The diffusion of cohabitation during the last decades is one of the most striking aspects of wider social changes that have taken place throughout the industrialized world. Over time, the meaning of cohabitation has changed from being a deviant behavior to an almost fully accepted one. However, cohabitation has not spread uniformly across countries and the speed of change in the meaning of cohabitation can be very different. Is cohabitation becoming an alternative to marriage, as predicted by the Second Demographic Transition (SDT), or are there some persistent differences between countries?
EBENEZER SCROOGE, from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” famously suggests that the poor could “decrease the surplus population” by dying rather than entering the workhouse. Since then, the dynamics of the world economy changed and industrialized countries’ fertility dropped by more than half between the mid-nineteenth and the early twentieth century.
Humanity is approaching an historic transformation. Towards the end of the 21st century the world’s population will very possibly begin to decline in number, and East Asia is in the vanguard (Figure 1). This is being achieved in nearly all countries not via coercion, but voluntarily, as female emancipation and education, urbanisation, and economic development spread across the world, lifestyles and life choices change, and medical knowledge and technologies advance.
During the 1990s, Iran secured one of – if not the – fastest fertility declines of any country in history. In the mid-1980s, the total fertility rate in Iran was more than 5.6. BY 2000 this had fallen to below replacement rate (around 2.0) This was achieved through the implementation of a highly progressive family planning policy in tandem with increased employment and educational opportunities for women. Today, fertility in Iran is around 1.9.
Following EU accession of the “EU8” countries in 2004, we have witnessed large scale immigration from Poland to the United Kingdom (UK). Immigration levels peaked in 2007, but the size of the Polish population remains large. In 2012, there were approximately 646,000 Polish individuals living in the UK, Poland was the second most common non-UK country of birth, and Polish the most common non-UK nationality.
Japan seems to be finally rising out of the so-called “lost decades”. The turn-around is result of a completely new economic policy. Japan must change its social institutions, and perhaps values, in order to complete the transition. The change also requires Japan to go boldly where no society has gone before by building new economic and political institutions. Japan has the lowest fertility rate in the world, and the highest life expectancy. This implies it is aging faster than any other nation on earth. However, the country’s social systems were established in the years immediately following World War II and suited a very young and growing population. Continue reading
A distinct fertility divide has emerged in Western Europe in recent decades. Countries in Central and Southern Europe are reporting cohort fertility rates far below replacement level. Among these are the German-speaking countries, where fertility has long been at sub-replacement levels. In Germany, the cohort fertility rates for women born in 1960 are around 1.6. This is well below the figures for countries in north-western Europe which all register cohort fertility rates close to replacement levels. This includes United Kingdom (2.0), Belgium (1.9), France (2.1), and Denmark (1.9), among others. Recent forecasts by Myrskylä, Goldstein, and Cheng (2013) that extend to cohorts born in 1979 suggest that this divide is persistent and may even increase slightly over time.
In the span of the 20th century, the world’s population grew from 1.6 billion to 6.1 billion. Today, our globe is home to over 7.1 billion people and increases by 220,000 per day. Some are concerned that this growth is unsustainable and will further disease, hunger and the destruction of environmental resources. But in a new BBC programme, Don’t Panic: The Truth about Population, Hans Rosling wants to reassure us about the world’s surging population.
The BBC News website recently featured a quiz based on Hans Rosling’s TV show, The Truth about Population. Judging by the results, people in Britain have a relatively poor understanding of how much life expectancy has increased over the last few decades. At present, average life expectancy in the world is approximately 70 years. However, 56% of respondents thought that it was 60 years or lower. And 76% of university graduates thought it was 60 years or lower. Only 30% of respondents, and only 20% of university graduates, gave the correct answer of 70 years.
Over the last decade England and Wales has seen an increase in the total fertility rate (TFR) from a low of 1.63 in 2001 to 1.9 in recent years. While the TFR measures the current quantum of childbearing it can be influenced by changes in the timing of childbearing. Potential drivers of the increase in the TFR include increasing fertility among older women, increasing fertility among women in their 20s and possible influence from government benefits (e.g. tax credits and maternity and paternity leave) (ONS, 2013).