We need more kids, says EU commissioner SpidlaWednesday, August 10th, 2005
We need more children and a better balance between work and family life, says Vladimir Spidla, European Union Commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities.
Calling for a modernization of the â€śEuropean Social Modelâ€?, a press release from the Commissionerâ€™s office states that failing to address declining birth rates and family needs â€śwould directly hit Europeâ€™s future economic growth, as well as putting a potentially unbearable burden on womenâ€™s shouldersâ€?.
These concerns were expressed by the commissioner from the Czech Republic as part of â€śthe Green Paper process", a series of meetings between March and October this year conducted by the European Commission entitled "Confronting Demographic Change: A New Solidarity Between the Generationsâ€?.
The aim of the meetings is to confront the ensuing economic crisis caused by a decline in Europeâ€™s work force, which is set to decrease by 20.8 million the next 25 years.
The Green Paper, released March 16, starts by noting that European society is no longer conducive to child-rearing and states that in 2003 the natural population in Europe rose by only 0.04pc.
The paper also states that the fertility rate everywhere is below the threshold needed to renew the population, approximately 2.1 children per woman. The rate for Ireland was 1.95 last year.
But authors of the paper say there is a significant gap between the number of children people would like to have (2.3), and the number they actually have (1.5), attributing this to factors such as difficulties in finding a job, expensive housing, and a lack of incentives, such as family benefits, parental leave, and child care.
They then ask the essential question â€śWhat value do we attach to children? Do we want to give families, whatever their structure, their due place in European society?"
In his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, Pope John Paul II attributed the current crisis to the loss of Christian identity in Europe, and consequently a new fear of the future.
â€śTomorrow is often presented as something bleak and uncertain. The future is viewed more with dread than with desire. Among the troubling indications of this are the inner emptiness that grips many people and the loss of meaning in life,â€? the letter states.
â€śThe signs and fruits of this existential anguish include, in particular, the diminishing number of births, the decline in the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the difficulty, if not the outright refusal, to make lifelong commitments, including marriageâ€?.
George Weigel, papal biographer and historian, also attributes Europeâ€™s low birthrate to a cultural and moral crisis, a form of â€śChristophobiaâ€? as he calls it.
Speaking at Romeâ€™s Gregorian University, he said: â€śMy proposal is that Europe is experiencing a crisis of cultural and civilizational moraleâ€¦ Understanding this phenomenon requires something more than a conventional political analysis. Nor can political answers explain the reasons behind, perhaps, the most urgent issue confronting Europe today -- the fact that Western Europe is committing demographic suicideâ€?.