By: James Bennett

In 2022, 75% of all countries worldwide had fertility rates below replacement levels, including wealthy Western nations and emerging economies such as India, China, Brazil and Turkey.

In a recent interview with former Deputy PM John Anderson, social scientist Nicholas Eberstadt issued a prescient warning to countries that have seen dwindling rates of family formation: falling populations are damaging and unsustainable.

“When you have generations upon generations of sub-replacement fertility, you have a revolution in the family where many people in practical terms end up childless or never married, and the human bonds that have been our social glue through history start to become undone,” Eberstadt said.

Eberstadt says that a popular new mindset – the quest for self-actualisation – is to blame for de-population. Young people are foregoing early family formation and choosing to have fewer – if any – children due to a belief that family ties will prevent them finding themselvesand discovering their true calling in life. This despite the known long-term personal impact of childlessness – loneliness and a lack of strong support networks later in life.

To individuals from below-replacement fertility settings, babies and family life can feel impossible to consider. We’re richer than ever, we’re lonelier than ever, and large families have never seemed so impossible to manage.

Eberstadt suggests that a refocusing on the importance of family is needed. We should incentivise and encourage childbearing and provide support for families who choose to have children in larger numbers. Failing to correct our inverted demographic pyramid (fewer children alongside a larger cohort of retirees) will cause crushing social and economic pain in future years.

The Growing Phenomenon of Men Who Don’t Work

Also under discussion is the phenomenon of prime-aged men (aged 25 to 55) opting out of work, training or education long term. This cohort in the United States is somewhere in the region of 6 million men, which is close to the total number of working age men in Australia. These are people who live off social security in one form or another and choose to remain persistently idle and out of work. Surveys suggest that these men are not using their time for voluntary work, worship, caring for others or making civil contributions – opting instead to spend thousands of hours per year watching screens, often, sadly, within the grip of pill addictions. As Eberstadt puts it, they consume their days by “playing video games while stoned”. It goes without saying that this has huge socio-economic consequences for society at large.

Nicholas Eberstadt is the Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he researches and writes extensively on demographics and economic development generally, and more specifically on international security in the Korean peninsula and Asia. Domestically, he focuses on poverty and social well-being. He is the author of numerous books, including his latest, Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis.

Eberstadt has offered invited testimony before Congress on numerous occasions and has served as consultant or adviser for a variety of units within the US government. He has a PhD in political economy and government, an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government, and an AB from Harvard University. In addition, he holds a MSc from the London School of Economics.

John Anderson served as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia from 1999 to 2005. A committed Christian, John now hosts a podcast where he interviews various thought leaders from around the world on topics as varied as politics, culture, academia and faith. John is motivated by a desire to encourage open and honest discussion of important issues so that we can, as a society, reach the best possible outcomes for as many people as possible.

Watch Nicholas Eberstadt and John Anderson’s interview:

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Feature image: Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash