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Michael Sutton (2008)

The Second Demographic Transition: Is There A Conventional Wisdom?*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 33, 3-4/2008, p. 247-270, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398, DOI: 10.1007/s12523-009-0016-3

Abstract: Below replacement level fertility (BRF) decline has occurred in all developed countries but there is no consensus as to the causes, consequences or possible solutions. Single explanations remain controversial, and the difficulties of interpreting public policy as population policy indicate the weakness of national models to explain BRF. It is possible to classify the academic and official literature thematically but it is still necessary to devise a new conceptual framework. The starting point is the recognition of two responses to low fertility by governments. The fiscal confidence response argues for economic and fiscal policies to manage the onset of an ageing society, including social welfare, immigration and productivity gains. This response views demographic targets and interference with issues such as the timing of marriage as inconsistent with modern values. In a modern society, policies must be complex, though their precise impact may be difficult to estimate. The social cohesion response seeks to counter fertility directly, appealing to women to do their patriotic duty, marry younger and have more children. Fertility decline is viewed as a threat to social cohesion but policy instruments such as immigration are unnecessary and unwanted because they undermine national identity. Both responses are present in varying forms in many governments. They represent not only competing visions of the second demographic transition but also of the role of state and citizen in modern society. Developed countries from Europe and North America are covered with special attention given to East Asian countries such as Japan.

* peer-reviewed article

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