Time passes for everyone; this is a reality. Time is like a wheel that turns and turns and can’t be stopped. Human beings are getting older, our time on this earth comes to an end, and it is left to the next generation to take over where we left off.
What if one day there wasn´t a generation to replace its predecessor, and the cycle ceased? This situation may seem unlikely in the face of talk about overpopulation, but in Europe it is not completely unlikely if we continue the current dynamic. Gradually, the population is getting old, and there are fewer and fewer young people and fewer births.
Growing up means taking responsibility and having to devote more time to others than oneself; for example, to a family. Today, it seems that we aren´t willing to do that, and that our society has a “Peter Pan Syndrome”: we perceive the adult world as problematic and glorify adolescence. An increasingly large number of adults are displaying emotionally immature behaviors in Western society. They are unable to grow up and take on adult responsibilities, dress like teenagers, and even party like teenagers when they are over 30 years old.
This behavior is reflected in the birth rates of European countries, which have been decreasing rapidly. For example, in fifty years, Spain’s fertility rate has fallen more than 50% to 1.4 children per female. This is one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and is well below the 2.1 rate necessary to replace the current population. In the rest of Europe the average birth rate is 1.51, and only Ireland meets the requisite 2.1 children per woman.
It is true that population size is a complex issue, and that the global economic crisis that we are experiencing has made it even more complex. Young people from countries such as Spain have been driven to emigrate to find better job opportunities. By leaving their countries, they are no longer able to rejuvenate the population.
In fact, The National Institute for Statistics (INE) predicts that countries such as Spain will lose one million residents in the coming decade, a trend that will worsen with time. It seems that without a major shift in policies that favor families and an unexpected resurgence of interest in marriage and children, Spain and other countries face very bad prospects in economic terms. Without a present, there can be no future. The family sustains society as it gives life to the next generation, the human capital that is first and best developed within the family.
Let’s think of our children as the people who will raise up our countries in the future, not as the burdens of a growing population.
By: Gonzalo Ucha, a WYA member from Spain