balanced population growth around the globe. And restoring faith in the future following the Great Recession will go a long way to convincing younger generations to start planning for tomorrow. But the biggest area for immediate policy attention lies in housing.
Within the subtle and complex calculations that go into the decision to have a family, the house looms large: a traditional home with a driveway and yard remains the preferred locale for raising a family. Yet government planning efforts inevitably push urban apartments over all other options, raising the cost of suburban homes to unaffordable levels. “The current obsession with promoting density . . . represents an assault on the aspirations of most families.” Kotkin writes. Without a suitable place to raise kids, many couples simply forgo having them.
Suburbs—widely reviled by city planners and the modern intelligentsia as depressing, unsustainable “sprawl”—are in fact the last refuges of family and fertility in Canada. “In Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver suburbs, the ratio of children per women of child-bearing age is roughly 80 per cent higher than in the urban cores,” Kotkin writes. Forests of downtown condo towers may present an impressive, modern and environmentally sensitive cityscape, but they’re largely child-free.
If we’re truly interested in the survival of the family in a “post-familial” world, we ought to be celebrating our unloved suburbs. And planning much more family-friendly sprawl.
By John Geddes - Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 12:59 PM - 0 Comments
Anyone paying even glancing attention to public policy debates over the past decade or so can’t have avoided taking in the received wisdom that an aging population is one of the most pressing challenges.
When he was prime minister, Paul Martin ranked demographic change at home right up there with the rise of Asian economies abroad as his top policy preoccupations. Stephen Harper’s government has kept up the drumbeat—with Harper saying in his big speech in Davos at the start of this year that the demographic shift amounts to “a threat to the social programs and services that Canadians cherish,” Human Resources Minister Diane Finley slamming the opposition as “not interested in facing reality” when it comes to an aging population, and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty noting that the issue comes up all the time in pre-budget consultations.
Against that backdrop of constant, anxious emphasis, comments this morning from Flaherty downplaying our nation’s greying as merely one concern among many sounded strangely sanguine.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 1:53 PM - 0 Comments
The most recent Canadian census numbers show Alberta is the province attracting the most…
The most recent Canadian census numbers show Alberta is the province attracting the most amount of young people, the Globe and Mail reports.
While most of Canada’s population is now over the age of 40, more and more young people are moving to job-rich Alberta and starting families there–effectively lowering the province’s median age.
From the Globe:
In the first quarter of 2011, Alberta attracted nearly as many Canadians who moved to a new province as the nine other provinces combined. It doubled the number of immigrants it attracts over the last decade and it has by far the smallest share of people of retirement age in Canada.
By Joseph Coleman - Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
Solution to an aging society: out of the hammock and back in the office
Kato Manufacturing, in Nakatsugawa, in central Japan, is hardly a relaxing place. Generators grind, the air pounds with the slam of steel presses, and hundreds of pieces of metal rattle as they’re shuffled and arranged and transported on wheeled carts. In the middle of the racket, 73-year-old Hisao Kitawaki works steadily, showing a new employee how to guide a steel basket filled with grease-laden parts—for autos, airplanes, hairdryers—into a cauldron of cleaning solution. He uses a white towel to pat the sweat from his face; steam clouds his glasses.
A steel-products factory is an unlikely hangout for a man his age. But you won’t catch Kitawaki complaining—he’s exactly where he wants to be. Eight years ago, just as he was growing bored with the hobby-filled life of a pensioner, he saw an advertisement Kato put in the paper looking for special kinds of workers: old ones. “The only condition was that you had to be at least 65 years old,’’ Kitawaki says. “Okay, I thought, I meet that condition. The timing was perfect.’’
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 1:26 PM - 58 Comments
While we’re on the subject of demographics, there is also age.
Differentiating between generations is a bit tricky, the difference being as much about experience, mindset and attitude as it is a matter of timing. For the sake of argument, if you take David Foot’s contention that the baby boom in Canada ended in 1966 and include all those current MPs born after January 1 of that year, you get the following group (listed from oldest to youngest):
Rick Dykstra, Mario Silva, Gerry Byrne, Kirsty Duncan, Todd Russell, Shelly Glover, Rob Clarke, Scott Brison, Pablo Rodriguez, Leona Aglukkaq, Greg Rickford, Andrew Kania, Dominic LeBlanc, Randy Hoback, Lisa Raitt, Jason Kenney, Brian Masse, Blaine Calkins, Russ Hiebert, Helena Guergis, Rona Ambrose, John Baird, Bernard Bigras, Mike Lake, Scott Simms, Glenn Thibeault, Paul Calandra, Dean Del Mastro, James Rajotte, Jeff Watson, Michael Chong, Justin Trudeau, Eve-Mary Thai Thi Lac, Rob Anders, Steven Fletcher, Meili Faille, Nathan Cullen, Jean-Claude D’Amours, Rod Bruinooge, Megan Leslie, Luc Malo, Christian Paradis, Ruby Dhalla, Rob Moore, Brad Trost, Mark Holland, Blake Richards, Tim Uppal, Scott Andrews, James Moore, Ben Lobb, Navdeep Bains, Thierry St. Cyr, Brian Storseth, Patrick Brown, Pascal-Pierre Paille, Chris Warkentin, Andrew Scheer, Pierre Poilievre, Niki Ashton, Nicolas Dufour.
How’s a 2012 election between LeBlanc, Moore, Leslie and Bigras sound?
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 12:00 PM - 3 Comments
Author Theodore Roszak on the boomers’ ﬁnal revolution, the female caregiver as a radical force, old drivers and the end of sex
In 1969, historian Theodore Roszak’s The Making of a Counter Culture coined the term that deﬁned a generation. His new book, The Making of an Elder Culture, explores the potential social sea change resulting from a gerontocracy in which most of Western society is over the age of 50.
Q: You make the provocative claim that baby boomers have a second chance to reshape history due to their demographic clout, even that their place in history could hinge more on their second act as “elders” than their ﬁrst act as radicals.
A: Yes, the people leading the way toward a gerontocracy are the same people who were raising hell on the college campuses of the ’60s. This is a very special population because they had a special historical experience that acquainted them with the willingness to make big changes. These people are going to be older for a longer period of time than they were ever young and have much more political and ﬁnancial clout than younger people.
Q: How will this shift in social consciousness begin to shake out?
A: Well, once again the demographic weight is going to force people to think differently, even if they start off with a very negative attitude—which is generally the attitude we have toward aging. But you’re going to have to put up with the fact that we now have a lot of 70-year-olds and 80-year-olds who are not like your grandparents or great-grandparents. They go on working, they’re professionals, they are active. These are not just parasites leaning on the rest of the society. I talk about experience being of great economic value, but we’ve never given it enough weight in our economic thought. And I speak as a historian—this is an unprecedented state of affairs, and so it’s new to people, they’ve never had to think about the demographics of their society in this way. Continue…