Size Matters or Does It?

Most countries, at some stage or another, have promoted large families.  It would seem that fecundity is a source of national pride if not a desire to outnumber their enemies in the long term.  Hitler avidly promoted this and Stalin created the medal, Mother Heroine, in 1944 for mothers who raised over 10 children.  This was awarded 430 000 times by 1991 when it was discontinued.  There were also other medals for woman who were not as fecund or who were perhaps more sensible.

Main picture: Soviet propaganda poster, 1944 & Soviet Mother Heroine Medal

Sometimes, people fear being overtaken by minorities or immigrants.  Bob Hawke, ex-Prime Minister of Australia, asked families of the nation to have three children – one for the mum, one for the dad and one for the country.  After all, he had done his bit with four children.  He probably feared that the Chinese immigrants, which were flooding the country, would take over. 

Amazingly, our little homegrown racist, spawn of the ANC and resident idiot, Julius Malema, while rallying an EFF a crowd in Soweto in April 2016, urged Africans to out-reproduce Whites:  “Give birth and expand because if we do not make children we are going to disappear as a Black nation. To make children is a revolutionary duty‚ because children represents reproduction of society.”  Huh!  It seems as though he got the spelling of that little Communist saying a bit wrong about owning the means of production.  On top of that, Black Africans are currently 10 times more numerous than Whites.  Go figure!  (For historical interest, the African/Whites percentages have been: 1911 – 67.3%/21.4%, 1996 – 76.7/10.9%, 2016 – 80.4%/8.4%)

However, all that was a bit of venting on my part.  What this article is all about is that, every now and again, a country gets into a tizz about its aging demographics and promotes larger families to ward off creeping senility.  What prompted me on the topic was an article on the demographics in Korea – South Korea reports more deaths than births for first time as population declines – CNN.  It was reported that there were 10% fewer births than deaths and lamented the consequences.  The Bank of Korea urged stronger policies and childbirth incentives to sustain the country’s economy.  What a lot of tosh!

It really is a mug’s game for a bunch of different reasons.

  1. It gets worse before it gets better.

If you suddenly increase the number of births for a period, the average age will show a decline but it will take a while for your ‘extras’ to become economically active.  In the meantime, they are actually an increased burden on the parents and the economy. 

2 The relief is temporary.

It’s much like the case of a husband who’s not getting any nookie at home and finds relief elsewhere.  When he gets home, the problem still remains the same except his wife is even more ticked off with him.

To prove this for myself, I set up an Excel spreadsheet with 4-year population buckets.  Each bucket was assigned a probability of dying and hence not carrying over to the next bucket four years later.  The probability numbers were 0.5 – 1% for each 4-year bucket up to the age of 46 and then exponentially increased.  I started with 1000 people in each bucket and assumed a birth rate of 1000/4-years and repeated the runs until a stable population profile resulted.  The assumed death rate probabilities yielded a total population of 19532 with 12% of the people not making it past 62 – maybe harsh, but reasonable. 

Using this stable population profile as a starting point, I ramped up the yearly births by 50 every 4 years until the birth rate stood at 1200 mewling and puking, newly-minted, glazed-donut monsters per 4-years.

[For the purist, the curves should not be continuous but just dots every 4 years.  However, it is difficult to see the trends with so much overlying data]

The starting profile is the black line.  Over the years, this bump up moves through the population profile, but its effect is ameliorated by the increasing population.  After 100 years, it has worked completely through the system and the profile (dashed green line) is exactly the same as what we started with.  We have not solved the problem, just increased our population size by 20%, ie. the relief, if any, was temporary and now we have a country that is 20% more overcrowded.

A nice way of looking at it is to calculate the economically active people as a percentage of the population as this birth rate increase wends its weary way through time.

For the first 50 years, things get worse before they get better over the next 50 years.  This is an exceptionally long process and consists of very small changes in the percentage of people involved in the economy to support the young and the old.  It’s just not worth the marginal effects that will only be evidenced a lifetime hence.  

In fact, the temporary changes induced by this tweak pale into insignificance when compared to the effect of the increasing lifespan due to medical breakthroughs.  A far better and obvious solution is to increase the pensionable age in direct proportion to the increased lifespan.  Its effect is immediate, calculable and tweakable.  It has the added advantage of not increasing the consumption of the planet.

In conclusion, increasing the birth rate to protect the social-economic fabric is only seductive to those with room temperatures IQ’s.

As I said, it’s a mugs game.

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