This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Spain Appoints New "Sex Tsar" to Help Raise the Birth Rate

Thanks to Todd Gardner at the other SDSU (South Dakota State University) for pointing to a story in yesterday's Independent that Spain has appointed a person whose job it is to help raise that country's birth rate. To be sure, Spain has now begun to depopulate as more people die than are being born, and the country is also experiencing net out-migration. Birth rates are, of course, low throughout southern Europe. In fact, the PRB World Population Data Sheet shows that there is no other region with lower fertility--not even East Asia. What will the 'sex tsar' do? Well, first, she's going to come up with a plan...
In response and faced with an impending population crisis, the government has appointed Edelmira Barreira to the position of sex tsar.
The portfolio was created by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Ms Barreira, a demographic expert, will help draft a document for a national strategy of demographic imbalances.
Theorising why the birth rate was so low in the Mediterranean country, Rafael Puyol, of the IE Business School in Madrid, said people are often too tired after a full day at work and blamed long working hours and late nights for the decrease. He said: “They do not help with making a family. Then a child arrives and it is even worse.”
It's not clear why Rebecca Flood at the Independent asked for the opinion of a business school professor for the story, but with luck, Ms. Berreira knows better than that. I can find no details about her demographic background, but she is currently a senator in Spain's parliament, and the official name is not 'sex tsar' but Demographic Challenge Commissioner.

As I've noted often before, most recently just a couple of weeks ago, getting fertility levels up closer to replacement level almost certainly requires a shift in the cultural attitudes towards women's responsibilities at home. When husbands help out at home, and companies and the government provide child care for working mothers, the birth rate goes up. I doubt that sexual frequency is the problem, unless abstinence is the only means of birth control being used (not likely!). Gender roles are the real culprit.


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