In a recent conference, the EU’s Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, gave a dire warning: “We have a shrinking workforce all across Europe, all countries are losing their workforce.” Indeed, in just 10 years, the EU lost 5 million people in the working-age population, as the most recent report on demographic change by the Commission showed. The report revealed other interesting data and trends too. For example, it showed that over a third of all households in Europe consist of one adult person, with or without children, and those are increasingly people aged 65 or over, while households composed of a couple with or without children declined.
The Commission blamed all kinds of factors for the squeeze, from covid to Brexit, and identified many dangers ahead including climate-change related pressures, but failed to place the blame on much more practical issues at play, even though it mentioned them in that same report. For example, as it highlighted, “in the future, inflation and increasing energy prices are likely to further challenge households’ capacity to heat their homes and push more people into being at risk of poverty or social exclusion.” Could the fact that a growing number of people who can’t even afford to heat their homes have anything to do with deciding to postpone having a child that costs on average €240,000 to raise?
Furthermore, the solutions the technocrats proposed to address the problem of the shrinking working-age population were even more bizarre. Among them was the suggestion that “additional efforts will be needed to activate more people for the labour market. This applies in particular to women, people with disabilities, older people and young people not in education, employment or training.” Sure, pushing more women, and especially young women, into the workforce might help solve today’s problem, but it will considerably worsen tomorrow’s. That is particularly myopic when the “pushing” is more akin to bribing, rather than to encouraging. The various EU programs already in place are basically subsidies and other incentives to ultimately entice young people and women in particular to postpone, or to entirely abandon, their plans for a family or maybe to at least limit the number of children they can have without negatively impacting or jeopardizing their careers.
Of course, putting the Brussels central planners and their inspired schemes aside for a moment, there are plenty of other reasons for young people to think twice about having children these days, and not all of them are financial. For one thing, Western millennials and every kid that came after them never really experienced any catastrophic event or any serious crisis before covid. They were too young for the last global financial meltdown so it was their parents that bore the brunt of that. There were no wars that actually affected them in any real way (after all, conflicts in the Middle East or any developing nation “don’t really count” in the modern Zeitgeist of self-obsession and the general ignorance that the western public education system produces). When there are not enough scary things around, humans tend to look for some and our attention, not having any imminent threats to capture it, tends to wander and to get captivated by the next best thing.
Being careful not to generalize, I will not say “all” or even “most”, but a significant percentage of today’s young adults have come to perceive non-immediate, solvable, mild or even totally imaginary threats as dangers to their very survival. This is how we got to identity politics, to “wars over words”, to cancel culture and to self-censorship. This is also how we get survey results like this one published in the Guardian: “Four in 10 young people around the world are hesitant to have children as a result of the climate crisis, and fear that governments are doing too little to prevent climate catastrophe, a poll in 10 countries has found.”
It is important to note that many of the “experts” and “authorities” of our day are actively encouraging this by insisting that the best way to reduce carbon emissions is to have fewer or no kids. What’s worse, is that the media is fueling the fears of imminent climate apocalypse, so it’s really hard to blame the average young professional (probably a gig economy worker, as more and more steady, well paying jobs, the kind their parents had, are disappearing), who on top of their student and consumer debt and vanishing paycheck due to inflation, might have reservations about bringing a new life in a world that is going to turn into a blazing inferno any moment now.
This fear, this widespread feeling of uncertainty and this lack of confidence that the future will be brighter is shared among too many young adults in the West. And the Left, political, ideological and academic, is weaponizing it. It’s a trick as old as time of course and a scared, young citizen without direction or hope of finding one for themselves has always been their preferred “target demographic”. That’s why the “march through the institutions” and especially the academia has proven to be so successful. Capturing young and impressionable minds, filling them with propaganda dressed up as “moral duty” and unleashing them to the world has produced the kind of leaders, lawmakers, culture icons, and regrettably, voters, we see today.
Central planners and statists are very tactical indeed and they have shown time and time again that they can exploit an opportunity when they see one; they “never let a good crisis go to waste” and when there isn’t one that is good enough, they adapt quite quickly and they work with what they have. However, as flexible and as agile they might be, they’re not known to be very forward-looking. They seem to be incapable or thinking two steps ahead and that’s why, thankfully for the rest of us, they’re always destined to fail, as they have countless times in the past. Their entire vision of utopia is dependent on massive wealth redistribution and on the masses happily slaving away so the planners can go on planning stuff and making sure everyone is equal at all times (apart from the ones that more equal than others, of course). It’s basically a giant Ponzi scheme and the thing about Ponzi schemes is that you need a constant and exponentially growing supply of new victims to keep the whole thing going.
We’re already seeing it teeter on the edge with pension systems both in the US and in Europe. In the US, unfunded liabilities have plagued the nation and many of its States for years. We’re seeing a great real-time example in France, where strikes have brought the country to a standstill (once again) due to President Macron’s decision to increase the retirement age. Public healthcare in many European countries is also presenting the same grim picture. The Ponzi scheme is simply nearing its end, because thanks to the “grand designs”, the hubris and the shortsightedness of its creators and supporters, there are just not enough new victims to keep it going.
Featured image: Boston Library (NYT); en.wikipedia.org, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Therefore please feel free to share.