Tag Archives: europe

Population suicide

Unbelievably low birth rates have put the continent in demographic free fall

Steven Mosher

Steven Mosher

When people think about Italy, they often imagine scores of children with their parents and relatives sitting around a table with a delicious, steaming pot of pasta.

Demographic spiral

But the reality is that few Italians have more than one child these days. Many Italian children no longer know what it is to have cousins or aunts and uncles — and this isn’t unique to Italy. For the past two generations, birth rates have been declining steadily in every European country. The birth rate is so low that demographers across the continent had to invent a new term to define it: low-low fertility.

“This is not the slow road. It’s the fast road to population suicide,” said Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute and a member of Legatus’ Northern New Jersey Chapter. “There are 15 to 16 countries in Europe which lose population every year. Antonio Golini of the University of Rome said that in 100 years, the great cathedrals in Italy will exist only as museums and the ticket sellers will be Albanian Muslims.”

Nicholas Eberstadt, a Harvard University political economist and demographer at the American Enterprise Institute, is equally perplexed. “Demographers look at two different takes — total births and the total fertility rate or births per woman. On average, Europe is far below population stability.”

In 2014, the European Statistical Commission, called Eurostat, reported that Turkey had Europe’s highest fertility rate: 2.17. Next was France at 2.01. Germany had one of the lowest with 1.47, Portugal was an abysmal 1.23, and the average for Europe was 1.58. This compares to the U.S., which has fallen to 1.8.

“The question of long-term decline in fertility in Europe has set the stage for a total cross-over, when deaths exceed births,” said Eberstadt. “This may happen soon. When it does, Europe will be a net mortality region.”

Kishore Jayabalan

Kishore Jayabalan

Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Acton Institute’s Rome office, is concerned. “No society with a birth rate this low has ever recovered,” he said. “There is a tipping point that demographers talk about — a point that when you go below, you will never recover. I’ve heard people say that if the birth rate in Italy stays the same, there will only be 16 Italians left in the world by 2500.”

Low birth rates have already negatively impacted daily life in Europe.

“When a country is in a descending spiral of birth rates, there are too few laborers entering the workforce,” said Mosher, a demographic anthropologist. “This closes down entire sectors of the economy. For example, toy factories and maternity wards in hospitals close down. You don’t make up for what is lost.”

Immigration

Another problem is that laborers pay taxes, which in turn pay for pensions. When there are decreasing laborers and increasing pools of elderly — which is the case in Europe — the system breaks down.

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse

“When I was a doctoral student, we studied the Social Security system,” said Jennifer Roback Morse, an economist and founder of the Ruth Institute. “Social Security was a good deal as long as you had increasing numbers of taxpayers over the course of your lifetime. In the 1930s, it worked because people were having lots of kids. But when people stop having babies, it becomes a bad deal, because you just can’t sustain the system.”

The only way to continue paying for pensions is for governments to increase taxes or increase immigration.

“In Europe, immigration is a short-term Band-Aid, but it can’t go on forever,” Morse said. “Countries are emptied and then filled again with other people from outside.”

Mass immigration policies always bring problems like immigrants’ reluctance to assimilate — especially Muslims in nominally Christian Europe.

“The assimilation question with the Muslims is a mixed bag,” Eberstadt explained. “On the whole it has worked better than people realize. Some migration flows have worked better than others.”

Indonesian Muslims who have moved to the Netherlands have assimilated well.

“You never hear about problems with this group because it has worked,” he said.

“The birth rate of Indonesians has been less that those from the Netherlands. If you look at Moroccans in Belgium, their birth rate in Belgium is higher than for Moroccans in Morocco.”

Muslims in Europe generally have more children than their Christian counterparts. Those who have the fewest children in Europe are those who claim to have no religion. Muslim groups, however, differ by country of origin and by how many years they’ve lived in Europe.

“It matters which is the sending country and which is the receiving country when it comes to assimilation,” Eberstadt said.

