Saturday, April 23, 2011

Post 19

It's been 5 days since my last update.

Figured i'd talk about stuff i do, and post the essay i had to write for a class yesterday. In fact, i wrote it in 3 hours. Impressed yet?

Also, i'm a nub at LoL even though i'm good and have been winning games; but what's awesome is that i just found out how to activate abilities on items. So even though i'd been winning a lot, i had never used an items active ability....UNTIL NOW.

Anyway, doubt you guys would be interested in declining birthrates, but the following is an examination of whether it is a social, economic, or political problem (or otherwise).

Declining Birthrate: Social Problem?

Governments across the world have started noticing a big problem regarding their replacement rates following modernization. The demographic transition model, a model for pre-industrialized and post-industrialized nations and their birthrates, has proven true for every nation brought into the graces of modernization. However, at the end of this model, and as we are only just discovering, it appears that at Stage 5, major nations are predicted to decrease in population size slowly over time. Beginning as early as the 50's, this pattern began developing in major nations around the world, and today, is being followed by a frightening number of major powers. But why, exactly, does this keep happening? From Germany, to Japan, the UK, the United States and others, the question is not what is happening, but why. Is the trend of smaller families and fewer children an evolutionary adaptation, a social problem, a response stimulated by economics, or something else?
The Extent and Severity of Declining Birthrate
In Japan, which has the highest population density of any country today, people live in tiny homes, are surrounded by other people, and are allowed only the smallest amount of privacy (Crowded Nation). When Japan's Prime Minister publicly advocated increasing Japan's birthrate, people were shocked. But since the transition following WWII from an agricultural to an industrialized society, Japan's birthrate fell steadily from replacement value. By 1957 Japan's birthrate had taken an unprecedented nosedive by 50 percent in the ten years prior. After an extensive review process, it was determined that by the end of the 21st Century, Japan would have half as many citizens as it does today, worsening current labor shortages by a huge degree; there would be more funerals than births for the first time in its history; and the population's average age would skyrocket (Japan: Men ignore families). This followed the pro-natal policies being taken back by the government in post-war Japan (Crowded Nation).
Across the world in Germany, there was a similar story. There was a decrease in births after 1964, but total population in the territory had tripled between 1871-1974 from 20 million to 60 million (due to in-migration, more births than deaths). But from 1971 onward the death rate has been higher than the birth rate, with in-migration expected to lead to a slight increase in population. Family size has diminished from 6, to 4, then 2, and so on since 1936. In The Population Development in the Federal Republic of Germany, a panel concluded that the decline was due to: secularization, less family planning on a daily basis; an increase in geographical and social mobility and urbanization, including new living and family structures; changes in economic activity, including gainful employment outside the home for women and changes in self-conception; and the spread of birth control influencing number and time of births of their children. Following this, governmental subgroups within population studies were created to help combat the declining rates and discover their root causes. The argument remained that Germany's birthrate would rise from immigration, but with even the best models in the panel, the total population was determined to decrease no matter what, with either increased emigration/immigration or otherwise not being enough to balance the population decrease.
For the newly transitioning industrializing nations known as the Asian Tigers, the long term forecast is even more grim. In The Long Term Forecast of the Demographic Transition in Japan and Asia, the aging of the population predicted in China, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore was to: adversely affect economic growth, voting structures, savings rates, and social security; be faster in Asia major than it had been in Japan, multiplying these negative side effects; lead to a shrinking labor force; a primarily old population withdrawing life savings rather than young people putting in savings affecting capital accumulation following economic growth; and the reversal of the 'demographic bonus' associated with higher birthrates after an industrial revolution and an increase in available resources (cheaper work forces, etc).

