Volume 24 - Article 7 | Pages 179-200

Should governments in Europe be more aggressive in pushing for gender equality to raise fertility? The first "YES"

By Laurent Toulemon

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Date received:14 Aug 2007
Date published:02 Feb 2011
Word count:5137
Keywords:ethics, expert opinion, fertility, gender equity, low fertility, population policies
DOI:10.4054/DemRes.2011.24.7
Additional files:Videos (HTM file, 12 kB)
Weblink:All publications in this Special Collection "Rostock Debate on Demographic Change" can be found at http://www.demographic-research.org/special/9/
 

Abstract

Together with three colleagues, I have been asked by the MPIDR to debate the following question: “Should governments in Europe be more aggressive in pushing for gender equality to raise fertility? Setting aside the “lighthearted” side of this “Rostocker Debate,” (12 minutes for each speech, one minute for each comment), I saw this as a good opportunity to think about the stakes behind the question.
In order to address this complex issue, it is necessary to think about the many “preliminary questions” that we have to ponder before responding: Why should fertility be raised? Are political measures legitimate? Are they efficient? On what basis are we qualified to give “expert” opinions on such a topic?
When the question comes to the fore, we as scholars are sometimes asked to provide an answer. It would, of course, be more comfortable not to answer, but our interlocutors (politicians, journalists, teachers, and also funding agencies) often want a definite response one way or the other. Even though our position may be a matter of politics as well as a matter of science, we must give an answer.
The empirical evidence shows that European countries where gender inequality is lower are also the countries where fertility is the highest. This is the evidence-based response that we can give to that question. European countries need to find a new equilibrium after the end of the baby boom period, when gender equality was very low. In all countries, the empowerment of women is underway, thanks to the economic independence given by work-related income. Increasing gender equality is an efficient way to reduce the opportunity costs of having and raising children, and thus to increase fertility.
Finally, “pushing for gender equality” may have many positive effects other than raising fertility, and has few negative side effects. Gender equality is thus a convenient political aim per se; an institutional goal which leaves many political questions open. So, yes, we agree that governments in Europe should be more aggressive in pushing for gender equality to raise fertility!

Author's Affiliation

Laurent Toulemon - Institut national d´études démographiques (INED), France [Email]

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