Why is European civilisation dying?

European civilisation is dying. It is dying in plain sight and almost nobody is talking about it. No, our civilisation is not succumbing to onslaught from an external foe.

But we seem to be suffering from a pernicious anaemia of the spirit that drags us down from inside. There are many symptoms of this decline but the most deadly is that we are losing the will to breed. Birth rates in all 28 EU countries are now below replacement rates and all indigenous populations are in decline.

What greater sign could there be that our civilisation is dying than the fact that the majority of Europeans have insufficient zest in life to replace themselves? Civilisation can struggle on even in difficult circumstances, but it can hardly survive without people.

Basic biology and simple arithmetic tell us that in order to keep the population of a country constant, it is necessary for each woman to give birth to 2.1 children but, for many years the birth rates in the 28 states that currently constitute the EU have been below replacement rate.

The cumulative births per woman in the 28 states are as follows (the first number in the brackets is the 1960 birth rate, the second is the 2014 birth rate; where only one number is noted it is the 2014 birth rate): Belgium (2.54, 1.74), Bulgaria (2.31, 1.53), Czech Republic (2.09, 1.53), Denmark (2.57, 1 .69), Germany (1.47), Estonia (1.98, 1.54), Ireland (3.78, 1.94), Greece (2.23, 1.3), Spain (1.32), France (2.01), Croatia (1.46), Italy (2.37,1.37), Cyprus (1.46), Latvia (1.65), Lithuania (1.63), Luxembourg (2.29,1.5), Hungary (2.02,1.44), Malta (1.42), the Netherlands (3.12,1.71), Austria (2.69, 1.47), Poland (1.32), Portugal (3.16, 1.23), Romania (1.52), Slovenia (1.58), Slovakia (3.04,1.37), Finand (2.72, 1.71), Sweden (1.88), the UK (1.81). The average birth rate in the 28 states in 2014 was 1.56.

European societies increasingly are no longer self-sustaining. For example, if current trends continue, every new generation of Spaniards will be 40 per cent smaller than the previous one. In Italy the percentage of the population over 65 will increase from 2.7 per cent now to 18.8 per cent in 2050.

By 2060 the population of Germany is projected to drop from 81 million to 67 million, and the UN projects that by 2030 the percentage of Germans in the workforce will drop by 7 per cent to 54 per cent . In order to compensate for this shortage Germany needs to absorb 533,000 immigrants per year, which puts Angela Merkel’s current immigration policy into context. Continue reading

  • William Reville is Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and Public Awareness of Science Officer at University College Cork, and the Science Today columnist for The Irish Times.
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