Loopy policy

Read in The Economist of 25 July 2015:


Once people start living in cities, the fertility rate of women (a measure of births per woman) drops. This happens no matter where, no matter who, no matter how. A level of 2.1 is required to keep the population stable. In Seoul the fertility rate is just 1.2. In Singapore it is the same. In Japan it is 1.4. These populations are shrinking. Even Turkey (Istanbul!) and Russia (Moscow!) are no longer delivering enough babies to sustain their populations. For a sustainable planet this is great news, but for governments it is worrysome. Migrants are needed to keep de workforce at a certain level and ensure the economy keeps growing. Cities try to attract migrants, but governments try to keep those people out. They prefer births. In The Economist this summer I read an article on ‘Breaking the baby strike’: how governments try to convince their inhabitants to raise more kids. As birth rates decline, more countries are turning pro-natalist. “And the baby-boosting is becoming fervent, even desperate.” It is a dangerous trend that threatens the whole planet.

Some governments even think this justifies becoming anti-urban again. While big cities are saving the world because they make the fertility rate drop, presidents and prime-ministers turn their backs on cities, trying to harm them, even if this means they are damaging the economic engines. “In many countries, fertility is highest in rural areas, middling in small towns and suburbs, and lowest in the cores of large cities.” The Economist gives the example of Japan. “The Japanese government is convinced that big cities are actually causing infertility, and wants to prevent young people from moving to them.” No wonder the Japanese economy is shrinking. For growth you need big cities. The newspaper calls it a ‘loopy’ policy. Nevertheless, it concludes: “It could be that a combination of urban redevelopment and restrictions on housing supply have created streets that are lovely, wealthy, exciting – and childless.” So yes, better build more houses. Enlarge your cities.






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