The United Nations, sustainable population development, and the Easter Bunny…

In contrast to the Vatican’s steadfast opposition to the use of artificial means of birth control, the United Nations continues to sound the drumbeat of “sustainable population development,” asserting that it’s nothing short of an “imperative” for the 21st century and cannot be achieved without improving women’s reproductive health.  In short, the hypothesis is that reducing fertility ensures economic success.


No one is more convinced of the validity of this hypothesis than is the Executive Director of the United Nations’ Family Planning Agency (UNFPA), Babatunde Osotimehin.

In a February 2012 press release, Osotimehin asserted that reducing fertility through family planning—including free access to contraceptives and abortions—is the key to ensure economic development.

The problem with well-intentioned ideologues like Osotimehin is that they conveniently overlook the demographic facts and economic implications that contradict their hypothesis.

Consider the example of Japan.

Based on a “moderate” interpretation of Japan’s 2010 census in a report published by the Daily Yomiuri Online, by 2060:

  • Japan’s population will fall 30% (<90M), with those aged <14 years numbering less than 8M, compared to those aged 65+ who will number 35M (or, 39.9% of Japan’s population).
  • Japan’s fertility rate (the expected number of children born per couple) will be 1.35 in 2060, down from 1.39 in 2010 and far below the 2.08 needed to keep Japan’s population from shrinking.
  • In 1960, 11.2 workers supported 1 retiree. In 2010, 2.8 workers supported 1retiree. By 2060, 1.3 workers will support 1 retiree.


So, Japan is now confronted with an increasing aging population and a decreasing young population.  The economic implications of these demographic facts are nothing short of devastating!  Topping the list: What these facts imply for Japan’s social security and taxation systems.

While the Church has been warning about these matters for decades, The Motley Monk was pleased to read an article in ZENIT that the global stock markets are beginning to pick up on the Vatican’s argument and projecting what “sustainable population development” means for almost every developed market.

A strategist for Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong, Ajay Kapur, believes it would be a crucial error for politicians and economists to believe that Japan’s economic stagnation in the last two decades was something unique.  Kapur said:

In the next five years, all of the 18 developed countries for which Deutsche has property market data going back more than half a century will see a decline in their working age population ratios.


Kapur then warned that this combination of fewer workers in the labor force and high levels of indebtedness is sure to affect the global economic environment adversely.


Many other nations—for example, Taiwan, the European Union, the United States—are only now beginning to deal with the consequences of near- to below- replacement fertility rates.  The President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, has warned that her nation’s lack of children presents “a serious national security threat.”

As bad as that is, it’s worse yet for Latin America.


Forget the region’s endemic poverty.  It’s a region where UNFPA-sponsored programs have proven especially effective in reducing the region’s population.  To wit:

  • In 1960, Brazil’s fertility rate was 6 children/woman.  In 2010, Brazil boasted a lower fertility rate than the United States, at 1.9 children/woman.
  • In 2025, 26% of Latin America’s population will be 60+ years old.


The estimated impact on the region will be an even lower standard of living.  Considering the region’s overall current standard of living, that’s lower than lower!


The Motley Monk has thought for decades that Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae vitae” is an infallible pronouncement because, in that document, the Pope presciently forecast some of the implications of what today is called the “birth control mentality.”  Despite the data gained in the 45 years since the document’s publication, ideologues continue to assert the hypothesis that reducing fertility ensures economic success.

All The Motley Monk can say in response is “And there’s an Easter Bunny, too.”



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The Motley Monk is Fr. Richard Jacobs, O.S.A., a Professor of Public Administration at Villanova University. His academic specialities include: organizational theory; leadership ethics; Catholic educational leadership; and, U.S. Catholic educational history. Check out Fr. Jacobs' daily blog at http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html.


  1. At the risk of getting yelled at (again), there is a silver lining: liberals, progressives, feminists and homosexuals don’t breed. So by the Darwinian Law of survival of the fittest, they will die out and Catholics who believe in Humanae Vitae will be left breeding.

    I suppose that makes them mad as hades and why they want to force contraception and abortion on the rest of us.

  2. Quite right, Foxfier.

    Indeed, I see little difference between addiction to sexual pleasure and addiction to cocaine or heroin except for the speed with which the latter brings one to one’s final fate.