The above graphs are of the trends of population decrease in various industrialized Asian nations and of the changes in age and the dependency ratio in these nations. What the Long Term Forecast determined was that these trends would lead to a higher old voter population than young, and would encourage stagnant policies and right wing voting tendencies, and that their pay-as-you-go social security was to suffer. Additionally, rising tax revenues during population growth would be reversed, and that this would happen “strikingly fast”.
Socio-Economics/Politics and Their Relation to Birthrate
The cause of the falling birthrate can be attributed to many different contributing factors. In Visions of the Volk: German Women and The Far Right, feminist politics in Kaissereich through the Third Reich in Germany were examined. While not directly related, it was a unique case where prior to WWII, pro Nazi feminists advocated the power of women as 'carriers of the blood' in the hopes of having powerful Aryan children. While not causative, it is important to realize that following the fall of the Third Reich, these policies were completely eradicated and birthrates fell drastically.
China, a nation that contains roughly 22 percent of the world's population but only 7 percent of its arable land, only recently had its population growth increased 3 percent in a single year (1986-1987). It attempted a one-child policy to help alleviate the exponential growth (Prosperity in China Raises Birthrate). But even with the demographic bonus associated with the increase, families everywhere were paying the fines to have more than one child, and the government, realizing this, abolished the policy.
In In Praise of Good Breeding: Pro-Natalism and Race in the British Media, Jessica Brown discussed the slew of policies the British government was considering for implementation after it was found that every nation in the European Union was below replacement rate. These included increasing the influx of migrant/immigrant workers, increasing the retirement age, and reconsidering the types of benefits associated with childbirth. The low-fertility rates have raised fears among the populace, perpetuated by the media (or at least talked about) that question what will become of British identity, the labor force, state pension plans and more. The point Brown made was that the role women and their reproductive labors played in nationalist policy was significant, deserving of central roles in government projects, because the work they performed in the home was “integrally tied to the economic, military, and moral strength of the collective.” This served to tie socio-economics more tightly to the changes in female reproductivity, a counter-intuitive but logical discovery. It is generally assumed by many that the falling birthrate was due to various socio-economic pressures, but seeing the political and media scene being affected by it was an interesting find.
It is obvious, however, that families are growing smaller in industrialized nations, that men and women both are working longer hours, from Japan (Men Ignore Families) to Germany (German Women). This has effected people on the conscious and unconscious level, causing viewpoints to conflict and smolder. One woman in Germany discussed her dismay at being sneered at when she enrolled her son in afternoon classes, something only becoming popular today after more than 200 years of schools letting out by 1 pm (German Women). This change is freeing women to have a full-time job and not require a sitter, but in the article, it was evident there were negative sentiments to this change. Some German women viewed this as a cop out of sorts, because a mother should stay home to take care of her children, as is tradition. What was increasingly obvious were the social changes regarding the positions women held in German society. German policies, following the birthrate crisis, encourage them. These policies to support parental cohesiveness include paying 67 percent of salary for men, bridging the traditionally accepted gender roles, on family leave during the first 14 months after childbirth. In fact, many men opt to return to work after a much shorter period (2 months), showing a value for the job than for the family. Additionally, more women were being given higher positions within companies, and the article brought up the point that conflicting interests in population policy and the freedom of choice could arise if companies begin requiring women to take maternity leave, where they would be paid less money for not working but instead raising their child, a deal to some and a gross violation to others. The prevalence of salary as a concern for starting a family isn't just isolated to Germany, with many socio-economists viewing it as a factor in causing smaller families around the world.
On the other hand, some sociologists believe that social norms that influence reproduction have varied from culture to culture throughout history. Following industrialization population increased with resources, but birthrate declined sharply in many isolated communities simultaneously following the French Revolution (Why are Modern Families So Small?). The family size decrease matched family size discrepancies (less variability/diversity in family size) and seemed related to the expanding of modern social networks and less communication with relatives. While prestige influence (behaviors associated with increased social power, i.e. better jobs requiring more time for work and less for family) correlated with the decline in births, it seemed unlikely to have preceded declines in fertility rates, as many of these 'modern' jobs were created after the problem began to arise. These social influences are described in Modern Families as the 'group control' hypothesis, with economics and individual choice being viewed as 'individual control'. In Modern Families the evidence tended toward group dynamics and communication as the likely source for why the population decline occurred in lieu of economic and resource-related prosperity in nations around the world. 

Effects of Reform and Plans for the Future
In the United States welfare reform caused a massive ripple in 1996 when it was decided that states would govern themselves concerning the availability of welfare to families, especially those single mothers who had children after already having welfare. With The Family 'Cap' told the story of one mom who after having multiple children and being subjected to the policy changes, she survived off charity and part-time jobs to feed her four children. This reform bill seemed to be a complete contradiction to the almost universal trend for governments to encourage mothers to give birth when they were below replacement value. This 1996 welfare reform bill allowed states control over their own welfare checks; 22 followed New Jersey in saving money and in their words teaching 'personal responsibility' by capping the size of welfare families, a policy eerily akin to the one child policy in China. But the reforms got results. Following their introduction, a Rutgers University Study revealed that abortions rose by 14 percent in New Jersey and birthrate among welfare recipients dropped by 12 percent, with abortions higher among black women than hispanic or white women. It raised the question that child birth and having a larger family are both socially and economically motivated, but more importantly, showed that government reforms in relation to population policy could have a measurable effect, something many policies elsewhere found difficult to overcome.
But back to Japan. Robo Sapiens Japanicus, a witty title for an otherwise mainly academic article, examined the changes to be expected for the nation in the world that has 52 percent of the its robotics. It looked at how the central role of household robotics/technological devices could offset Japan's aging population. It postulated specifically that the declining birthrate in recent years could be attributed in large part to shrinking family budgets, the high costs of education for children, the death of public childcare facilities, long working hours for adults as well as unpaid overtime, and the replacement of regular working employees with 'just-in-time' workers. But in Japan's factories robotics have already replaced much of the cheap labor force, and introduction of the bill passed by Japan's government allocating $36 Billion to robotics development seems to support the idea that robotics are being seen as a solution for many of the problems associated with decreasing population. The introduction of this new technology could be seen as a possible solution to issues with child rearing in traditional Japanese family units; it is adaptable to their long hour lifestyle and convenient for the average 'nuclear' family in Japan, which already includes members that aren't necessarily related biologically. While fears were expressed, ranging from the loss of family direction to spiritual and intellectual cultural stagnation, the possibility to compensate for the gradually aging populace was presented as an appealing alternative to other, more extreme birthrate solutions.
It remains to be seen if the decline in populations for post-industrial nations will continue. Its relation to social viewpoints, economic trends, political policies and even biology are so varied that it is hard to form an ell encompassing theory. It can be said, however, that the declining birthrate is most assuredly a social problem in some respect, either fueled by or contributing to social problems around the world. In Japan, the United States, Britain, Germany, and elsewhere, the approaching storm of cheap labor reduction, empty homes, lower capital and increasing out migration seem a certainty and pose tremendous problems for not only the everyday citizen but also the human race as a whole. In a world where emigration to low-fertility nations accounts for 80 percent of their growth (Longing for the Good Life), what will happen when those migrations stop? While not a problem to mull over during our lifetime, it is important to consider the ramifications modern socialization, communication and prosperity will have in ages to come.

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