Below-Replacement Fertility in the European Union (EU-15): Facts and Policies, 1960-1997
Jean-Claude Chesnais

Throughout the developed world the total fertility rate (TFR) has dropped well below the replacement level. The theory of demographic transition has to be reconsidered: post-transitional societies will face a permanent disequilibrium (hyperaging and ultimate population implosion). The basic paradigm has reversed: in the past, there was a large proportion of unwanted pregnancies and family planning programs were designed to reduce them; now, in post-industrial contexts, the opposite is true. Many desired pregnancies do not occur; in the European Union, for example, the TFR is 1.4 whereas the desired number of children is 2.1. Thus, there is a latent demand for family support. In countries where family support is better (like those in Scandinavia), the gap between the ideal and the real family size is narrow, whereas in societies where family support is minimal (as in sexist societies such as Germany, Italy, and Spain), this gap is maximal. This is the essence of the present feminist paradox: feminism and pronatalism work together; in societies that alleviate the burden of working or potentially working Ñ mothers, the fertility rate is higher than in societies where traditional roles prevail. Two basic measures have a decisive impact: the implementation of parental leave and the allocation of pension beneŞts to parents for each child. Both of these measures tend to alleviate the cost of child care for the mother and the family and to reduce the main obstacles to childbearing.

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