In France, for example, Muslims tend to have one more child per family than the French. Indian Muslims in England have the same birth rates as the British. Pakistani Muslims in England have double the Brits’ birth rate.

Glimmer of hope

Every European country is trying to entice young couples to marry and have more children by offering money and some tax credits to young couples. But it doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect of increasing births.

One of the biggest reasons for low birth rates — besides economics and fewer family members to help out — is decreasing levels of religiosity.

“The strength of religious belief in the U.S. is one of the reasons why we have the highest birth rate of all the developed nations in the world,” said Mosher. “If you believe that children are a blessing and put your trust in God with big life decisions, it has an effect. What Europe needs is a recovery of the Catholic faith — people who step out in faith and see that having children is great fun.”

If 20% of couples in Italy, France and Germany decided tomorrow to have five children, according to Mosher, that remnant could make up for the rest of the population. “That is my hope and prayer — that they will recover an openness to life,” he said. “Otherwise, these pleasant lands will be called something else one day.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

Tale of the double stroller

About 14 years ago, my husband and I were living in Rome. I was expecting my second child. One day, we went to a children’s supply store to look for a double stroller.

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi with her husband Leonardo and two sons at Rome’s Trevi Fountain in 2003

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi with her husband Leonardo and two sons at Rome’s Trevi Fountain in 2003

They didn’t have any.

The cashier became very flustered. She had never gotten a request for a double stroller before. It would have to be special-ordered. Others standing in line looked at us in shock. A double stroller? They had never even heard of such a thing!

Once we had the double stroller, we discovered that it didn’t fit into the tiny elevator in our apartment building. The only solution was to leave it in our building’s lobby, which had no doorman. My mother-in-law worried that our expensive double stroller would surely be stolen. But seeing the reaction we had at the store, I figured it was safe. After all, who would want it?

No one ever did steal that double stroller.

People would stop and look at it with curiosity. Most had never seen one before.

—Ferrisi.

The Glavins’ European adventure

Legatus family from Wilmington took a year off to see Europe with amazing results . . .

Imagine taking time off from work, taking your kids out of school – and vacationing in Europe for a year!

While some people dream it, the Glavin family – members of Legatus’ Wilmington Chapter – did it. Intent on making it a faith-building experience, they toured Europe from July 2009 to July 2010.

Three years earlier, Maurice and Ann Glavin sold LAuren’s House, a pediatric health care company they founded in 2001. They realized that their primary business, total scope, a medical device repair company, was in the hands of a capable president. Financially and professionally, they concluded that their dream of living in Europe for a year could actually come true.

Logistics

“We had been talking about this for awhile,” Maurice explained. “We felt that the world was changing and we wanted our kids to experience other parts of the world.”

By way of background, the Glavins had not traveled extensively prior to their year in Europe. But Maurice and Ann’s combined business sense more than made up for their lack of travel experience. For starters, they established a “home base” in Vienna, Austria, by renting an apartment for the year.

“We were looking for a city located near central and eastern Europe,” said Ann, “since we thought we would venture east during the summer while the rest of Europe — France, Italy, Spain — was busy with tourists.”

They also chose Vienna for its medical care and the fact that most people spoke English. Once they settled in the Austrian capital, the Glavins traveled to a new country every few weeks. They would regularly return to their Vienna apartment to do laundry and schoolwork for the Glavin kids.

“We brought seven suitcases with us, but we strategically packed seasonal suitcases and left them at our U.S. office,” Maurice said. “We would e-mail my employees our address, and they would ship them to us.”

Glavin boys in the Dead Sea, Israel

They decided to take their three boys Eamon, Seamus and Pearse — now 16, 14 and 10 respectively — out of school and homeschool them for the year. The Glavins used U.S.-based tutors to follow the boys’ progress.

“We did a homeschooling project where Eamon built a website about our trip, including all the video work,” said Maurice.

