In some countries around the world, the government wants you to get it on. With birth rates declining in developed countries around the world, many governments are combating rapidly aging populations by encouraging the birthrate through some unique methods.
The economic dangers of a population that is growing older faster than there are people to replace them in the workforce are clear: Taxpayer dollars necessary to fund benefits dwindle with the birthrate, and it’s more difficult to keep jobs filled. From a municipality in Sweden allowing people to have sex on government time to Japan sponsoring speed-dating events, here are some creative ways governments around the world are trying to ramp up procreation.
Equitable Labor Practices & Equal Parental Leave Are Key
Before we delve into other ways governments are trying to increase birth rates, it’s important to point out that the most effective method for encouraging people to have more children is equal parental leave. In fact, parental leave is proven to be the biggest factor influencing fertility in developed countries, which is one of the reasons why countries like Sweden offer 480 days of shared paternity leave for two parents, which doesn’t expire until the child turns 8.
In countries with little maternity and paternity leave, women essentially suffer significant financial and career setbacks for bearing children, making them less likely to decide to have them. In many aging countries, other fundamental factors, such as the cost of education, childcare, and healthcare require large-scale reform before the government can really get serious about having sex.
Sweden, whose elderly population has risen from comprising 14% of the total population in 1970 to over 20% in 2022, is known for being a sex-positive country with progressive sex education programs. In 2017, councilman Per-Erik Muskos of the small town of Övertorneå, where the population has dwindled from 5,229 in 2005 to 4,711 in 2015, announced plans to allow municipal employees to go home for an hour and have sex on government time.
Essentially, it’s really just an add-on for their existing hourly work break, since employees already have one paid hour off per week to exercise. While a good idea, the plan didn’t seem to ramp up birth rates; according to a 2022 travel site, the town’s population has diminished to around 1,700.
South Korea has held an unwanted record for the world’s lowest birth rate two years in a row, falling to 0.78 children per woman’s reproductive life in 2022 from 0.81 the previous year. In spite of the government spending $210 billion over the last 16 years in efforts to turn the tide, the birth rate continues to decline, with the capital city of Seoul having the country’s lowest birth rate at 0.59.
Along with the high cost of education and raising a child in expensive cities like Seoul, another reason behind their declining birthrate is that people work a lot in South Korea. It’s one of the countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) with the highest amount of hours worked per week, which coupled with one of the highest work-commuting times, leaves workers little time to, ahem, make babies.
While procreation clearly isn’t increasing, the South Korean government tried to give government workers a little extra time to knock boots in 2010, when the Ministry of Health announced they would start turning off the lights at 7 pm every Wednesday to encourage workers to go home and spend time with their families… And hopefully make some more babies.
Japan is well-known for creatively attempting to promote young people’s love lives. Not only do all the factors discussed above prevent people from having children, a growing number of young people are not getting into romantic relationships, period. Around 44 % of unmarried women and 42% of unmarried men between 18-34 identify as virgins.
One recent tactic is subsidying speed-dating events. The Japanese government gives grants out to small towns who want to hold dating parties. The speed-dating events work just like they do anywhere else, with singles showing up to mingle and go on multiple quick dates. A “marriage-promotion committee” intervenes when conversation gets too awkward.
Italy has the lowest birth rate in the EU, and in a 2016 bid to promote childbearing, the Italian government released a round of over-the-top fertility ads that met with controversy. The ads featured subjects like a drooping cigarette (indicating how smoking lowers sperm count) and a woman holding an hourglass (reminding women their biological clock is ticking). However, it was Italy’s lack of parental support and welfare policies for parents that sparked outrage, rather than the content.