High education levels and equal job opportunities for men and women are two of the greatest landmarks of an advanced society. No one can deny that these two factors are hugely beneficial things and should be fostered everywhere but, at the same time, they are partially accountable for a significant decrease in the birth rates of the most advanced societies of the world. And will also play a similar role in an increasing number of countries as the rest of the world -slowly- moves in the direction of knowledge accessibility and gender equality.
Actual proof of this is the fact that the most advanced societies tend to have lower population growths than under-developed societies -Japan and Germany, two of the world´s most advanced countries, have a negative population growth-.
Such a situation is extremely adverse for any national economy as it causes not only labor shortage but a constant reduction in the number of taxpayers: By 1965 Japan had nine active workers for every pensioner. Nowadays, only two. A heavier toll on fewer individuals isn’t exactly a morale booster thus, again, impacting negatively on birth rates.
Let´s analyze these two factors separately:
1. The most advanced societies have the highest education levels.
There´s no need to explain the obvious benefits of accessing a higher education level. But if we had to point one downside to it, it would be that more often than not, knowledge breeds a certain dose of cynicism. Cynicism entails a pessimistic view of the world. And a pessimistic view of the world generates less desire to bring new life into it.
Knowledge is always a good thing. And, no matter what, is always best to know than not to know. But as great as it is, knowledge seldomly brings happiness with it. You may achieve happiness in your life because you were able to use the received education in a way that generated benefits for yourself but that is an indirect product of knowledge.
You might argue that you often see highly educated people who seem to be perfectly happy with their lives but the truth is, knowledge is not the determinant factor there. The happy people are the ones who do well in life -and not necessarily in economic terms-. Some of them are very knowledgeable folks and some are thick as a brick. Some have lots of money and some don’t have any.
When asked which was the happiest time of their lives most people will say `Childhood´. A period of simple pleasures and innocence. A time when you weren’t aware of all the bad things the world has to offer. How often do you see a depressed child? As we access higher instances of knowledge we grow weary of all the negative things that we learn along the way. The old saying “Only the ignorant are truly happy” holds some truth into it and as every country in the world is slowly accessing a higher education level we can expect to see a corresponding growth in the levels of cynicism everywhere. Again: Cynicism entails a pessimistic view of the world. And a pessimistic view of the world generates less desire to bring new life into it.
2. The most advanced societies are the ones with greater equality amongst men and women.
Another important characteristic of an advanced society is the increased equality of working men and women. Less gender discrimination in terms of job availability, promotions and salary. All good so far but: Several studies reveal that countries where women employment is higher (developed countries) have lower birth rates than countries where women employment is lower (under-developed countries). This is not so hard to understand: Working women have less time to take care of their children and if the opportunity to advance in their careers is real -as it happens in developed countries- then a huge number of them will feel inclined to postpone or even suspend the whole maternity issue. Which again, impacts negatively on birth rates.
You may argue that more job opportunities for women generate more stay-at-home dads. Yes, it does. But does that really account to a number large enough to restore the balance? Everywhere in the world, where women have good job prospects men have -at least- equally good opportunities. And men, specially in large numbers, have never been very good at refraining from opportunities.
If anything, this is an indicative of what might happen in a very long time as most of the countries have growing population rates but as the global tendency is headed towards a broader access to education, knowledge and equality of men and women rights -albeit, in some places faster than others- we can infer that as necessary as it is, Evolution will kill us all.