Birth-rate Blues: A Real Crisis in the Making?

Francis G. Castles

in The Future of the Welfare State

Published in print July 2004 | ISBN: 9780199270170
Published online November 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601514 | DOI:
Birth-rate Blues: A Real Crisis in the Making?

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Instead of focusing on a crisis for the welfare state, this chapter examines a contemporary crisis threat for which the welfare state in the form of family-friendly social policies may provide the answer. The crisis in question is a serious decline in advanced country fertility rates, which has left most OECD cou n tries with birthrates well below those required to replace existing population levels. The analysis shows that in the past few decades the world has almost literally been ‘turned upside down’, with fertility rates now highest in countries where cultural v a lues are least traditional and where public policies are most encouraging to female labour force participation. The chapter also analyses the effect of a variety of family-friendly policies and shows that the provision of childcare places is the measure m o st vital to raising advanced nation fertility levels.

Keywords: below-replacement fertility; birthrate decline; childcare policies; family-friendly policies; female employment; fertility crisis; population decline; preference change

Chapter.  11054 words. 

Subjects: Political Economy

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