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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Will Portugal Survive?

Yesterday the Financial Times had a pretty positive view of demographic events--at least as long as businesses paid attention to low fertility and the underlying demand for immigration in order to avoid population decline in rich countries. Today's Financial Times (and thanks to my older son, John Weeks, for this link) has a more dire story about the demographic situation in one of those richer places in the world--Portugal--calling it the "perfect demographic storm."
Portugal’s fertility rate — the average number of children in the population for every woman of child-bearing age — has been falling, from three in 1970 to 1.21 in 2013. This is the lowest level in Europe, with only South Korea having a lower rate among the 34 mostly wealthy nations in the OECD.
“The high rate of youth employment and a precarious job market are critical factors in deterring young couples from having children,” says Maria Filomena Mendes, a sociology professor and president of the Portuguese Demographic Association. “At the same time, many young people are emigrating at an age when they might otherwise have been starting families in Portugal.”
It is not clear that Portugal will flourish in the modern environment. Indeed, it has been a source of emigration for a long time. Here in San Diego the Portuguese fishing community has a long and rich history (along with immigrant Italian fisherman), but that was based on people leaving Portugal in search of a life elsewhere. Nothing really seems to have changed and the FT article does not offer any real hope for improvements in the economy that would alter the demographic decisions that Portuguese have been making for a long time--have fewer kids and move somewhere else. The idea that more children will solve the problem is a bit ephemeral and it is clear that the average person in Portugal doesn't buy that argument.

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