Friday, September 02, 2011

Guam's Demographic Demise

Printed in the Umatuna, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Agana, Guam, 9/4/11.

A recent local online poll asked: “The 2010 Census counted 154,805 people on Guam. Surprised?” Most of the respondents voted “yes”. Perhaps they were reacting to time stuck in traffic as a population indicator, but, yes, the population is well below the 2010 U.N. estimate of 179,693.
While some are blaming the low number on the “exodus” from Guam that began with the economic downturn in the late 90‘s, a more likely culprit can be found in an analysis of the data from the 2000 census.
In 2000, there were 35,599 women  of childbearing age (15-44) who had given birth to total of 55,196 children. This equates to a fertility rate of 1.5 children per woman which is far below the population replacement rate of  2.1.
We can also assume that fertility has continued to decline. Vital Statistics reported 3,421 births in 2010 versus 3787 in 2000, a 10% decline. Interestingly Guam’s abortion rate is also 10% with one out of every ten pregnancies ending in abortion. This means that our 2010 fertility rate is probably closer 1.3.
Of course, Guam is very transient which makes it difficult to use such numbers to decipher deeper social issues. But a decline in Guam’s fertility rate was noted as far back as 1984 in the Journal of Biosocial Science (16:231-239 Cambridge University Press):
"Since the end of World War II, the Guam native population, who are mostly Roman Catholics, has undergone one of the most dramatic socioeconomic developments ever recorded. They have rapidly become incorporated into the dominant American culture and economy. This accelerated process of modernization has been accompanied by a very sharp fertility decline. One reason for this decline has been the increasing defection of Guam Roman Catholic women from the traditional teaching of their Church on the subject of birth control. This trend of fertility decline, although at higher levels, resembles that of East Asian countries with rapid fertility decline." 
The countries referred to in the report are Japan,Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore. Japan, the country most economically connected with Guam, is now the “oldest” country in the world with nearly a quarter of its population over 65, and with a fertility rater of only 1.25, is already in the throes of demographic meltdown.
The U.N. Population Division predicts that Japan, as well as other countries with similar fertility rates (and that includes Guam) will have two seniors for every one child by 2050.The economic consequences of such a forecast shouldn’t take much number crunching. Business guru Peter Drucker has noted, “The dominant factor for business in the next two not going to be economics or technology. It will be demographics.”
The above mentioned countries became post-war powerhouses as their populations boomed and human capital became abundant. However, the anti-natal attitudes and policies that began creeping into most industrialized nations in the 70’s is now showing its gray head, and the prospect of economic collapse has caused the governments of Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Australia, Russia, Czechoslovakia, and others to begin paying parents to have children.  
The irony of course is that we have been duped for decades into believing that fewer children meant greater prosperity, and it seems to be true since the world’s wealthiest countries are currently those with the lowest fertility rates. However, the fact that many of those countries are now frantically trying to increase their birthrates should tell us that something has gone terribly wrong.
Most industrialized societies have created social safety nets that depend on taxing the current work force. Because that work force has decreased by half over the last 40 years while the number of pensioners has more than doubled, the whole system is beginning to collapse. There simply isn’t the work force/tax base to sustain the bloated entitlement state. Can anybody say “Greece”?
History has witnessed periods of low fertility before but the current population implosion is a different sort of animal. Whereas past low fertility periods were normally connected to war, famine, and pestilence, the current birth dearth is due primarily to voluntary childlessness, something unknown to history, at least on the massive scale we are now witnessing.
That “Catholic” Guam is in the same pack as Japan and the others in this race towards collective societal suicide is more than just an economic concern. Since God’s first command was to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”... it is an eternal concern as well.
For an in-depth expose on what demographers are calling “one of the most ominous events of modern history” watch the DVD “Demographic Winter” which can be ordered from (or found at the Cathedral Gift Shop). 
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