The Glavins also kept statistics about their trip. During their 53 weeks in Europe, the family visited 26 countries and 85 cities, took 61 trains and 38 planes, stayed in 46 hotels and 11 apartments, visited 30 major museums, ate at 22 Hard Rock Cafes, and shipped 32 boxes home.

The year-long experience often had the Glavins in fairly tight quarters, which helped them solidify their relationships in new ways.

“We were fairly close before leaving for Europe,” Maurice explained. “But what changed was the boys’ relationships with each other. They had to work together. We would send two of them out together to buy the groceries in another language and negotiate all the cultural differences.”

Goal-oriented travel

Vatican City

The Glavin boys were also able to appreciate their parents’ strengths in a new way. Ann, a natural organizer, was completely in charge of logistics like arranging train and plane travel. Maurice did everything else, especially things that required perseverance. Serious dental issues emerged during their time in Berlin and Amsterdam.

“I’m not afraid to keep going until I find something,” said Maurice. During one dental emergency, he refused to give up until he found an appropriate dentist. “It was very formative for the kids to see us solving problems abroad. In the U.S. everything is easier.”

The Glavins had established a list of goals for the year. For example, they went to the Louvre in Paris and saw the Mona Lisa. The family went to the 2009 World Track Championships in Berlin and watched Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt break 100- and 200-meter world records.

But what the Glavin family didn’t expect was how large a role their Catholic faith would play on the trip.

“On my family’s trip abroad, what I learned was that our Catholic faith is universal,” said 14-year-old Seamus. “No matter where you went, the Mass had the same basic structure. I knew when you would go to Communion, when the priest was reading the Bible, and when to sit and stand.”

Ann agrees. “I think we all became better Catholics because we learned more about our Catholic heritage by visiting so many religious places — shrines, churches, cathedrals,” she said. “We also learned that there are great resources available, especially via the Internet. For instance, we would go online and get the Mass readings for the week.We could research saints popular to an area or find out about religious traditions.”

The Glavins enjoy Lourdes, France

The Glavins visited Fatima on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and they went to Lourdes. They attended a three hour Easter vigil Mass in Greece which began at 11 p.m. The family witnessed the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, and saw the Shroud of Turin during a special showing. They saw Pope Benedict XVI five times.

“We bumped into former Legate Andreas Widmer in St. Peter’s Square, whom we recognized because of a speech he gave at a Legatus Summit,” Maurice recalled. “He was in Rome to train new Swiss Guards and invited us to a behind-the-scenes tour including barracks, armaments and training areas.”

Best of all, the Glavins went to Israel on Legatus’ 2009 Holy Land pilgrimage with scholar and author Steve Ray. Pearse, who was eight at the time, received his first Holy Communion in Capernaum. Ann and Maurice renewed their wedding vows in Cana. They walked the Way of the Cross and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

“The Glavins are very clever folks with a wonderful family culture,” said Ray. “They are adventurous people. It was like they had formed a club, and they were all very proud to be a part of this club. They were always together and always excited.”

A priest who accompanied the pilgrimage worked with Pearse every day in preparation for his first Communion. He had the boy stand in front of the group to answer tough questions about the sacrament.

“It was good for Pearse, but it was also really good for the group to better understand what the Eucharist is,” Ray said.

During their year-long trip, the Glavins said they discovered that decent people exist everywhere.

“We learned that everyone in the world values children,” Ann said. “No matter where we went with the boys, people smiled when they saw them and went out of their way to help us when we needed assistance.We also learned that no matter what religion a person believes in, there are common elements throughout like respect for others, love of family, love of God, and a pride in their faith that they want to share with others.”

For the Glavin boys, the best moments were in discovering new things about the world.

“My favorite moment was arriving in a city not knowing what awaited me,” said Pearse. “Then, when I got out the next day, I learned more than I ever imagined about the place.”

In a word, priceless!

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.

Learn more about the Glavins’ adventures at WeAreHereAndYouAreNot.com