  3. Paul, I can’t see how firmly your tongue is in your cheek. Are you suggesting that straights only have straight kids, and that children automatically follow their parents’ beliefs?

  4. Did I say that, Pinky? No. But homosexuals and lesbians don’t breed unless they use sperm or egg donation banks. So the percentage of population that would be homosexual or lesbian (assuming it’s a genetic disorder and not environmentally contracted) would always be very low.

    I guess my attempt at sarcasm didn’t carry over very well. 🙁 Sorry.

  5. More waste. UNFPA and Babatunde Osotimehin. Unfamily planning.

    The little baby with her good book even looks worried, like she wants to tell the two with initials B and O something they won’t hear.

  6. I think there is a correlation between declining fertility rates and economic growth, but liberals are confusing cause and effect. Countries don’t grow because they stop having babies – if that were true, Europe wouldn’t be facing a crushing entitlement tax burden. But as economies develop from labor-intensive agrarian bases to more capital intensive manufacturing bases, or knowledge-dependent technology bases, and as public health (namely clean water supplies and malaria reduction programs) improves infant mortality statistics, then there does seem to be support in the data that fertility rates go thru some natural decline. The argument that access to contraception is essential to economic growth, however, is simply a wish-fulfillment fantasy. It’s not been tested, has no basis in fact, and is simply a point of UN dogma.

    I think Paul is right – there is a silver lining in this cloud. Poor economies, as yet uninfected by baby-hating Western ideologues, are growing at a rapid pace, and at some point in the future, perhaps could help reshape the debate in more rational terms. I just returned from India this weekend – 1 year CD’s are going at 9.5% – of course, there’s inflation, so the real return is significantly less – but that’s because there’s rapid growth. And that rapid growth is not, despite the UN’s assertions, because of access to contraception. I imagine a future in which grumpy Danes are cleaning the toilets of Tata executives, and Italians are playing Nanny to little Shiva. Shoulda’ made more babies, you European crybabies, and maybe spent a little less time shaking glo-sticks down at the rave. At least you can remember how good you looked in your purple spandex as you whither away into irrelevance.

  7. The Motley Monk has thought for decades that Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae vitae” is an infallible pronouncement…

    I fully agree with you. To my mind it is a definitive demonstration of the authority vested in the Holy Father. The worthies of his era had some quibble or other but the Pope held fast and now we know how right he was.

  8. “I think there is a correlation between declining fertility rates and economic growth, but liberals are confusing cause and effect.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, and truly thoughtful economists have said the same for many years. To assume that “countries… grow because they stop having babies” is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. They stop, or at least slow down, having babies BECAUSE they grow economically.

    Some natural decline in fertility rates is due simply to women and men delaying marriage as their educational and employment expectations rise — instead of stopping their education at, say, age 14 or 16 and marrying soon afterwards, they stay in school to age 18, then 20, then 22, etc., and they may wait a few years beyond that to marry in order to establish themselves in a good job. Meanwhile, as infant mortality rates decline, it becomes, for lack of a better term, less “necessary” to have multiple children in order to insure that some survive to adulthood. Even so, a First World replacement level birth rate of 2.1 or so children per woman requires some families to have MORE than 2 children to compensate for those who have only one child or none at all.

    Also, liberals completely forget that the real reason world population grew so quickly in the 20th century was because of declining death rates, NOT skyrocketing birth rates. As Steven Mosher put it in a really wonderful interview I once heard on EWTN radio — and this quote has always stuck with me — “People didn’t start breeding like rabbits; they stopped dying like flies.”

  9. This is not a cheerful observation – but I think leftists realize perfectly well that they are being outbred by conservatives and religious types. That is why keeping a stranglehold on education and pop culture and pressing for open borders is so important to them. If they can indoctinate children with Gaia worship and “diversity” studies and have the kiddies practicing putting condoms on bananas, if they can get them to believe that any expression of disapproval of the gay lifestyle is hateful “bullying” and all the cool people vote Dem – well, the leftists don’t need to reproduce themselves, do they? All they have to do is poach – and keep poor immigrants and inner city residents dependent on government handouts to ensure another steady stream of voters.

    Look at the youth vote in 2008 or listen to the whiny, entitled “Occupy” brats – the strategy certainly seems to be working.

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