How should humanity deal with underpopulation?

We’ve had a couple threads dealing with overpopulation. While the topic seems to still be causing panic among some internet denizens, I don’t see many people with real decision-making capability devoting much attention to it. Hysteria about overpopulation seems to have followed the same trend line as platform shoes and Bee Gees music: it was popular in the 70’s but now it isn’t.

There is, however, a serious population problem looming in many parts of the world. It’s clearest in two regions: the Pacific Rim and much of Europe. The problem really comes from the aforementioned 70’s, when countries including Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore took various measures to lower fertility rates. The measures were a dramatic success. Today Japan’s fertility rate is 1.39, while Taiwan is at 1.16 and Singapore arrives at 0.78. (Cite)

Then, at some point in the 80’s and 90’s, the governments in these countries seem to have gotten a funny feeling that they might have done something really, really stupid. They started to wonder whether getting rid of half or more of future generations was really a smart idea. They started to think that their policies would actually lead to imbalanced societies, with vast numbers of elderly dependents sucking up money through pensions and health care while inadequate numbers of young workers existed to do actual work. And suddenly those same countries that had been so proud of their population control efforts did an about face and tried to encourage more births. They officially encouraged marriage. They increased maternity leave and other perks for parents. They forked government money directly to anyone willing to have children.

Guess what? None of it has worked. The numbers show that all of these desperate policies have had little or not effect on birth rates. It seems that it’s easy for the government to drive birth rates down, but much harder to drive them up. So now, while some people dither about overpopulation, many countries are already in or soon will be in a crisis of underpopulation. Moreover, all the possible solutions have been tried and failed. Government incentives to encourage childbearing have failed. Wealthy countries could try to prop up populations by bringing in immigrants, but immigration tends to cause problems and most places have moved in the opposite direction in recent years. Adjusting the laws so that elderly people don’t suck up so much money makes financial sense but will always encounter ferocious resistance. Those countries that made the wrong decision on population control 30 or 40 years ago may simply be doomed.

There will never be a “problem-less” solution.

If people don’t want to have more children and the government doesn’t want to force them to, then unless it wants to collapse, it will have to open up its doors to immigration. If done properly, a lot of problems can be mitigated. If people don’t want a bunch of stinky furriners in their country, well, they deserve to die off.

If you need more workers, open the doors. That’s it.

Yeah some countries have declining populations some have growing populations, seems like a match made in heaven.

All the anti-immigrant racists in these countries like Japan,Korea are going to have no-one to look after them in their old age - this sounds like a self-correcting problem to me.

Yeah, thatCanada, just beset by problems…

I don’t think the government had much to do with lowering birth rates. Even in China, economic growth seems to have been the primary driver.

Automatisation can do a lot to ease some of the problems to do with an aging population. And people will have to get used to work to a later age. Around here they’ve already raised the pension age (to 67), and there is talk about raising it further. (France reducing it to 60 is just ga-ga. The wonder why we don’t want to enter into a monetary union with them.)

Government policy doesn’t drive down birth rates, economic growth does. It happens all over the world, not just in europe and east asia.

As to what to do about it, I am not sure. Invest heavily in robotics so that the robots can take care of the elderly. Invest in anti-aging therapies so people’s health span is increased. A society where 30-40% of the population is elderly and a huge chunk of the working age population is devoted to taking care of them is going to cause problems.

As to how to increase the no. of kids, I guess you’d have to examine why people don’t want kids. Maybe people don’t want kids because the world is unjust. maybe they don’t want to be tied down. Maybe they dont’ want the responsibility of kids. Maybe it is financial. It could be other things too.

That is a demographic imbalance problem, not an “underpopulation” problem. And if the overpopulation scenarios had played out, we and they would be facing much worse problems.

And as said, the way to deal with it is immigration; the world isn’t suffering from such an age imbalance, only certain portions of it.

It’s true that birth rates have plunged everywhere, which many people are not aware of. But while there’s certainly some correlation between birth rates and wealth, wealth is not the only factor. As you can see on the list I linked to, the United States is roughly in the middle of the list, and many poorer nations have lower birth rates. Singapore has the lowest of all, and the obviously explanation for that was Singapore’s aggressive campaign against large families in the 70’s and 80’s.

If the governments could raise the birth rates just by turning off the electricity. No distracting television shows and video games. No bright lights to inhibit the shy and the ugly. Plenty of people looking for warm bodies to snuggle up next to.

I think we should let underpopulation happen. Humans are consuming vast quantities of natural resources. We really do need less people on this earth to make these limited resources last. It will be painful for some economies, but it’s better to go through that pain than encourage unlimited resource consumption.

Governments want increasing populations because it helps their revenue. I don’t think that’s a good reason to encourage having children. People should have children because they want to have children, not because their government wants someone to pay into retirement benefits.

So, how come China doesn’t have an underpopulation problem, after decades of draconian enforcement of its “one child” policy?

Sounds more like a ‘cultural’ under-population problem, than a real issue for humanity, as you suggest.

This is as nonsensical as the statement “It seems that it’s easy for the government to make the sun rise in the east, but much harder for the government to make the sun rise in the west”, and for the same reason.

Who says they don’t?

Anyone who thinks Japan is* under*populated *really *isn’t looking. A densely populated country can go into negative growth and still be a densely populated country.

Do you really think government policy can have no effect on birthrates?!

It does. The one child policy has a LOT of exceptions, and basically the people it affects are well-employed city dwellers. Birth rates were declining before the policy, and have continues to decline among the many unaffected populations. An increasing number of Chinese people- especially urban professionals- are choosing not to have children at all. Shanghai is making large modifications due to the low birth rate, and other cities expect to follow.

Basically the policy was is tool of social control- a way to assert the party’s supremacy over your family and even your own body, and it has become a handy tool for small time officials looking for some ace blackmail material. It’s never seriously been about population.

If any country has an underpopulation problem, the obvious solution is to encourage immigration. After all, there will always be other countries that have an overpopulation problem, or otherwise are well worth leaving.

That’s of course assuming that you have no preferences either way to the culture of the country. In any case, while it might be an economically viable strategy in more economic liberal nations like the USA or Canada, it doesn’t really work that well in European welfare states. What is needed is high qualified immigrants. For those Europe will be in competition with USA/Canada – as well as increasingly Asian, and other, nations – and Europe, due to the tax rates needed to maintain the welfare state often comes up short. Whereas the immigrants we have mainly attracted the last many decades are a net deficit and only make the problems worse. One solution to that could of course be to dismantle the welfare state and remodel ourselves in a more competitive American model. The dismantling is probably going to happen anyway. Is happening already. However even Canada has demographic problems to do with its own welfare model. And there is also something deeply distasteful about seeing a native population being served by an army of imported laborers. It’s the Arab Emirates way. If you can’t clean up your own shit, you should bloody well wallow in it.