The Wall Street Journal, (among other newspapers), recently published a story titled, “China’s Leadership Scrap One-Child Policy”. Now some families in China can have two children. China has the largest population in the world – 1.37 billion. In the past, families in China had many children (in 1950 there was an average of 6 children per family). In the Chinese society, where there is no social security, parents depend on the care of their children in their old age. But today, when economic opportunities allow people to work more to keep up with their neighbors, young Chinese people feel that they cannot afford to have more children. This problem is not unique to China. I recently read an article that young people in Cuba do not want to start families and have children, because it is not economically possible.
It is generally believed that in Arab countries families have more children, probably for the same reason it happened in China in the past. But in countries like Saudi Arabia, there are 1.2 children per family (similar to what China has now). The rest of the developed world is experiencing the same phenomenon – a drop of the childbirth. This becomes a huge problem in countries like Japan as well as in Western Europe.
I speculate that the reason Germany recently decided to accept such a large number of refugees was strictly driven by economic considerations. After all, they had relative success with the Turkish workers, who had been living in Germany since the 1960s (In recent municipal elections a man who was born to Turkish parents ran for the Mayor of Berlin). The question remains, “Why do we need children?” In the Torah, after the flood, “God blessed Noah and his sons, and He said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the land” (Genesis 9:1). At least there was a very specific purpose – to fill the land. But now when it seems that we have fulfilled this commandment, what’s next? In 1798 the reverend Thomas Robert Malthus wrote an “Essay on the Principle of Population”; his point was that if the population continues to grow, the earth would not be able to produce enough food to support the expansion. The history demonstrated that his theory was just a theory. In 1798 the world population was 800 million (which was the number of people in China in 1970). The world population is approaching seven billion. Who is going to produce and feed all of those people in the next generations? African countries’ economies are growing and their childbirth survivorship is increasing.
The new book, “A Mighty Purpose” by Adam Fifield is a biography of James P. Grant, the director of United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), who died in 1995. Thanks to his efforts, the mortality of children dropped from an average of 23% before they reached their fifth birthdays in 1960 in the low-and middle-income countries to an average 5% today. It might be that in the near future Chinese companies will set their production in Africa. Whatever the reason is, it is good to have children.
P.S. When we visited Cuba in 2013, I photographed many children. One of the reasons that separates children from grown-ups is that they always play. As you can see in my images.
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