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Lottery of birth
Lottery of birth

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5.2 Choices about parenthood

One of the mistakes policy makers who wish to address low fertility issues probably make today is to assume that there are a range of obstacles to people having children, or to having more children, that can be altered through public policies.

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Figure _unit3.6.2 Figure 13

This results in some population policies in some countries trying to address these assumed barriers such as balancing work and family life, economic support for the cost of raising children, or the provision of childcare. However, Gauthier (2013) found that the top reason identified for not wanting children (or more children) in the European countries they surveyed was none of these. Instead she uncovered a lack of confidence in the future of any children they might have.

Children can often be the repository of adults’ anxieties about the future. This suggests a reason why family policies such as cash support for families with children, maternity and paternity leave, and the provision of childcare are of limited success when seeking to reverse falling birth rates.

The ability and inability to make choices, with regard to reproduction, still vary hugely around the world. In high fertility, high mortality countries, such as in sub-Saharan countries, health policy makers and international agencies address contrasting issues. Two of the key elements in the ability to make the choices that enable individuals to control their own lives are the availability of contraception and abortion. You’ll consider these next.