Birth rates have dropped to a historic low in Nordic countries, most specifically Norway, and are now well below the level needed to maintain a stable population. The drastic drop has caused the prime minister of Norway to ask citizens to have more babies. In 2017, birth rates across Nordic countries declined to 1.49 from 1.71 children born per woman. In order to keep population levels stable, the rate of children born per woman needs to be at 2.1. The first few months of 2018 brought about the lowest birth rate in Norway in 33 years.
Birth rates began to decline after a financial crisis occurred in 2008, but they have yet to bounce back as the economy did. A mere decade ago, Norway’s birth rate of 1.98 children per woman made it one of the most fertile countries in Europe, despite it still being below the replacement rate.
“Norway needs more children! I don’t think I need to tell anyone how this is done,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg candidly told Norwegians. “… In the coming decades, we will encounter problems with this model. There will be fewer young people to bear the increasingly heavy burden of the welfare state.”
Norway’s welfare model is funded by taxpayers, and with so few children being born, the number of future taxpayers will be too few to support the system as it stands. That system is a generous one, which includes affordable day cares, flexible work schedules, and paid parental leave.
“Birth rates up to and including the third quarter are at a lower level than in 2017,” Espen Andersen, the adviser in Statistics Norway told Norway Today. “In the first three quarters [of 2018], more than 1,100 fewer children were born than in the corresponding period in 2017.”
The lack of children could have such economically devastating repercussions that at least one economist has suggested giving women 500,000 kroner ($58,550) in pension savings for each child she gives birth to. But while the government tries to figure it out, local communities are putting plans in place.
In Miehikkala, Finland, which has a population of 2,000 people, women are being offered 10,000 euros per child born in the municipality. In Denmark, Copenhagen is running a campaign to educate men on the decline of sperm quality that comes with age. It’s all in an effort to create more babies.
The Nordic countries are not alone in wondering where are all the children are. China (which actively kills its population through forced abortion) is preparing to face the devastating effects of its one-child policy, because soon it will not have enough people entering the workforce. And in the United States, the birth rate has dropped to its lowest level in 30 years. It now stands at just 1.80 births per woman in 2016 – well below the replacement rate.